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If you love the outdoors, San Francisco is one of the best cities in the United States that you can be. Surrounded by rolling hills and mountains, the Bay Area is a picturesque urban area that’s home to its fair share of hiking trails and scenic parks. There is no shortage of great hikes in San Francisco and the surrounding areas, with options for all levels of experience. We wrote this massive guide to share 27 of the most incredible places for hiking near San Francisco!

A note on transportation: As city dwellers, we know it can often be hard to get to many of the outdoor areas near you without a car. Where possible, we try to include public transportation instructions, but renting a car may be necessary to get to some of these spots. We typically use and recommend Enterprise – they have the widest selection of cars at the best prices – but you can also click here to check reviews & compare rental car prices in your city.

Best Hikes in San Francisco

Twin Peaks

  • Distance: 3.8 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • How to Get There: Take the 37 Corbett mini bus to the base of the mountain, then hike up to the top

As one of the most iconic viewpoints in San Francisco, Twin Peaks is an excellent hike for all levels. Twin Peaks is one of the most popular hikes in San Francisco, and for good reason: the summit boasts panoramic views of the city and the surrounding Bay Area. On clear days, you can catch spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and downtown San Francisco. Located in the Twin Peaks Nature Area, the trail and its surroundings are also home to several species of native wildlife and plants, and depending on the season, you may even be able to spot wildflowers.

Pro tip: To avoid crowds and get the best photo-worthy light, wake up early and hike to Twin Peaks around sunrise to catch stunning views of the city below.

Mount Davidson Park

  • Distance: 1.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • How to Get There: Take bus 36 or 57 to the stop at Dalewood and Landsdale, then follow the wooded trail (unsigned)

Another urban hike that’s highly recommended by locals is the loop trail at Mount Davidson Park. Located on Mount Davidson, the highest point in San Francisco, the loop trail brings you through parts of the city’s natural rainforest areas, winding through eucalyptus trees and providing jaw-dropping views of the city and the bay below. The trail also has plenty of wildflowers and serene areas to walk in tranquility and nature.

Pro tip: There are no signs on the trails here, so be sure to stick to obvious trail areas and take things slowly.

Sunset views of the Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge & Park

  • Distance: Varies; crossing the bridge is 3.4 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • How to Get There: You can take several public transportation routes to get to the Golden Gate Bridge – click here to learn more

Let’s face it: the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the USA’s most iconic and well-known landmarks. However, did you know that there’s a pedestrian trail across the bridge, as well as a network of trails in the surrounding park area? The total length of the bridge is 1.7 miles one-way, meaning you can get a pretty significant stroll in just by crossing. However, if you’d prefer a longer pathway to wander, hit up some of the gravel trails in Golden Gate Park’s 1,700+ acres of bayside recreational space. Some of the paths will take you to abandoned structures or over some of San Francisco’s famous hilly terrain – perfect for a bit more of a challenge or for trail running.

Glen Canyon Park

  • Distance: 1.9 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • How to Get There: Bus line 44 goes directly to Glen Canyon Park; it is also accessible from several BART stations

Located in the center of San Francisco, Glen Canyon Park is home to an almost 2-mile loop trail that’s accessible for all levels of hikers. Not only does the trail provide gorgeous, elevated views of San Francisco, but it’s also dog- and family-friendly. You’ll hike through rocky hills, dense wooded areas, and meadows that will make you feel like you’re surrounded by nature. The trail also boasts spectacular panoramic vistas of the city.

Pro tip: This hike is best during the springtime, when wildflowers begin to bloom in the areas surrounding the trail.

Lands End Trail

  • Distance: 3.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • How to Get There: Bus line 38 runs from downtown San Francisco to the trail head for Lands End

Located in a small, seemingly untouched corner of the city, Lands End Trail is one of the wildest and most beautiful hikes in San Francisco. With its variety of abandoned structures (including shipwrecks and the Sutro Baths) and its rocky shorelines, this trail brings you from SF’s fast-paced streets to a serene, rugged nature environment. The views of the bay from the trail and the shoreline are absolutely breathtaking. While the Lands End trail itself isn’t too difficult, you’ll want to make sure that you wear sturdy shoes and prepare for stairs – the terrain is quite hilly and rocky here.

Pro tip: Go early for the best views! The trail can get very crowded during peak hours and on weekends.

Angel Island

  • Distance: 4.8 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • How to Get There: Take the Tiburon Ferry, Blue & Gold Ferry, or the East Bay Ferry to Angel Island (note that there is an additional fee to enter the park)

Formerly the customs point for entrants to the United States, Angel Island is now a beautiful island-park in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. On clear days, you can see gorgeous views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Marin Headlands to the north. Once you’re there, you can hike the island’s perimeter road (~5 miles) or summit the park’s Mount Livermore for some breathtaking, 360-degree views.

Pro tip: This park gets VERY crowded as it is a major tourist attraction in San Francisco. We’d recommend visiting on weekdays or early in the morning for the smallest crowds.

Views from the Marin Headlands, home to many of the hikes on our list

Beautiful Trails for Hiking Near San Francisco

South Headlands Loop

  • Distance: 7.8 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • How to Get There: The 78X bus runs on weekends from downtown San Francisco to Marin Headlands. Otherwise, you can drive and park nearby.

One of the locals’ favorite hikes in San Francisco is the South Headlands Loop. Located in Marin Headlands, a scenic park across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, the South Headlands Loop is a bit more strenuous, given its nearly 8-mile trail length and variety of rocky coastline terrain. From the trail, you’ll catch views of the Golden Gate Bridge, downtown San Francisco, and the shoreline.

Tennessee Valley

  • Distance: 3.4 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • How to Get There: The 78X bus runs on weekends from downtown San Francisco to Marin Headlands. Otherwise, you can drive and park nearby.

As one of the most scenic trails in the Marin Headlands, the Tennessee Valley trail is an easy and incredibly beautiful pathway to tackle, especially if you’re on a time crunch. This easy trail features seaside trails and stunning views of the rocky Marin Headlands bluffs. You’ll start in the meadows of the headlands and walk all the way to the coast, which provides a variety of views and photo opportunities that span from grassy meadows to craggy shorelines. For one of the easiest and picturesque hikes near San Francisco, look no farther than Tennessee Valley.

Tomales Point

  • Distance: 9.4 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Tomales Bay Park is by car

Located in the Point Reyes National Seashore area, Tomales Point is one of the most stunning places to go hiking near San Francisco and the Bay Area, in our opinion. This moderate hike has jaw-dropping views of the coastline at Point Reyes National Seashore, and it’s challenging enough to give you a decent workout, too. In addition to amazing views, Tomales Point and the surrounding areas are full of local wildlife, including elk, and colorful spring wildflowers.

Pro tip: Parts of the trail can get overgrown in the warmer times of the year, so be sure to wear full-length pants and long sleeves for added protection.

Nimitz Way Trail at Inspiration Point

  • Distance: 5.9 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • How to Get There: Take the BART to Berkeley, then call an Uber to the trail head; alternatively, there is parking on-site if you’d prefer to drive

Nimitz Way Trail may be one of the most visually interesting hikes in San Francisco. On one side, you get gorgeous city views from a bird’s eye perspective, and on the other side, you’ll see green mountains and sparkling lakes that look completely remote and untouched. We included the Nimitz Way Trail to Inspiration Point because it’s a bit more challenging than some of the other urban hikes on our list, but also because it’s got some of the best natural views in the Berkeley area.

Alamere Falls in Point Reyes National Seashore, California

Alamere Falls Trail

  • Distance: 13.8 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Point Reyes National Seashore from San Francisco is by car

As one of Northern California’s most beloved hikes, Alamere Falls Trail is a lengthy but worthwhile seaside hike that ends at a stunning viewpoint of Alamere Falls crashing into the ocean from the top of a rocky bluff. The trail is well-marked and passes along the Pacific coastline, winding through several viewpoints of the surrounding hills and lakes. There’s an optional access point to the beach towards the end of the trail, but it can be quite slippery and steep – proceed at your own risk and with caution!

Cataract Falls

  • Distance: 3.3 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • How to Get There: The easiest way to get to the Mount Tamalpais area is by car

As one of the most popular spots for hiking near San Francisco, Cataract Falls is a cross between a woodland fairytale and rushing mountain waterways. Located in the Mount Tamalpais area, this trail is the perfect spot for a family outing or a solo hike through some beautiful, shaded areas of northern California. Wooded boardwalks and gravel trails take you through the forest to several different waterfalls, which are a welcome change from some of the sunnier, drier peak hikes you’ll find in the Bay Area.

Pro tip: Cataract Falls is one of the more popular hikes near San Francisco, so try to visit on a weekday if you’re hoping to avoid the crowds.

Muir Woods Trail

  • Distance: 2.2 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • How to Get There: You can drive or take a bus from downtown SF to Muir Woods National Monument

The Muir Woods Trail is one of the most popular trails in the Muir Woods National Monument area, as it provides a lovely glimpse into the massive Redwood forests in this part of Northern California. Family-friendly and fairly flat, Muir Woods Trail is a great spot to visit on a California road trip or if you’re traveling in a group with mixed levels of experience.

Here, you’ll find densely wooded trails and well-groomed trails that are great for hikers of all levels. Note that you need a National Parks Pass to get into the trail area, or you can pay a day visit fee to enter.

Dipsea Trail (Muir Woods)

  • Distance: 9.7 miles
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • How to Get There: You can drive or take a bus from downtown SF to Muir Woods National Monument

For hikers looking for an extra challenge, Dipsea Trail is one of the most highly-recommended and beloved spots for hiking near San Francisco. Located in the Muir Woods National Monument area, the trail extends from the dense, foggy Redwood forests all the way to the shore at Stinson Beach. With steep inclines and descents, the Dipsea Trail provides a challenge even for experienced hikers, but the views and scenery make this lengthy day hike worth the effort.

Photo Credit: Sathish J (Flickr CC)

Berry Creek Loop at Big Basin Redwoods State Park

  • Distance: 11.2 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Big Basin is by car

If you’re looking for cool, shady hiking near San Francisco, look no further than the Berry Creek Loop in Big Basin State Park. This 11.2 mile trail winds through the Redwood forest and brings hikers to a lovely waterfall. The Berry Creek waterfall is stunning and the hike to get there provides a challenge that’s accessible to even less-experienced hikers (with some patience and grit!). Along the way, you’ll find wooded trails, scenic bridges, and some views of the city and the surrounding nature areas.

Castle Rock Trail

  • Distance: 5.9 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Mount Diablo from San Francisco and the Bay Area is by car

Castle Rock Trail is a scenic loop trail in the western part of Mount Diablo State Park, and is one of the more popular places to go hiking near San Francisco and the Bay Area. Featuring gorgeous wildflower displays, rock formations, and sweeping views of the surrounding Mount Diablo park areas, the trail is marked by a couple of steep inclines but overall is pretty easy. Throughout the trail, you’ll also get to see the warped remains of old oak trees and pastures of grazing cattle, too.

Pro tip: From the Castle Rock loop, you can summit Mount Diablo if you’re feeling extra ambitious!

Mount Diablo State Park at sunset

Mount Diablo Grand Loop

  • Distance: 6.8 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Mount Diablo from San Francisco and the Bay Area is by car

Mount Diablo State Park is one of the California’s most beloved outdoor areas, and the Mount Diablo Grand Loop is the perfect way to get a taste for it. If you’re looking for an area to go hiking near San Francisco, Mount Diablo State Park has almost certainly got something for you. Green rolling hills and big skies offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, especially on sunny days. You’ll pass through rugged desert-type landscapes and lush greenery (and see some pretty spectacular views) throughout the 6.8 miles that this grand tour of Mount Diablo has to offer!

Donner Creek Loop

  • Distance: 5.1 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Mount Diablo from San Francisco and the Bay Area is by car

If you love waterfalls, you’re in for a real treat on the Donner Creek Loop. This scenic trail winds through forested areas and has four different waterfalls for you to marvel at and explore. You’ll also catch some beautiful views of the valleys below and the surrounding peaks. During the hike, you’ll have to cross some streams, so it’s wise to wear waterproof hiking boots if you’re planning to tackle it, especially after a period of rain.

Pro tip: Do this hike after it rains to get the best waterfall views.

Eagle Peak Loop

  • Distance: 7.6 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate/difficult
  • How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Mount Diablo from San Francisco and the Bay Area is by car

For a strenuous hike that’s a bit more off-the-beaten-path than many others on this list, Eagle Peak Loop is an incredibly picturesque and challenging trail in Mount Diablo State Park that has excellent views of Mitchell Canyon. On clear days, you can see all the way out to the Sierra Nevada mountains on trails lined with colorful, bright wildflowers. We’d recommend bringing trekking poles on this hike, as there are some steep sections with loose gravel.

Views of the Pacific Coast and US 1 from Vicente Flat Trail

Vicente Flat Trail

  • Distance: 10.9 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Big Sur from San Francisco and the Bay Area is by car

Spanning forests, mountains, and grazing the coastline, Vicente Flat Trail is arguably one of the most spectacular hikes near San Francisco. With a pathway that moves in and out of shady areas, you’ll get a balance of sun and shade on this trail. During the first half of the hike, look around for spectacular views of the Big Sur coastline. Many people opt to split this hike across two days and camp at Vicente or Espinosa campsites. It’s a lovely overnight hiking trip with gorgeous sunset views!

Pro tip: There’s poison oak and lots of bugs on the trail here, so be sure to use bug repellent and wear long socks to avoid any itchy scenarios.

Palos Colorados Trail

  • Distance: 3 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Palos Colorados is to drive. You can also take an Uber/Lyft, but note that this park does not have good phone service, so pre-arranging transportation is recommended

If tall trees, babbling creeks, and dirt pathways are your calling, the Palos Colorados Trail in Oakland’s Joaquin Miller Park is one of the best hikes near San Francisco for you! This easy, relatively short out-and-back trail is perfect for families and beginners, as it’s easy to get to from San Francisco and has beautiful exposure to the towering Redwood trees in the area. The Palos Colorados Trail is also a fantastic place for hiking in rain or shine, as the fog through the trees can make for some seriously spooky effects.

Photo Credit: Kevin Lam (Flickr CC)

Ewoldsen Trail

*This trail is temporarily closed – check here for the latest updates

  • Distance: 5 miles
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Big Sur from San Francisco and the Bay Area is by car

Passing through redwood forests and rocky shores, the Ewoldsen Trail is one of the most stunning Bay Area hikes. With its location in the Big Sur area, you’re in for a real treat here, with sweeping views out to the ocean in between densely forested pathways. Be sure to use bug repellent here (there are allegedly a LOT of ticks) and wear long pants, as the trail in some areas has a lot of vegetation.

Rubicon Trail

  • Distance: 16.4 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Lake Tahoe from San Francisco is by car

If you’re looking to trade Redwoods for evergreens, head to the Rubicon Trail in the southern part of Lake Tahoe. Located in D. L. Bliss State Park, this long out-and-back trail has stunning views of the teal lake, surrounding mountains, and plenty of shaded spots for a quick siesta. You can walk the entire 16.4 miles or simply go as far as you want and then turn around – you’ll be able to catch absolutely stunning views basically the entire hike. Parts of the trail are closed during the winter, so plan accordingly or visit during the peak months between April and October.

The scenic shores of Lake Tahoe are the perfect place to go hiking near San Francisco

Meeks Bay to Crag Lake

  • Distance: 9.8 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Lake Tahoe from San Francisco is by car

With its gorgeous wildflower-lined paths and sweeping Lake Tahoe vistas, the Meeks Bay to Crag Lake trail is perfect for hiking near San Francisco and the Bay Area. Running through Desolation Wilderness, this trail is particularly appealing for those wanting some tranquility and serenity during their walk. You’ll meander through rock formations, tall pine tree forests, and alpine meadows, ending at the scenic Crag Lake, which is the perfect spot to dip your toes or take a lunch break.

Quicksilver History Loop

  • Distance: 8 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • How to Get There: The easiest way to get to the Quicksilver History Loop is by car

For history and nature lovers, one of the best hikes near San Francisco is the Quicksilver History Loop. Once home to some of the world’s most active mercury mines, the area was once full of thriving mining communities. Today, it’s filled with 8 miles of scenic views, historic landmarks, and accompanied informational placards.

This trail will not only give you some fresh air and moderately difficult terrain, but will also teach you a little bit about the history of Northern California. Along the trail, you can view old mine entrances, abandoned furnaces, and former houses that miners worked in and occupied.

Photo Credit: Tom Hilton (Flickr CC)

Devil’s Slide Trail

  • Distance: 3.1 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • How to Get There: Devil’s Slide Trail is most easily accessed by car

For breathtaking coastline views, there are few better or more accessible hikes near San Francisco than Devil’s Slide Trail. Filled with wildflowers, forested areas, and stunning sea views, this trail’s got everything in its short, 3.1-mile stretch. Devil’s Slide Trail is a short part of the 1,200-mile California Coastal Trail and attracts hikers from all over the country. Given its popularity with hikers, bikers, and trail runners, peak hours may be quite crowded here; however, you can avoid most of the crowds and the direct sunlight by starting early in the morning.

Fall Creek and Lost Empire Loop

  • Distance: 8.4 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • How to Get There: The easiest way to get there is by car

Located in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, the Fall Creek and Lost Empire Loop is a scenic trail that winds through the majestic redwoods in the park. Since nearly the entire trail is heavily forested, the Fall Creek and Lost Empire Loop is a great option for hikers wanting to take a literal “walk in the woods.”

Additional Resources for Hiking Near San Francisco & the Bay Area

Despite year-round warm temperatures in the Bay Area, you don’t need to travel far from San Francisco to find some of the best ski resorts in the country. Snowboarding and skiing near San Francisco is accessible to people of any experience level, from first-timers to expert-levels snowboarders and skiers. We hand-curated this list of the absolute best ski resorts near San Francisco so you can plan your best winter getaway yet!

From the massive mega resorts to the locally-run hidden gems, read on to learn more about the best spots for snowboarding and skiing near San Francisco.

A note on transportation: As city dwellers, we know it can often be hard to get to many of the outdoor areas near you without a car. Where possible, we try to include public transportation instructions, but renting a car may be necessary to get to some of these spots. We typically use and recommend Enterprise – they have the widest selection of cars at the best prices – but you can also click here to check reviews & compare rental car prices in your city.

Best Places to Go Skiing Near San Francisco

Photo Credit: JSGraustein (Flickr CC)

Dodge Ridge Ski Resort

  • Location: Pinecrest, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 164 miles (3 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Not on site; nearest hotel is the Pinecrest Chalet
  • Experience levels: All levels

As the closest of the ski resorts near San Francisco, Dodge Ridge is a gem of a spot without the crowds (or high prices) of Tahoe’s resorts. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned expert, if you want to go snowboarding or skiing near San Francisco, Dodge Ridge is a local favorite. With a wide variety of trails, ranging from bunny hills to expert-level trails, it’s a very well-rounded resort with a lot to offer families, groups, and even solo skiers/boarders.

While there’s no lodging on-site, there is a large lounge area and lodge with dining options, gear rentals, a snow sports school, and relaxation areas. Beginners and first-timers have tons of resources here when it comes to learning how to snowboard or ski, while more experienced folks can head to the top of the mountain for a variety of different trails and terrain.

How to get there: The only way to get from San Francisco to Dodge Ridge is to drive, and it takes approximately 3 hours.

Photo Credit: Basker Hariharam (Flickr CC)

Sierra-at-Tahoe

  • Location: Twin Bridges, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 176 miles (3 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Not on site; nearest lodging is the Sierra at Tahoe Cabins
  • Experience levels: All levels

Sierra at Tahoe is one of the many ski resorts near San Francisco that’s located at Lake Tahoe. The views from the mountain are absolutely stunning, and there are 47 trails of varying difficulty. Local skiers and snowboarders love the well-groomed terrain, and the fantastic support for beginners as well as trails for the more advanced snowboarders and skiers. Many reviewers call it a great place to learn to ski!

At Sierra at Tahoe, you can find a sizable lodge with gear rentals, lessons, and food available, as well as tubing and snowshoeing for when you’re not on the downhill trails. For the adrenaline junkies, there are 6 terrain parks of different sizes with all kinds of obstacles to play on.

How to get there: You can drive ~3 hours or take the Tahoe Ski Trips bus from the Bay Area to Sierra at Tahoe.

Photo Credit: Colleen Proppe (Flickr CC)

Sugar Bowl Resort

  • Location: Norden, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 177 miles (3 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at the Sugar Bowl Resort
  • Experience levels: All levels, with focus on intermediate and advanced trails

Sugar Bowl Resort is a well-maintained 1650-acre ski resort located northwest of Lake Tahoe. This ski resort is beloved by those familiar with the scene for skiing near San Francisco because it boasts smaller crowds and more affordable prices than some of the massive Tahoe resorts. With 4 peaks and 100 trails, you could ski here for several days without ever getting bored or having to repeat trails.

Although only 17% of trails are marked as beginner-friendly, there are lots of resources for learning to ski here. Reviewers are often pleased with the friendly, supportive ambiance, small crowds, and beautiful scenery at Sugar Bowl Resort, plus a family-friendly resort that’s great for a winter getaway.

How to get there: You can drive to Sugar Bowl Resort in ~3 hours, or you can book a round trip bus trip with Sourced Adventures or NacSki.

Photo Credit: zemistor (Flickr CC)

Royal Gorge Cross Country Resort

  • Location: Soda Springs, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 177 miles (3 hours)
  • Accommodation available? You can stay nearby at The Hotel at Sugar Bowl
  • Experience levels: All levels

If you’re looking for a change of pace from the thrill of the ski slopes, Royal Gorge Cross Country Resort may just be what you’re looking for. Royal Gorge is one of the more unique ski resorts near San Francisco, which offers a different experience – cross-country skiing through forested areas. This is technically part of the greater Sugar Bowl Resort area, but consists solely of cross-country trails. It’s one of the few places you can go cross country skiing near San Francisco.

On a visit here, there are a whopping 92 cross country trails you can ski through for a completely different winter sports experience than many of the other resorts on this list. An advantage of Nordic skiing is that it typically tends to be cheaper than traditional downhill skiing due to the lack of lifts and expensive machinery. For beginners to Nordic skiing, there are lessons and rentals available at the resort.

How to get there: You can drive to Royal Gorge and Sugar Bowl Resort in ~3 hours, or you can book a round trip bus trip to Sugar Bowl with Sourced Adventures or NacSki and then take a shuttle to Royal Gorge.

Boreal Mountain Resort

  • Location: Soda Springs, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 177 miles (3 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Not on site; closest hotel is Donner Village Resort
  • Experience levels: All levels; plenty of intermediate and advanced trails

Boreal Mountain Resort is a ski resort located roughly 3 hours from the San Francisco. While it’s a smaller resort with just 34 trails, it’s a family-friendly destination that’s great for intermediate and expert snowboarders and skiers, as well as beginners. It does have many resources for learning to ski, as well as thrilling terrain parks for a bit more of an adventure.

Boreal Mountain Resort has a Take 3, Ride Free program that’s a great value for Bay Area beginners who want a supportive learning experience, plus a season pass to sharpen their skills. There’s also a kids ski free program with an adult season pass, which is a wonderful value for families that live nearby and want to ski or snowboard for the entire season.

How to get there: You can drive in ~3 hours or take a Sourced Adventures bus from San Francisco.

Photo Credit: Gordon (Flickr CC)

Bear Valley Resort

  • Location: Bear Valley, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 182 miles (3 hours, 15 minutes)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at the Bear Valley Lodge
  • Experience levels: Intermediate and advanced

As a smaller ski resort, Bear Valley Resort is a hidden gem located in the Sierra Mountains. Local skiers and snowboarders love it because of its accessible size, relatively fewer crowds, and very responsive staff. With 58 trails and 10 lifts, there’s more than enough transportation to get people up the mountain quickly and efficiently. And, to top it off, the on-site lodge is an incredibly picturesque place to spend a long weekend getaway curled up in blankets in between thrilling runs down the slopes.

How to get there: There’s no direct bus from San Francisco to Bear Valley Lodge, and driving takes just over 3 hours.

Photo Credit: jcookfisher (Flickr CC)

Heavenly Mountain Resort

  • Location: South Lake Tahoe, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 190 miles (3 hours, 15 minutes)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at Heavenly Mountain Resort
  • Experience levels: Intermediate and advanced

Heavenly Mountain Resort is probably one of the most thrilling and picturesque ski resorts near San Francisco. With stunning views of Lake Tahoe and a magnificent spread of 97 trails over 4,800 skiable acres, Heavenly Mountain should definitely be on your California skiing bucket list.

Beginners should note that Heavenly Mountain has a heavy focus on intermediate, advanced, and expert-level runs. Only 8% of the trails are beginner-friendly. However, if you’ve gotten several trails under your belt as a beginner and you’re ready to level up, Heavenly Mountain is a beautiful and fun place to do so.

How to get there: You can drive there in just over 3 hours, or book a round trip ticket on a Tahoe Ski Trips bus.

Tahoe Donner

  • Location: Truckee, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 190 miles (3 hours, 15 minutes)
  • Accommodation available? Not on site
  • Experience levels: Beginner and intermediate

Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Resort prides itself as being “the best place to begin” skiing. Beginner skiers will find a ski park that is less crowded than the neighboring Tahoe resorts. Additionally, there are several wide-open bowls that allow skiers and snowboarders plenty of space to practice and maneuver. The park is small, with 17 runs, and is mostly made up of green and blue slopes.

How to get there: Driving is the best method as there is no public transportation option between Truckee and the ski resort. Take I-80 from San Francisco to Truckee. Get off on exit 184 towards Northwoods boulevard and continue north until the resort.

Photo Credit: UnofficialSquaw.com (Flickr CC)

Squaw Valley & Alpine Meadows

  • Location: Olympic Valley, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 196 miles (3.5 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at The Village at Squaw Valley
  • Experience levels: All levels

Alpine Meadows and its sister park Squaw Valley make up a massive ski complex near Lake Tahoe – the largest of the ski resorts near San Francisco. This park is made up of 170 trails across 6,000+ acres of skiable terrain.

There are 3 different peaks between the two resorts. “Snow Ventures” is a small hill primarily for junior skiers and snowboarders. “Big Blue” is comprised of gentle slopes and is made up of 60% green trails. KT-22 is for the experts; it includes 2,000 feet of cliffs and near vertical drops. 

Lift tickets are on the more expensive side compared to others on this list, but you get access to a large and well-run park. This resort is also partnered with the Ikon Pass

How to get there: Tahoe Ski Trips offers shuttles from several places in the Bay Area. You can even buy a lift ticket along with your bus ticket.

Photo Credit: Ryan Grimm (Flickr CC)

Kirkwood Mountain Resort

  • Location: Kirkwood, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 184 miles (3.5 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at Kirkwood Mountain Resort
  • Experience levels: Mostly intermediate to advanced, with trails for all levels

As a Northern California gem, Kirkwood Ski Resort is a gorgeous, evergreen-laden ski area that has something for every level of skier or snowboarder. Located south of Lake Tahoe, it’s one of many ski resorts in the area that offers a mix of thrilling, challenging terrain and family-friendly ski opportunities. While it’s a somewhat popular spot for California skiers and snowboarders, it’s well worth the trek from Southern California if you’re seeking challenging terrain in a beautiful spot.

Kirkwood’s trails largely consist of intermediate and advanced runs, but there are 86 total runs that span from beginner hills to expert-level terrain parks. As part of the Epic Pass program, passholders can get admission to Kirkwood’s ski areas included in their membership.

How to get there:  You can drive to Northstar in about 3.5 hours. Click here for directions to Kirkwood Ski Resort. However, if you’d prefer not to drive, you can also book a bus via TahoeSkiTrips or NacSki.

Photo Credit: Udi (Flickr CC)

Northstar California Resort

  • Location: Truckee, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 195 miles (3.5 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at Northstar Resort
  • Experience levels: All levels

With its 100 trails, Northstar California is a large, family-friendly resort on the shores of Lake Tahoe that’s a fabulous winter getaway spot. A whopping 60% of the resort’s trails are rated intermediate, meaning it’s a fantastic place for beginner skiers to start tackling tougher terrain or for more experienced skiers to get more runs under their belt. Northstar is also part of the Epic Pass network, so if you’re a passholder, you’re in luck!

For non-skiers, there’s also tubing, ice skating, and a full set of resort amenities, including a spa and several dining options. We personally enjoyed the dining options around the ski resort – the poutine at the french fry food truck is to die for.

How to get there: You can drive to Northstar in about 3.5 hours (click here for directions). However, if you’d prefer not to drive, you can also book a bus via TahoeSkiTrips or NacSki.

Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area

  • Location: Yosemite National Park, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 200 miles (4 hours, 15 minutes)
  • Accommodation available? Not on site
  • Experience levels: All levels

When planning a winter visit to Yosemite, why not pair it with an absolutely epic day of skiing? Yosemite has its own Ski & Snowboard Area that caters to all levels of snowboarders and skiers in one of the most beautiful parks in the country.

The only place to ski if you are spending a few days in Yosemite is Badger Pass, which is the oldest skiing area in the country. While this ski resort is small, at 10 runs in size, it has wonderful views of the national park and surrounding mountain areas.

Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area is geared more towards beginners, as 35% of the runs are classified as easy, and 50% are intermediate. Compared to Lake Tahoe, lift tickets are reasonably priced, and there are gear rentals and lessons available.

How to get there: You can drive to Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area in just over 4 hours.

Without a car, you can get to Yosemite with public transportation. Take the BART to Richmond, then an Amtrak train to Merced. From Merced, take a YARTS bus to Yosemite. Once inside, there is a free bus that operates around the park and can take you up to Badger Pass.

Mt. Shasta Ski Park

  • Location: McCloud, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 283 miles (4.5 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at Mount Shasta Resort
  • Experience levels: All levels

Experience one of California’s best ski parks close to an enormous stratovolcano. Mt. Shasta is located a couple of hours north of San Francisco in the Cascade mountain range. The park is on the smaller side, with 32 runs (20% green, 55% blue) and 2 terrain parks. Prices range from $45 to $65 depending on the week day and time.

This park allows you to escape the crowds of Lake Tahoe’s more popular resort. If you are truly looking for seclusion, rent a cabin in the backcountry for a night and enjoy scenic views of Mt. Shasta.

How to get there: Driving is the best way to get to Mt. Shasta. Take I-5 straight north from San Francisco until Mt. Shasta.

June Mountain

  • Location: June Lake, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 248 miles (5 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Not on site, nearby options include Double Eagle Resort
  • Experience levels: All levels

Mammoth Mountain’s sister resort is a California favorite: June Mountain. Slightly farther from LA than its sibling, June Mountain caters a bit more to the intermediate and advanced crowds, with the majority of trails falling into these two categories. It’s also much smaller than its Mammoth counterpart, with just 41 runs. While it’s not the closest place to go skiing near Los Angeles, it’s certainly a crowd favorite.

While there are beginner learn to ski programs at June Mountain, the resort definitely attracts a more experienced crowd. According to past visitors, it’s also significantly less crowded than some of the bigger resorts in the area, making for a much calmer and more fun winter getaway experience.

How to get there: Click here to get directions to June Mountain.

Photo Credit: L. K. (Flickr CC)

Mammoth Mountain

  • Location: Mammoth Lakes, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 265 miles (5.5 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at The Village Lodge
  • Experience levels: All levels

If you’re looking for the full “ski trip” experience, look no further than Mammoth Mountain. This ski resort and ski town combination make for a fabulous family-friendly snowboard and ski combination that’s about a 5 hour drive from Los Angeles. There are a whopping 154 runs in the resort, ranging from bunny hills and learning areas to double black diamond expert terrain.

Here at Mammoth Mountain, there’s an atmosphere that’s totally welcoming and supportive of beginners, which means you’re in luck as a first-timer, with plenty of daily ski lessons and gear rentals available. The vast majority of trails here are beginner to intermediate level, but there are a handful marked as advanced and expert for more experienced skiers.

How to get there: Click here to get directions to Mammoth Mountain.

Skiing Near San Francisco: Additional Resources

What to Pack

  • Waterproof outerwear – Possibly the most critical pieces of clothing for your ski trip packing list is durable, waterproof outerwear. Burton and Helly Hansen are famous ski brands for having best-in-class clothing that will keep you warm in the coldest, snowiest conditions. Click here to shop ski jackets and compare prices.
  • Thermal layers – Thermal baselayers are absolutely critical for a smooth skiing experience, as these will keep you warm and dry underneath your outerwear. The best kinds of thermal baselayers are made of Merino wool, which is moisture-wicking and comfortable. Our favorite brand of thermal layers is SmartWool – their tops and leggings are soft, lightweight, but warm and durable for all kinds of outdoor activities, including skiing. Click here to shop thermal tops and leggings and compare prices.
  • Ski goggles – No ski trip packing list would be complete without a pair of fog-resistant ski goggles, especially if you’re going somewhere that makes artificial snow. Ski slopes often have snow blowing into the air several times a day and it can be hard to keep freezing snowflakes out of your eyes, even during clear days. We use and recommend these ski goggles. However, you can shop ski goggles and compare reviews/prices here.

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive list of things to pack, head to our Ultimate Ski Trip Packing List to view our full packing list and gear recommendations for the slopes!

Related Pages & Links


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