Archive for January, 2012

We’ve decided: 2012 is going to be the year of national parks.

First of all, national parks are amazing. What a great idea, setting aside some of the most beautiful places in the country and preserving them so that everyone can enjoy them, can experience the wonder that comes from standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon and looking down the multi-colored canyon walls, from gazing up at Half Dome and El Capitan in Yosemite, from a moment of peace in the forest.

We’re lucky enough to live close to some stunning national parks including Yosemite and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, one of the largest urban parks in the world.

The GGNRA is one of our favorite places to go for a day hike. It’s close, easy to get to, with lots of great trails suitable for a quick hike or an all-day trek. Oh, and it’s beautiful, did we mention that? Highly recommend — especially the hike from Rodeo Beach north along the coastline towards Muir Beach.

But enough about where we’ve been. What we want to talk about today is all the places we want to go to. We recently received an annual national parks pass as a gift, and we’re excited to go explore some national parks to which we’ve never been.

And, since, y’know, what’s the point of doing something if you can’t find a way to turn it into bragging rights, or maybe just because we like pretty infographics, we present the CityGirls’ very first “Hey, We’ve Been There!” national parks edition.

Hey, We’ve Been There!: National Parks

National parks that we have visited are marked with this nifty CityGirls Go Hiking stamp.

As we make use of our new annual pass and visit more national parks, we’ll update the map (so you can be jealous, I mean, so you can live vicariously and be excited for us!).

View map full size

What are your favorite national parks to visit? Got any must-sees for a couple girls based in San Francisco and not afraid of road trips?

PS – Shout out to T-Bell’s little sis, who is currently interning in the Grand Canyon. Can we steal your ranger hat?

The hiking book: Hiking the San Francisco Bay Area

The distance: somewhere just under 7 miles

The CityGirls rating: 8

It’s been a while since we went hiking, what with the holidays and all, but we got back in the swing of things this weekend with a great hike around Mt. Tamalpais in the Marin foothills. The hike started about 2/3 of the way up the mountain, dipping down to a big open meadow, then back up to loop around past Middle Peak and East Peak before heading back down via the West Point Inn and the Mountain Theater amphitheater.

We’ve hiked Mt. Tam before, from the Mountain Home Inn to the East Peak. It was hot, sunny, and crowded. We made it up to the East Peak, with a stop at the West Point Inn, only to find it swamped with tourists who had driven to the top then dragged their crying, unhappy children up the short but steep path to the peak itself. The view was amazing, but somewhat marred by the wailing children.

Even with the crowds, Mt. Tam is fast becoming one of our favorite Bay Area hiking locations. If you choose the right trails, you still have stretches of solitude, and most impressively, hiking on Mt. Tam can feel like hiking in the middle of the wilderness. A wilderness that happens to sit in the middle of a growing urban area, but up on the mountain, it feels quiet, secluded, peaceful. It’s amazing, especially so close to the city.

We made a few changes from the hike as written in the book. We started at the Rock Spring parking lot so we could do the uphill first and end with the downhill instead of starting at East Peak as the book said. In fact, we skipped the last little spur trail to East Peak entirely, — taking the spur up to the Middle Peak instead. Even without consideration for the grade, we think that’s the better way to do the hike — it ends with the West Point Inn and the Mountain Theater Amphitheater.

The West Point Inn is a great story. When there was a tourist railway going up Mt. Tam, the West Point Inn was a stopover where travelers would spend the night on the way to or from the coast. Today, there’s a non-profit association that maintains the Inn. The Inn is open for overnight guests, and they maintain the front room for hikers to stop in and rest. It’s a super cute little place with great views out over the Bay.

Then there’s the Mountain Theater Amphitheatre. Okay, officially it’s the Sidney B. Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre. But really it’s an awesome stone amphitheater, pretty big, built by the CCC in the 1930s. The amphitheater was built for an annual theater production held on Mt. Tam, which is still going today. We just might have to go see the Mountain Play next summer. Where else can you hike up a mountain to see a musical?