The hiking book: 60 Hikes Withinin 60 Miles: San Francisco
The distance: 8.1 miles (the loop is 7.4 miles, but we added on a bit unintentionally owing to a wrong turn near the top of the ridge)
The CityGirls rating: 7

It had been quite some time since we’d been out hiking, so we braved the roads this Labor Day weekend for our nature fix. With the Bay Bridge closed as they finished up the new span, we decided it would be best to stay away from all the other bridges, which are picking up the slack with the main East-West artery closed. So we headed down the Peninsula to Windy Hill Open Space Preserve, one of many parks tucked between Skyline Boulevard and the coast.


Our hike took us to the top of Windy Hill on the Hamms Gulch Trail and back down along the ridge line on the Spring Ridge Trail.

The beginning of the trail is forested and cool, with occasional forays into the sun. Butterflies were abundant, following us along the sunny stretches. We made friends with a couple lizards as well, including one who thought that AM’s foot made a nice patch of shade, at least until she started to put it back down on the trail to take a step. Fortunately, she was able to avoid stepping on the lizard, and it scurried off to find a new shady spot.


The trail climbed steadily around 1,000 feet with a very reasonable grade, so we decided to make a cardio workout out of it and power our way to the top without stopping.

We climbed.


And climbed some more.


And then the trail broke out of the shade of the forest, and it was hot.


Very hot.

But we made it to the peak in under two hours!


Our effort was rewarded with a gorgeous view for miles in all directions.


We could see Mount Diablo across the Bay and the skyscrapers of downtown San Francisco and the (car-free) Bay Bridge. It wasn’t all that windy up on top of Windy Hill, but the light breeze was more than welcome after our climb.

The hike down was hot and steep, but the gorgeous views distracted us for the first bit.

We leave you with this important advice:


Don’t you worry, we did not encounter a mountain lion. But if we had, we knew to back away slowly, be large, and fight back (if attacked).


Ease of following designated hike: 6. We learned, after a wrong turn that sent us off in completely the wrong direction, that you really need to read both sides of the trail signs on this trail, because half the time, the info we were looking for was on the back of the sign.
Best season to hike: It was fairly reasonable on a cool(ish) summer day, though still quite sweaty. There’s pretty much no shade on the downhill. Spring, when the wildflowers are in bloom, or winter may be better.
Our hike time: 3 hours.
Solitude: 7.