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Point Reyes

Land meets sea at the Point Reyes National Seashore, a wild and windy 29,000-hectare peninsula with some 240 kilometres of trails. The 13-km, round-trip Bear Valley Trail, with its dense fir forests, wildflower-filled grasslands, coastal marshes and sculpted ocean bluffs, is one of the most popular. During low tide, take the unmarked spur path at the Arch Rock Overlook down to pristine Kelham Beach and keep your eyes peeled for seals and sea lions sunning on the rocks and, off in the distance, migrating grey whales. It’s a 1.2-km walk from the visitor’s centre into tiny Olema, home to Sir and Star at the Olema. Just a year old, the restaurant is already a foodie destination, and for good reason: Everything on the rustic roadhouse menu is fished, foraged, hunted or harvested locally. The Shaker decor, complete with taxidermy owls and birds, lends the dining room a quirky, sophisticated charm – a theme that continues on the menu, with playfully named dishes like Luscious Parts of Local Pig and Marrow in the Bone with Buns.

Redwood trees of Big Basin Redwoods State ParkThe towering redwood trees of Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Santa Cruz

A $2 bus ride from laid-back Santa Cruz shuttles passengers deep into the mountains to the starting point of Big Basin Redwoods State Park’s Skyline to the Sea Trail. This 19-km (one way) trek descends through the largest old-growth redwood forest south of San Francisco, with many trees towering at over 90 metres high. A short detour leads to Berry Creek Falls, then it’s down to the Pacific, following the old logging trail and a burbling creek through a lush canyon. Once you reach Waddell Beach, a favourite of windsurfers, board the bus back to Santa Cruz and hightail it to the Dream Inn. Its oceanside Aquarius Restaurant serves health-conscious, coastal ingredients like Monterey Bay wild king salmon, Pacific albacore and indigenous Dungeness crab.

Ocean Stew at Murray CircleChef Jason Everett's Ocean Stew at Murray Circle

San Francisco

For an urban hike, explore San Francisco’s 575-hectare Presidio, a U.S. army base that was founded as a Spanish military outpost in 1776 and now serves as a multi-use national park. Art lovers, take note: The four-km Bay Area Ridge Trail leads to sculptor Andy Goldsworthy’s Spire, a sky-high installation constructed from 37 cypress trees, while Lover’s Lane passes near the eucalyptus grove where his Wood Line snakes across the forest floor. History buffs can opt to follow the three-km Presidio Promenade, which leads past the Main Post (home to the park’s oldest buildings), the National Cemetery and the old Cavalry stables to the Golden Gate Bridge. Near the foot of the bridge on the Marin County side sits Cavallo Point Lodge’s Michelin-starred Murray Circle. The elegant restaurant showcases what chef Justin Everett calls “relationship-driven cuisine,” meaning he not only uses locally sourced ingredients, but personally knows who picks the chickweed for his five-grains-and-native-greens salad, and who captains the boat that catches the seafood for his signature fresh ocean stew.

The Girl and the Fig's fig and arugula saladThe Girl and the Fig's fig and arugula salad

Sonoma

From Sonoma’s historic plaza it’s an easy walk through stately residential neighbourhoods to Bartholomew Park Winery’s fairy-tale-like, 160-hectare park. A three-km loop weaves into the hills, through stands of oaks and manzanitas and alongside creeks and tiny Benicia’s Lake, before reaching sweeping views of the valley’s vineyards and fertile farmlands. Stop in next door at the Buena Vista Winery, California’s oldest, for a wine tasting in the original press house, then return to the square for casual dining at The Girl and the Fig. The French-focused menu (think pastis-scented steamed mussels, fig and arugula salad and lavender crème brûlée) features plenty of ingredients from the restaurant’s biodynamic farm.

Point Bonita in the Marin HeadlandsPoint Bonita in the Marin Headlands

Marin County

Often compared to the Scottish Highlands, the 850-hectare Marin Headlands are a treeless, wind-whipped landscape of rolling hills, steep coastal ridges, rugged shoreline and surf-washed beaches. Several trails cross these unspoiled slopes, but we recommend the 14-km path from Sausalito’s touristy waterfront up the Bobcat, Wolf Ridge and Coastal trails to the sheltered cove at Muir Beach. At the white, Tudor-style Pelican Inn, just a five-minute walk up the road, medieval English influences include long wooden tables, 17th-century artefacts and a massive fireplace in the dark, timbered dining room. The hearty menu puts a healthy spin on traditional British fare like bangers and mash and beef Wellington, serving them with organic veggies and fresh-baked bread from the neighbouring Green Gulch Farm Zen Center.

For details on trails in Sonoma and Marin County, contact Wine Country Trekking.

Tags

CALIFORNIA     FOOD     HIKING     ONAIR     SAN FRANCISCO     SONOMA     WEB EXCLUSIVES    

Comments… or add another

Larry Harding

Monday, March 3rd 2014 15:32
I found this article extremely interesting and hope to visit one or two of the described eateries on our next visit to San Francisco and the valleys.

Linda J Thomson

Monday, March 3rd 2014 18:06
I visited this scenic area many years ago and have now been motivated by your articles to return .
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