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Silicon Valley is a place that sees many business travelers, some of whom want to combine their visit with some high quality hiking in the California wilderness. Most of these people know about Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks (four hours away), and some know about Big Sur and the Pacific coastline along the PCH (two hours away).

But sometimes these most famous of parks are not suitable. The drives are long, and some of the most famous areas require getting reservations ahead of time for camping, cabins or trails themselves (Half Dome). Also, in winter the higher elevations can be tricky for novice travelers. Are there any high quality hikes that are closer, or overlooked?

I would like this to be a canonical question to service all those business travelers who end up in places like Mountain View, Palo Alto, San Jose, Stanford (and many others) and who will probably try googling for their options.

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    It's intimidating to start to answer this question because there are so many great possibilities. But before I do, is this really an on-topic question for the site? I know many SE sites frown on "big lists" like this, and of course, there are many books full of recommended hikes in the Bay Area. – Nate Eldredge Jul 16 '14 at 5:12
  • @NateEldredge I'm not objective, being the one asking, but there are many similar questions on this site (some of which I've asked) and they've been enormously helpful. For remote destination they may be too specific, but canonical answers to popular destinations seems a good idea to me. As for books - of course they exist. But this site is often used to direct people to the book (or the section within a book) that will be most useful in answering their question. – Eyal Jul 17 '14 at 12:11
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The Henry W Coe State Park is within reasonable driving range, and offers many hiking trails with good vistas and surprisingly few people. I go into more detail here.

  • one thing I would note about this park, is that is seems to lack shade. a lot of the trails are out in the open? Correct me if I'm wrong - I've driven by, but haven't hiked there. – Michael Martinez Jul 18 '14 at 17:49
  • @Mich: It has both, although most of the trails are thru open grassland or sparse trees. You make that sounds like a problem, but this was one thing I particularly enjoyed about the place. Here in New England we have plenty of shaded woods, but trails with open vistas are rare below treeline. – Olin Lathrop Jul 18 '14 at 18:27
  • Sorry, I shouldn't imply it's a problem. It definitely can be pleasant if it's not too hot out. And of course everyone has their own preferences. I tend to prefer hiking amongst trees, that's because I like cool weather. – Michael Martinez Jul 18 '14 at 18:30
  • From personal experience, Henry Coe is infamous for it's (like noted) lack of shade, poison oak, ticks, and trails not made for the fainthearted. Had to learn the hard way for each of these. Bring lots of water if you go (a bit dry lately due to California's drought condition)! – Alex L Jul 20 '14 at 5:51
  • @Alex: I agree about the openess, but whether that's a problem or a feature is individual preference. There is probably poison oak and ticks, but I don't get the part about trails not for the fainthearted. I don't remember anything like having to use your hands, along the edge of a cliff, downhill and slippery, etc. I really don't know what you are referring to. – Olin Lathrop Jul 21 '14 at 16:28
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Maybe Pinnacles National Park. Or if you go across the Golden Gate, Point Reyes is gorgeous.

Watch out, because some of the trails in the more remote central coast backcountry areas have not seen any maintenance for a long time, partly due to government budget cuts. I tried to do a long-distance trip there a few years back, and had to turn back due to stuff like the trail heading straight into a steep hillside completely covered in poison oak.

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I live in Sunnyvale and my favorite place for hiking is Rancho San Antonio near the Los Altos Hills. It butts up against the Santa Cruz mountains, and there are a network of trails including some that venture into the mountains. I like this area because there are some great views of the bay, and much of the hiking occurs among the trees (more shade) and there's also a fare amount of wildlife to be seen (wild turkeys, deer, etc.). Also it's quite hilly so you can get a decent workout. Additionally, I believe the trails connect up with the larger network of Santa Cruz Mountain trails of which some across burrow over the mountains all the way to the coast (13 miles.)

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