Updated: June 2, 2014
The lack of seasons in San Francisco is a sore point for many of us, and the subject of plenty of digs. But here’s the truth that makes those weather-related barbs slide right off our backs: Even in the soupiest thick of fog, all it takes is an hour’s drive and you can be somewhere where you don’t need a light sweater at all. (Of course, you’ll want to keep one in your backpack. You’ll need it for the ride home.)
1. MT. TAM
It’s hard to believe there is a forest on a mountain just an hour outside of the home of Rice-A-roni and cable cars. Mt. Tamalpais is full of places to hike, bike and view the fog-shrouded city, outside of the fog. Any level of hiker can find a scenic, exhilarating hike. You can look for native flora, like chaparral plants, rare and endangered plants, and when in season lovely wildflowers. With so many different routes to choose from, your best bet is to seek out some recommended loop hikes that go through all kinds of different terrains, from shaded woods to sweeping coastal trails.
2. SWEENEY RIDGE
Sweeney Ridge, between San Bruno and Pacifica is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which means sometimes you can even get a themed walk led by a ranger. Beware, the hiking is a bit steep but if you make it to the top, you’re rewarded with an amazing view. Bonus: bring your binoculars and look for hawks!
Whether you take a car, a bike, a bus or the ferry, it doesn’t take too long to get over the Golden Gate Bridge and down into Sausalito, where you’re almost always guaranteed a sun rays and shadows. Walk down Bridgeway and find a cheeseburger or an ice cream cone to enjoy while looking out over the water to the city. If you have kids with you, make sure you stop by the Bay Area Discovery Museum and check out the Imagination Playground.
4. DOWNTOWN BERKELEY
Get on your bike and take BART to Downtown Berkeley for a leisurely ride around town. You can use the Biking and Walking Map to navigate the wonderfully wide bike lanes. Head to the Marina or explore U.C. Berkeley’s campus. Check out the street vendors and musicians on Telegraph Avenue and eat like a college student for an afternoon by getting cheap pizza and self-serve frozen yogurt by the pound. You deserve it after so much bike riding in the sun.
Here’s a secret: the people who misquote Mark Twain, saying “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco” have never been to Dogpatch. This neighborhood on the east side of the city is as far away from the ocean as it is possible to be within city limits, which means it’s protected from the fog by two sets of hills. The neighborhood is pretty industrial but it’s up-and-coming, with fun brunch spots, bars and a great butcher. If you see the fog rolling in, hop on a bus to the Dogpatch and buy yourself a few more hours of sunshine.
6. STINSON BEACH
While San Francisco does have its own beaches, the typical wind patterns make them not quite the most relaxing spots to for summer sunbathing or playing in the water. Less than an hour’s drive north is beautiful Stinson Beach, where the fog typically lifts by late morning, leaving a wide, inviting stretch of beach while still keeping a little of that wild, Northern California feel. You can grab picnic lunches from a variety of eateries in the small village, and stop for ice cream on the way home. A day spent here feels like a mini-holiday.
-By Lizzy Acker