Our Strategy for Nifty Ninety

Mural in Coit Tower, Telegraph Hill, S.F.

It wasn’t very long after Ralph and I started doing some of the high points on the ‘Nifty Ninety’ Peaks challenge that our friend Patricia became interested. Like us, she wanted to do some new local hikes on a regular basis, found the selection of peaks on the list interesting and within our hiking abilities, and wanted to spend time with friends.

Choosing which peaks to do first…

Patricia suggested a strategy—that we do all of the peaks within a category on the list and then go on to another category. For example, we could do do all of the National Parks peaks, then all of the California State Parks, and then those of the North Bay, etc. 

We toyed with her idea for a bit, but then decided that other factors should be prioritized—such things as the difficulty of a hike, the weather, and the time needed to commute back and forth. We also considered such things as when the wildflowers would be out or the waterfalls flowing. After all, the peak hikes were supposed to be fun as well as good exercise, so we wanted to optimize the conditions whenever possible.

Mount Tamalpais, Mt. Tamalpais State Park, Marin County.

We get on the way

With those considerations in mind, we started out by doing the shorter or less strenuous hikes first. We figured we would get stronger and more confident over time. Sometimes we were able to do two, even three peaks, in a day—such as when we did San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill, Russian Hill, and Nob Hill. 

The hardest ones may be ahead!

Now that we have reached more than 75 peaks, we have done most of the easy and moderate ones—which means, of course, that the peaks remaining on our list are more difficult to reach. Namely they will require hiking more miles or driving a longer distance, will be more technically difficult because of the trail’s steepness or slippery nature, or the elevation gain to the peak.

However, we are now stronger and feel more confident. We think that all are now within our capabilities. So, it is we hope, just a matter of waiting for the weather we prefer and the time needed to get to the destinations.

Time will tell!
Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn, aka backpack45

Consider the ‘Nifty Ninety”

Consider the Nifty Ninety

We have now completed more than 75 of the #Nifty Ninety peaks. I know that there are some summits ahead that are even more difficult than those we have encountered so far, but we have gradually become more confident and strong as we have met the hikes’ challenges. We continue to consider the terrain, the mileage, the time required, and the weather conditions when selecting our next hike—and are growing more and more captivated by the parks, trails, and  high points we are discovering.

As a long-distance hiker, I’ve spent a lot of time at high elevation (John Muir Trail being a prime example) so it is exciting to have some of the same joy exploring the peaks of the Bay Area—the far-reaching views and the sense of accomplishment that getting to high points in this area brings.

If, like me, you don’t like to always do the same trails, check out the Nifty Ninety Peak challenge. Link here! You will also find a great deal of information about the peaks on peakbagger.com and you can also record your achievements at this easy to use website.

Happy trails and travels!
Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

10 Favorite S.F. Bay Area Hikes

While I certainly haven’t done every possible hike in the San Francisco Bay Area the following 10 parks and trails have yet to fail me:
1.  Mount Tamalpais State Park: Steep Ravine and Matt Davis
2Point Reyes Ntl. Seashore: Pierce Point

3. Marin County Parks: Cascade Falls
4. Marin County Parks: Mount Burdell
5. El Corte de Madera Preserve: Tafoni and more
6. Mount Diablo State Park: Mount Diablo
7. Mount Diablo State Park: Mitchell Canyon 

8. Diablo Foothills (EBParks): Diablo Foothills   
9. Sunol Regional Park: Camp Ohlone Road 
10. Coyote Hills Regional Park: Tuibun, Bayview and more 

Marin County 
Mount Tamalpais State Park: Steep Ravine & Matt Davis

7 miles round trip, elevation gain 1,781. You’ll find redwoods, waterfalls and cascading streams, wildflowers, views back toward the Pacific Ocean, and a fun ladder to climb on this hike from Stinson Beach to Pan Toll Campground and back. 

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Point Reyes Ntl. Seashore: Pierce Point Trail (aka Tomales Point)

Tule Elk, Point Reyes

9.7 miles out and back, but within the first couple of miles, you are almost guaranteed to see tule elkbirds, and wildflowers, so you can shorten the hike if you wishThe views along the narrow peninsula are spectacular–Tomales Bay to the east, Bodega Bay to the north, and the Pacific Ocean on the west.

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Cascade Falls, Fairfax

Cascade Falls, Eliot Nature Reserve. Marin County Parks, Fairfax. 3 miles out-and-back. Easy.  Best in winter or spring shortly after a rain, which gives the stream a boost. Delicate wildflowers in springtime. Excellent for young children and beautiful enough to be enjoyed by any age. 

The most direct and easiest trails to follow (especially if the alternative trails lead to the part of the wide stream with no bridge) are the Cascade Fire Road and the Cascade Falls Trail. 

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Mount Burdell, Mount Burdell Open Space, Marin County Park, Novato.

Rainbow from Mt. Burdell, Marin County

A lovely 5.2 mile loop rated moderate.  The highest point is Mt. Burdell, which is 1,558 ft. — an 1,118 ft. elevation gain. 

Good on a mild winter or fall day, better even on a spring day when the grass is green and the wildflowers are out. Summers can be very hot and there is little shade so be prepared with plenty of water if you choose to undertake this hike on such a day.

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San Mateo County

El Corte de Madera Creek Preserve, Tafoni and more, Woodside

Tafoni formation–El Corte de Madera Creek Preserve

Moderate four-mile loop using the Tafoni, Fir, El Corte de Madera Creek Trails. This lovely hike through the redwoods also has a couple of unique features. One is a commemorative marker to those who died in a plane crash here in the 1950s.  Another is the intriguing sandstone Tafoni sandstone formation, which is about 1.5 miles out from the Tafoni trailhead. 

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Contra Costa County

Mount Diablo State Park: Mount Diablo, Walnut Creek

The very peak of Mt. Diablo, which is accessed from inside the Visitors’s Center

As mountains go, Mount Diablo’s summit isn’t terribly high, 3,849 feet, but it is the highest peak in the Bay Area. It also–if you pick the right day, generally in winter or early spring after rain has cleared the skies–offers outstanding views. On a clear day you can see not only the surrounding valleys and hills, but also the Sierra Nevada 135 miles to the east, Mount Lassen 185 miles to the north, and the Farallon Islands, 27 miles west of San Francisco.

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Indian Warriors in Mt. Diablo State Park, Contra Costa County

Mitchell Canyon/ Back Creek Loop,  Mount Diablo State Park, near Clayton. 

Strenuous, some hills, about 7 miles, 1700-foot elevation gain. On this beautiful hike, you’ll pass through narrow canyons, groves of  groves of Coulter pines, birding areas, rugged mountain scenery, and enjoy expansive views. In the spring, you’ll find that the shaded north exposures are alive with a succession of wildflowers. 

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Diablo Foothills Regional Trail (EBParks), Walnut Creek  

Diablo Foothills, EBParks, Contra Costa County

This challenging hike of 7 miles, elevation gain 966 feet, begins in a neighborhood. Passing into the park, you will soon enjoy walking through oak woodlands, rolling hills, rock outcroppings, and a seasonal creek.  My favorite time to do this hike is springtime–or anytime that it is not hot!

My favorite part is Pine Canyon–even though I have yet to see the resident peregrine falcons there, you can see their white guano (droppings) on the cliffs below their nests. The cliffs themselves are actually in neighboring Mount Diablo State Park and portions of other trails that enter the park from the canyon are closed seasonally to protect the nesting birds. 

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Alameda County

Camp Ohlone Road, Sunol Regional Park, Sunol. Hike to Little Yosemite

Short and sweet, this moderately-easy hike that can be extended if desired.  Approximately 3-4 miles out-and-back. Best after rain, hot in summers, but lovely anytime (just don’t expect the 2,425-foot drop of Yosemite Falls. 

The W Tree in Sunol Regional Park
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Tuibun/Chochenyo/Lizard Rock/
Bay View/Soaproot/Red Hill/Nike/Bay View again. Coyote Hills, EBParks, Fremont. 

Coyote Hills Regional Park, Fremont

Coyote Hills Regional Park, Fremont 

A moderate loop of 4.77 miles that takes you on the Bayview Trail around the Coyote Hills where you’ll see the evaporating salt ponds of San Francisco Bay. You’ll also walk a marsh area–often teeming with waterfowl. and other birdlife. Coyote Hills is a unique park that sits where Alameda Creek flows into San Francisco Bay, and is considered sacred by the Ohlone Native Americans.

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I hope you enjoy some of these hikes. We are very lucky to have so many great trails in the S.F. Bay Area. For more trails, check out the Nifty Ninety Peaks posts. Click here.