San Francisco Bay Area

A Native History of the East Bay Redwoods

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From forests to creeks to trails, every natural space has a past that predates our conventional history books. Few people today realize that the hills of the East Bay were once home to coast redwood forests of incredible stature. Living among them were the Ohlone people.

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Transamerica Redwood Park in San Francisco. Photo by TheWestEnd, Flickr Creative Commons

Places to See the Redwoods in San Francisco

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Fortunately, there are pockets in The City (as Bay Area residents know and love it) where locals and visitors can experience the redwoods, both virtually and tangibly. No need to even hop on any freeways or cross any bridges. ETA: less than an hour.

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Phleger Estate offers trails through a lovely younger redwood forest like this one.

Phleger Estate

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Serene woodlands evoking a bygone era. Robust second-growth redwood forest and old mill sites provide a fascinating if somewhat bittersweet perspective on the history of the San Francisco Peninsula.

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Trail Above the Clouds, photo by au ears, Flickr CC

Windy Hill Open Space Preserve

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One of the San Francisco Peninsula’s most distinctive landmarks, a beautiful undeveloped 1,355-acre preserve that provides excellent views of the Bay Area.

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Indian Tree Open Space Preserve, Photo by Ben Amstutz, Flickr CC

Indian Tree Open Space Preserve

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242-acre preserve west of Novato with massive redwoods clustered along ridge. Trails traverse forests of oak, madrone and California laurel.

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French Ranch Open Space Preserve

French Ranch Open Space Preserve

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403-acre preserve links with Gary Giacomini and Roy’s Redwoods Preserves to protect much of the Lagunitas Creek area, critical habitat of wild coho salmon. Deep forests of redwood, Douglas fir, oak and tanoak that are rich in wildlife. Rare “serpentine endemic” plants, including Tiburon buckwheat, Tamalpais lessingia and serpentine reedgrass.

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El Corte de Madera Open Space Preserve

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2,817-acre preserve offers excellent hiking, equestrian and bicycling opportunities within a short drive of mid-San Mateo Peninsula. Mixed coniferous forests include numerous ancient redwoods. Wonderful examples of rare tafoni sandstone formations. San Gregorio Creek provides critical habitat for imperiled coho salmon and steelhead trout.

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Blithedale Summit Open Space Preserve

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Largest of the linked preserves that protect the north ridge of Mount Tamalpais. 639 acres encompass diverse habitats, from thick forest to chaparral. Dramatic views along the ridge and spectacular spring wildflower displays.

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Baltimore Canyon Open Space Preserve

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Just west of Larkspur, Baltimore Canyon Open Space Preserve lies at the headwaters of Larkspur Creek. It encompasses a mixed hardwood and second-growth redwood forest that shelters one of the prettiest canyons in the San Francisco Bay Area. Any trip to the preserve demands a visit to Dawn Falls, a beautiful 25-foot cascade. The falls are a dramatic torrent of whitewater after a storm, and flow throughout the year.

Discover the Hidden Gems of Baltimore Canyon

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Marin Muncipal Water District

Marin Municipal Water District

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21,000 acres of woodlands and grasslands on Mount Tamalpais and the hills of western Marin County. The Lake Lagunitas Loop is an easy hike on wide trails, traversing redwood groves , oak woodlands and meadows thick with wildflowers in the spring.

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Huddart Park

Huddart Park

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900 acres of deep forest, chaparral and oak savanna, short drive from San Francisco and the Peninsula. Large, second-growth redwood groves conjoined with ground-hugging redwood sorrel and sword fern. Elsewhere, mixed coniferous forest, savannas and grasslands create a rich and diverse ecosystems abundant in wildlife.

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Anthony Chabot Park

Anthony Chabot Regional Park

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3,314-acre greenbelt with redwood groves, diverse habitats and wildlife. Hiking, bicycling, bird-watching, horseback riding and camping.

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Sanborn County Park by Glenn Nelson FCC

Sanborn County Park

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3,688 acres of beautiful, lush redwood forest in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Wide range of recreational options, including hiking, picnicking and RV and tent camping.

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Mount Madonna County Park

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Sprawling second-growth redwood forest in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Overlooks Santa Clara Valley to the east, Monterey Bay, to the west. Horseback riding, hiking, and walk-in and drive-in camping.

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Gary Giacomini Open Space Preserve

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Windswept Marin County ridge. Dwarf Sargent cypress, rare Marin manzanita. Rock gardens with jewel-like flowers. Fire roads link to many other public lands. 

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Jenner headlands Courtesy Sonoma Land Trust, Stephen Joseph Photography

Jenner Headlands Preserve

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Where Russian River meets Pacific Ocean, dramatic views, small streams, coastal prairies, spring wildflowers, redwood and Douglas-fir forest. Spotted owls, coho salmon, steelhead trout, peregrine falcons.

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Lake Sonoma Recreation Area, by David McSpadden Flickr CC

Lake Sonoma Recreation Area

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Huge lake surrounded by oak woodlands and (on west side) redwoods and other conifers. Boating, fishing, camping, water skiing, hiking, horseback riding, archery, frisbee golf. More than 1 million visitors yearly.

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Photo by Franco Folini, Flickr Creative Commons

Pescadero Creek County Park Complex

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Santa Cruz cypress, Monterey pine. Marbled murrelets, steelhead trout, coho salmon. Along with adjoining Memorial and Sam McDonald, part of a county-park complex with 74 linked miles of trails and dirt roads.

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Photo by Eugene Kim, Flickr Creative Commons

Wunderlich Park

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West of Woodside, a rural park with meadows, creek. Historic Folger Stable, once part of the Folger Coffee Estate. Equestrian museum.

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