Twilight Walks: Night Hiking in the Bay Area

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The soft sound of leaves being crushed underfoot, the hoo-hoo hooting of an owl and look, there are one, two, no three! stars twinkling away on the horizon. Bay Area kids are surrounded by miles of hiking trails begging to be explored, nature walks with super friendly guides at the very tips of their little fingers. Summer days are the perfect opportunity to hit the hills at twilight. Outdoor explorers may find Orion or hunt out the red planet and learn about moon cycles, all while honing their night vision in order to spot some of the nocturnal creatures who also call the Bay Area home.

East Bay

Mount Wanda Full Moon Hike
Find out if the man in the moon really exists and perhaps catch a glimpse of the elusive nocturnal gray fox. Families will enjoy watching the sun settle on the horizon as the moon rises during this wondrous jaunt up the 642 ft peak, just south of John Muir’s historic farmhouse. Hear rangers recite the famous naturalist’s poetry and take a close and personal glimpse at the lunar sphere through a telescope set up by supportive volunteers. Be sure to bring headlamps or flashlights to ensure safe passage down the trail! This is a free hike but reservations are required.

Dates: July 3: 8:00 pm, Aug 1st: 7:30 pm, Aug 31: 7:30 pm
Cost: Free, but reservation is required.

Mount Wanda / John Muir National Historic Site
Alhambra Avenue and Franklin Canyon Road
Martinez, Ca
Phone: 925-228-8860

El Cerrito Hillside Natural Area Sunset/Moonlight Walk
Friends of Five Creeks and El Cerrito Trail Trekkers are offering this free walk. El Cerrito Hillside Natural Area is a spectacular 90 acre open space with knockout views, a pristine oak forest and grasslands and so this moonlight jaunt offers gorgeous sunset viewing in an urban oasis. Flashlights and walking sticks are suggested helpful tools; sturdy hiking shoes and long pants are recommended to ward off that famous Bay Area night chill. Meet at the west end of King Court, El Cerrito (west of King, north of Moeser). Parking is very limited, so allow time to park and walk to the start.

Date: July 2: 7:30 pm
Cost: Free

El Cerrito Hillside Natural Area
King Court
El Cerrito, Ca
Phone: 510-848-9358

Marin County

Mount Tamalpais Saturday Evening Hike
One of the Bay Area’s most beautiful parks offers a moderate 2 mile hike on full moon Saturday evenings, starting 15 minutes after sunset. Stunning panoramic views of the entire bay will keep the kiddos enthralled from beginning to end. Find out about the various full moons, including the thunder, green corn, harvest and the hunter’s moon. These popular tours are first come first serve so don’t be late! All the hikes are lead by Mt. Tam Interpretive Association volunteers, loyal lovers of the mountain.

Dates:July 28: 8:30 pm, Sep 1st: 7:30 pm, Sep 29th: 8:30 pm, Oct 27th: 8:30 pm
Cost: Free

Mount Tamalpais
Pantoll Ranger Station
3801 Panoramic Highway
Mill Valley, Ca
Phone: 415-716-8397 or 415-258-2410

Muir Woods After Hours
This special walk begins one hour before sunset and will conclude with the dark of night, well after the park is closed for regular visiting hours. The little ones will love to listen for owls, look for bats and learn how to use the five senses to make their way along the trail. This is an easy, two-mile walk on a paved path amongst the glories of the redwood forest, perfect for the whole family. Don’t forget to bring that flashlight and plenty of layers! Reservations are required and spaces fill up quickly.

Date:August 2: 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Cost: $5

Muir Woods
Hwy 1 to Muir Woods
National Monument
Mill Valley, Ca
Phone: 415-388-2595

San Francisco

Japanese Full Moon Viewing Walk/Party
One of two yearly viewing parties at the Japanese Tea Gardens, this moonlit walk allows for guests to enjoy the beauty of the gardens and pond in a different light. Tour guides will share traditions of Japanese Moon Viewing. The limit is 30 guests, and pre-registration is required. Meet up with other lunar lovers 15 minutes prior to the beginning of the walk.

Date:September 28th, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Cost: $10 for members, $15 for non-members

Japanese Tea Gardens
Corner of 9th Avenue and Lincoln Way
San Francisco, Ca
Phone: 415-661-1316

Land’s End City Star Parties
The San Francisco Amateur Astronomers Association offers city star viewing parties at Point Lobos/Lands End. While not too much of a hike, this special nighttime event is perfect for budding Galileos wanting to learn how to work telescopes, check out the Milky Way and even see some shooting stars!

Lands End
July 28: 8:00 pm – 10:30 pm
Cost: Free Merrie Way San Francisco, Ca


A Night Hike for Newbies
The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District offers a great hike for new nighttime enthusiasts. This moderately-paced, 3 to 4 mile docent-led evening hike includes a dinner break and a return trip under the stars. Highlights include looking for banana slugs and spotting coyotes in the dusky twilight. Flashlights covered with red cellophane will help little eyes adjust to the night light. Reservations are required and should be limited to groups of four.

Date:Jul 20th, 6:00 pm – 10:30 pm
Cost: Free

Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District
330 Distel Circle
Los Altos, Ca
Phone: 650-691-2150

“Like” this story below if your family plans on going night hiking this summer, then let us know your tips for making this a great family experience. 

— Gabriel Cullen

Photo courtesy of davedehetreleftcan1dospaz via flickr