Mark Twain once said: “The coldest winter I have ever experienced was summer in San Francisco”, and he was right. A sunny, warm and not windy or foggy day in San Francisco is a very rare occurrence and once nature grants you such a gift you have to use it wisely. The best thing to do on such an occasion is to explore outdoor attractions in and around the Bay and also get a glimpse of an elusive Golden Gate Bridge.
When all cards got stacked just right one beautiful spring day I already had a perfect one-day family trip itinerary prepared and waiting. We would take a trip to Angel Island State Park. The Park is located on an island in San Francisco Bay just North of Alcatraz. To get there one needs to take a ferry on Pier 41 (which runs only 3 times a day each way, so you need to plan ahead).
The ferry ride is about 30 minutes but it is full of great sightseeing opportunities. You can get a perfect view of San Francisco downtown, Alcatraz and, of course, the crown jewel of the bay – the Golden Gate Bridge. You may also see some wildlife, mainly seals and sea otters.
When you are approaching Angel Island on a bright sunny day you almost feel like you are heading towards a destination in the Mediterranean, with its rolling hills landscape, beautiful blue waters and white yachts dotted around it.
Currently the Island is a nature preserve. There are no cars allowed on it, only tour trams, and no dogs either (except for service dogs). Most people either hike or bike around the island, some with sufficient endurance hike up the top of the hill where you have sweeping 360 degrees views of the Bay: on a perfect clear day you can see as far South as San Jose and as far North as Napa and Sonoma.
The Perimeter Loop trail is 6 miles and is relatively flat and wide. It is the best one for kids. If you visit in spring-early summer you will see a lot of beautiful wildflowers on this trail. Trams also ride around this loop and provide a narrated tour ($16.50 for adults and $10.50 for kids).
The island is also good for bird watching and if you are lucky you may also see a deer or two.
However, the visit to the Park is not just a great nature experience but also a good history lesson. Before the Angel Island became a State Park it was an immigration and quarantine station and it also housed a military fort with defense installations. You can visit these historic sites on the loop trail and a Visitor’s Center is worth a stop too. The only site that is off limits is an active U.S. Coast Guard station but we were lucky to see the coast guards in the water training for saving a drowning person and they did a pretty good job at that!
Plan to spend several hours in the park. The only food concessions available are at the ferry dock so you won’t be returning there until you are done with the hike. There are several places along the trail with picnic tables so I suggest carrying food and water with you. Some of those picnic tables have the best views you have probably seen in your life so just relax and enjoy:
Overall it was great family trip perfect for a day in Angel Island State Park. If you found this family road trip itinerary useful, please do me a little favor and share this information with others, for there’s a good chance that it will help them with their travel plans. 🙂