I’ve crossed the Golden Gate Bridge dozens of times now — always sitting in the passenger seat, marveling at the blue waters of the Bay or peering into its gauzy grey fog. Never, however, did I pause to consider Angel Island, the huge plot of earth sitting in the water behind its more famous sister, Alcatraz. Fortunately for me, my friends think differently. Not only were we visiting the natural landmark; we would hike it.
On a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, we set off for Tiburon, a small coastal town at the southernmost tip of Marin County. From there, we caught a quick fifteen-minute ferry to the island. The sound of the waves, feel of the breeze, pull of the boat — it all soothed something deep inside me. I was relaxed as could be once we stepped on land… that is, until I realized we had little more than two hours to finish a two-to-three hour hike before the last ferry home.
We quickly located the head of the Northridge Trail and set off, beginning our ascent to the summit almost immediately. Steps on steps on steps! A series of stairways definitely gave our glutes a good workout. After a while, however, the trail began leveling off and winding through wooded patches and grassy chaparral. With an eye on the clock the whole time, we were careful to keep up a snappy pace — even as the path narrowed and threaded through a perilously steep hillside.
The views throughout the hike, though, were absolutely worth our shortness of breath. Once we crested the top of Mount Livermore, Angel Island’s highest point (at 788 feet), we had a moment. The 360 degree view of the Bay and all its bridges — the Golden Gate, the Bay, the Richmond — and its counties was nothing short of awe-inspiring. If you didn’t love San Francisco and its satellite cities before, you will once you look at it through the lens of Angel Island.
… and, if you can’t tell, we did, indeed, make it onto the last ferry home. We definitely had to hustle down the returning Sunset Trail and cut through some wilderness (i.e., a little bit of sliding through forested hill), but we did it. Once we returned to Tiburon, we stretched out, picnicked on the public lawn, and watched children play with enormous soap bubbles. It was an absolutely beautiful Bay Area afternoon, from sea to summit and back.
Trail information at Bay Area Hiker