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Adventures: Hiking or Biking the Perimeter Trail
by Ann Marie Brown

Angel Island State Park
The Perimeter Trail at Angel Island State Park may be the most spectacular easy hike or bike ride in the entire San Francisco Bay Area. How easy? It’s so nearly level you could push a baby stroller around the whole thing. How spectacular? Its middle-of-the-bay vantage point provides unmatched 360-degree views.

Heading clockwise, your hike or ride begins with a panorama of Tiburon and its Mediterranean-looking waters, then the Richmond Bridge and the northern tip of San Pablo Bay. Far beyond are the hills of Napa and Sonoma counties. As you travel, the panorama constantly changes. Your perspective is completely different from the center of San Francisco Bay than from its edges -- reorienting yourself to the cityscapes as you go is a pleasurable diversion.

My favorite viewpoint lies on the southeast side of the island, where an open stretch captures a vista of the Bay and Golden Gate bridges, plus Alcatraz Island. The 180-degree scene encompasses the whole sweep of urban skylines from Berkeley to San Francisco to Sausalito. On every trip I make a half-mile jaunt off the Perimeter Trail to Perle’s Beach, a windy strip of sand with an amazing vista facing south toward Alcatraz and San Francisco. Another “must” is a trip to the top of Mount Livermore, the island's highest point at 781 feet. Even from this diminutive elevation, the views are dazzling.

Be sure to purchase a park map at the ferry landing; it provides details on the island’s fascinating military history. Food and drinks are sold at the cafe by the landing dock. Bike rentals are also available.

The Details
Length: 5-mile loop
Difficulty: Easy
Best Season: Great year-round, but summer is the most crowded
Highlights: Spectacular views, island history, beaches
Map: Angel Island State Park map (available for $2 at island ferry landing) Trail Guide: 101 Great Hikes of the San Francisco Bay Area (Foghorn Outdoors)
Park Information: (415) 435-1915 or (415) 893-1580
Getting There: Ferry service to Angel Island is available from Tiburon, San Francisco, Oakland/Alameda, and Vallejo
For Tiburon departures, phone the Tiburon Ferry at (415) 435-2131
For Oakland or Alameda departures, phone East Bay Ferry at (510) 522-3300
For San Francisco departures, phone Blue & Gold Fleet at (415) 773-1188
For Vallejo departures, phone Baylink at (707) 64-FERRY