The idea of "playing tourist" in the place you live is one that I really need to embrace more often. I remember years ago when we were visiting some family friends in Brisbane, Australia and we asked the kids about nearby Sydney. They told us they had never been! It was surprising to us that they hadn't explored the most well known city in their country. Then a couple of years later, they visited the U.S. and were asking about travel tips for New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. We gave them the same response...that we had never really spent much time there. For so much of our twenties, we focused our energy and resources on seeing other parts of the world, and now that we have kids and limited resources, we are realizing how much we have overlooked SO close to home.
In planning our trip to Angel Island, I really did not know what to expect. I knew the kids would love the ferry ride (their first boat ride ever!) and that the views from the island would be spectacular if we were lucky enough to go on a clear day. Other than that, my expectations for the island itself were pretty low. I'm not sure where this image of a tree-less island came from (maybe I was confusing it with Alcatraz?), but it made for a very pleasant surprise when we began to hike.
|Looking out the window of the Tiburon Ferry|
|The hike got off to a slow start, since the kids wanted to be frogs and "hop" their way up the hill.|
|Patches of Forget-me-not flowers lined the hillside.|
The majority of the hike took us through wooded areas with paths that maintained a gentle grade as they carved their way up the mountain. We were greeted by patches of wildflowers in bloom and glimpses of the surrounding Bay Area through the trees. The last leg of the hike was more exposed, and on a clear day would offer spectacular views of San Francisco and the East Bay hills. We were fortunate to have the fog break on the Marin side of the mountain, so we had beautiful views of the North Bay and a few glimpses of the Golden Gate bridge hiding behind the thick layer of fog that hovered over the city.
At the top of Mt. Livermore (elevation 788 ft) there are a handful of picnic sites and we were able to snag a table on the northwest side of the mountain, which was nicely protected from the wind and provided views of the North Bay. We brought along sandwiches from Woodlands Market (my favorite grocery store in Marin, with a location in downtown Tiburon), so we had a nice meal before starting the descent back to Ayala Cove.
|The fog began to clear out while we ate our lunch...giving us some amazing views!|
|Not a bad spot for a picnic!|
We took a different trail on the way down, which I recommend highly, since the island has a wide range of trees and plants and each trail has a unique landscape for you to enjoy. As with the way up, the trail offered a gradual grade, making for a fairly easy hike.
|I think one of us might actually be looking at the camera...but that's okay :)|
|Taking in the views while we wait to board the Ferry.|
|Homes above the Tiburon Marina...not a bad view to wake up to!|
Have you been to Angel Island? Any recommendations for future visits?
The details: Getting there: We took the Angel Island-Tiburon Ferry from downtown Tiburon to Angel Island, which takes ~12 minutes. You can also ride the Ferry from the East Bay to SF and then SF to Angel Island. The hike: from the ferry terminal we headed towards the Visitor's Center and followed the paved road up behind the visitors center to the trailhead for the Sunset Trail. We followed signs for Mt. Livermore and continued on the Sunset trail (avoiding the option to walk on fire trails). On the way down, we took the North Ridge Trail, following signs to Ayala Cove and the Ferry terminal. Here is a more detailed account of the same hike we took, but in the opposite direction. Round trip hike is just under 5 miles, and don't be fooled by anything that says otherwise! We were led to believe by an article in a local paper that this route was a 3 mile loop...which is not the case.
The cost: Gas/Toll: $10, Sandwiches at Woodland's Market: $8 each...large enough to split. Ferry tickets: Check here for current pricing. At the time of our trip, adult R/T tickets were $15, and kids 3 and over were $5. 2 and under are FREE. Ticket includes ferry ride and admission to Angel Island State Park. You can rent bikes on the island or bring your own on the ferry at no additional charge.