Fight cabin fever with these scenic hikes


Marcel Scott

A rainy day at Briones Regional Park

Marcel Scott, Opinion editor

Winter: Traditionally a time to be holed up in a claustrophobic house with your family, while you sip your hot chocolate, and wear warm cozy festive sweaters. Fun, right!? No.

Winter is the time to get outside, stick your face in the rain, snow or mud, and say, “I’m cold and dirty, but this is exquisite!”

So to inspire your inner yeti, here’s a list of five Bay Area places, which are awe-inspiring and hopefully alluring enough for you to get on your mittens, and get outdoors this winter break. Also, they’re free! And don’t worry, that hot chocolate will be waiting for you when you get back home. Maybe.

The Muir Woods

A perfect place to go during the winter time: less foot traffic, surprisingly warm conditions, and a curious adventure of your own. It’s a perfect place to go on a rainy day, because the dense forest also makes a pretty good roof and insulator. You can thank the redwoods and valley, that the Muir Woods lie in between, for keeping you warm and, for the most part, dry, as you explore a precious California ecosystem full of unexpected paths.

Personally I like to take the Dipsea Trail, which extends all the way to Stinson Beach. This trail gives you a little bit of everything: a little elevation gain, a bit of forest, a strip of coast, and hopefully a couple of laughs in between. The Dipsea Trail is a seven-and-a-half mile hike, so make sure to come prepared: water, food, rain jacket, sweater, and anything else you need for comfort.     

Mickey’s Beach

Mickey! Mickey man, it’s been awhile since the last time we’ve crossed paths. You’re a prime rock-climbing spot for both routes and bouldering, but do you know what else you are? A nude beach…yeah…you’re a nude beach. So that’s the thing Mickey, you’re great, you have a lot of climbing routes ranging in difficulty, but what’s up with the old naked dudes constantly playing frisbee? Which, by the way, is fine because it’s their place to do as they please. But the positions they get themselves into! AHH!

Anyways—I actually haven’t attempted this idea yet—but what usually keeps me away from rock-climbing at Mickey’s Beach is the amount of old naked guys. Which, if you’re into that, then it’s the perfect place for you, but if you’re not, then here’s the plan: go on a cold, relatively gloomy day, maybe a slight drizzle or chance of rain, and either explore, or rock-climb. If you rock-climb, you should absolutely go. Now if you don’t climb it’s also a pretty cool place to explore the California coast, and watch the wonders of erosion.

Warning: This plan might not work, and you may see naked old dudes…but if you’re into that, which is totally fine, you’ll feel right at home. Also, please do not climb the rocks if you don’t have the correct equipment, rock-climbing is inherently dangerous enough.   

Castle Rock State Park, Santa Cruz

Sandstone boulders, beautiful Douglas firs, redwoods, and dense madrone forests are just some of the things you’ll see exploring Castle Rock State Park. A perfect place for rock-climbing, hiking, backpacking, and camping—regardless of what you do while you’re there, the Santa Cruz mountains are a great place to forget about your troubles for a day or two and have a mystical adventure. The Santa Cruz mountains, which rise up to 3,786 ft, are a Bay Area gem during the winter. Dense fog creates an illusion of mystery while hiking through the otherworldly trails of your choosing. They’re all great.     

Briones Regional Park

A gorgeous place to explore anytime of the season, but winter is personally my favorite time. Less people, lush green grass, and oak trees that riddle the hilly slopes make for an amazing landscape. Rain also brings the chance for some much needed mud-sliding. Briones adequately satisfies your mud-sliding needs. Find any hill that has little vegetation on it—you don’t want to kill any plants while doing this—bring a box and a change of clothes, and enjoy being a child again while sliding down your hill of choice.      

Gazos Creek Beach

Right off of Highway one, Gazos Creek Beach sits overlooking the famous Pigeon Point Light Station off in the usually foggy distance. The beach makes for a great little stop and explore adventure while traveling along the historic Californian highway.

I personally like to make a day excursion before ending up here. Usually I’ll spend the day in Santa Cruz getting into untold shenanigans, and then I’ll make my way back home, but stop to catch the sunset at Gazos Beach. It’s a scenic place already, with a tide pool, and an overlook that dramatically drops into the ocean—but with a good sunset on the ocean horizon—there’s really nothing better to end your day. Plus with a little cloud coverage overhead, you’ll spot orange and purple hues as the sun sets over the horizon. Bring a jacket, sweater, good friends, and your imagination.     

Have fun on your winter break, and I hope you enjoy some of these adventures. Please be safe while doing these activities, and embrace the rainy weather.