History and Views on Angel Island

Angel Island | Smiling in Sonoma

Want an adventure full of history and gorgeous SF bay views? Head on over to Angel Island! It has been on our list of places to hike for quite some time but the limited ferry schedule and healthy fear of crowds has prevented us until last weekend. On the day we went, SF was having record breaking heat in February and the skies were completely free of Karl the Fog…perfect conditions to be on an island in the middle of the bay. Hundreds of other people also had the same idea!

We boarded the first ferry over from Tiburon at 10 AM with a couple hundred other excited people. Some with camping gear, some with bikes and most ready to do the hike up to Mt Livermore. The 12 minute ferry ride over was on glassy water with beautiful views of Goldie. We pulled into Ayala Cove at the same time the ferry boat from San Francisco arrived so the hubs and I went below so we could exit quickly and head up to the top of Mt Livermore ahead of the crowds. There were several stairs right at the beginning of the hike…nothing like getting the blood flowing right away! We tried to stay ahead of the line of people making their way up the stairs on the North Ridge trail. Every turn we made on the trail we were met with incredible views of East Bay and the Richmond Bridge as well as Tiburon. It was hard to not want to stop and gaze. We did slow to snap some pics but then hurried up so we could make the summit before the crowds.

Then we came upon the views of the Bay Bridge and the SF city skyline and everyone seemed to slow a bit…we couldn’t help but stop in amazement of everything we were seeing.

We stayed ahead of the majority of the crowd and made the 788 ft summit to quietly enjoy the views and catch our breath before the crowds made their way up. It was definitely a gorgeous day to be in the middle of the bay with 360 degree views. Unbelievable!!! Seriously, if you can do this hike I absolutely recommend going on a sunny day and ignore the crowds. It’s so worth it!

As we went back down and found our way on the next trail toward Battery Drew the crowds were more dispersed. We had planned on doing 10 miles but with our pace and wanting to enjoy the island we opted to do a little less hiking and more sightseeing, the last ferry leaves at 3:20 and we wanted to make sure and get off the island to go enjoy our tacos in Tiburon! Priorities right?

The west side of the island gave way to views of Alcatraz, downtown San Francisco, and the Golden Gate Bridge. It couldn’t have been a better day to be there!

We stopped off at Camp Reynolds for our picnic and a much needed potty break. No peeing in the bushes here…too many people! Thankfully there’s flushing toilets strategically placed around the island. It used to be a military fort, quarantine station, detention facility 🙁 and now a historical landmark and state park.

I can’t say enough about Camp Reynolds. It’s where the officers quarters were…you walk by a church / school, homes that look still lived in, then it opens up to expansive views of Tiburon and the Golden Gate! Families were gathered on the lawn picnicking, a couple were in need of a hotel room on a bench closer to the beach, others were picnicking at the several picnic tables and all were enjoying the sunshine and views….well I am not sure the one couple saw any views but each other’s tonsils but that’s fine. They looked like they were enjoying the weather. The hubs and I enjoyed a snack on the beach with no wind, no fog and views for days. Amazing.

Then we jumped up and headed back to Ayala Cove for the 1:30 ferry and promise of margaritas/mojitos and tacos at our favorite Tiburon restaurant Guaymas right on the water.

The ferry ride was crowded but a little sense of relief of not being packed like sardines trying to make the last ferry off the island was good. Note to self, make reservations ahead of time for the restaurant. It was a beautiful day on the bay so everyone wanted to eat out on the water.

On the way home, the hubs dozed off as we (I) drove home with the top down on a gorgeously hot February day. Life is good.


Hiking details: $13/person ferry ride and entrance fee, check the ferry schedule here, parking is $5 all day a block away from the ferry landing, flushing toilets on island, cafe on island but go to Guaymas (they are soooo good!), 6 miles, 788 ft elevation gain, unlimited views on a clear day.

North Ridge Trail to summit then back down to Ida > fire road > to perimeter road toward Battery Drew > down to Camp Reynolds > back up to perimeter road toward Ayala cove and you’re done!

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