A perfect day on the Bay

For the last week, I’ve been laying low, dealing with some discomfort and pain from my dermoid. I swear, I think it knows that it’s getting evicted soon because it’s been acting up more and more as we get closer to my surgery date. Ha ha ha! Annnyyyway…being sloth-like does get old pretty quickly. Add to that the spring-like weather we’ve been having, (with temps in the mid 70s!) and I started to get a little cabin feverish. To fight the stir craziness, I decided to take full advantage of the nice weather by heading out to explore Angel Island State Park.

The park is a 1.2 sq mi island in San Francisco Bay that has been used, historically, in a variety of ways. At one time, the island was home to military forts, a public health quarantine station, and an immigration station.

There are a couple of ferry options to get to Angel Island, depending which side of the Bay you’re coming from. Since I live in the North Bay, I drove down to Marin County to catch the ferry from Tiburon. Parking in Tiburon can be challenging, but there are several lots in the downtown area that offer all day parking for a small fee. I parked and walked two blocks to the dock and arrived about 10 minutes before the ferry departed. The ferry is “pay as you board,” no advance purchase required, and they conveniently accept credit cards and cash.

As I boarded the ferry, I noticed a lot of people with bikes and backpacking gear. I knew that bikes are allowed on the ferry and I had contemplated bringing mine, but changed my mind at the last minute (though I wished I hadn’t, later that day). I made my way to the top deck of the ferry and enjoyed the sunshine and views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Tiburon during the short 10 minute ride.

Departing Tiburon

Departing Tiburon

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Tiburon Marina

The ferry landed in Ayala Cove. Near the dock, there are several restrooms, a snack bar, and a visitor’s center. There is also a large picnic and grassy area where many folks were lazily enjoying the warm, sun-filled day.

Image courtesy of California State Parks

Image courtesy of California State Parks

After grabbing a map at a nearby kiosk, I consulted the map to scope out the best possible route for my afternoon adventure. There are 13 miles of trails on the island, but because I wanted to check out some of the historic sites. From Ayala Cove, I headed up a short segment of the North Ridge Trail and emerged on the Perimeter Road. This trail is a roughly 5 mile long flat, paved loop around the perimeter (duh!) of the island and takes you by the main historic sites including the Immigration Station, Fort McDowell, and Camp Reynolds. I followed the trail clock-wise and stopped at the first site I came to, the Immigration Station. I spent about an hour wandering the grounds of the Station, and learning about its role as a detention center during the years of the Chinese Exclusion Act.

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Bell near Immigration Station

Bell near Immigration Station

Climbing back up to the Perimeter Road I continued on, passing a trailhead to some of the campsites available on the island. Remebering all of the backpackers on the ferry and passing by the campsite trails, I knew that I would have to come back soon to spend the night and explore more of the island. Day dreaming about backpacking and camping, I quickly came to the next historical site, Fort McDowell.  The grounds contained several abandoned buildings that you could walk through. There was also a big grassy area where people had gathered, tossing Frisbees and picnicking.

A portion of Fort McDowell

Open and abandoned building at Fort McDowell

Continuing on the Perimeter Road, I passed another trailhead; this one leading to Mt. Livermore. My original plan had been to hike up Mt. Livermore to the island’s high point. Unfortunately, I spent a little too much time exploring the historical sites and checking out the lovely views around the island, and I ran out of time. Since it is not quite spring yet, the ferry is still on a limited schedule and I couldn’t miss the last boat that was scheduled to depart at 3:20pm. This is when I wished I had brought my bike as it would have made it much quicker to cruise around the island from site to site and probably would’ve left me with enough time to hike up Mt. Livermore.

Continuing on the Perimeter Road I passed Camp Reynolds on my way  to Point Stuart.

View of Camp Reynolds through the Bay Trees

View of Camp Reynolds through the Bay Trees

The views from Point Stuart were awesome and spanned the length of the bay from the Marin Headlands to the East Bay. Since it was clear out I could see the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, San Francisco, the Bay Bridge, and Oakland! I stopped here for a short snack break and soaked in the views and the sunshine. Talk about a perfect day!

Views of the Marin Headlands, GG Bridge, Alcatraz, San Francisco, Bay Bridge, and Oakland.

Views of the Marin Headlands, GG Bridge, Alcatraz, San Francisco, Bay Bridge, and Oakland.

Keeping an eye on the time, I begrudgingly left my perfect spot and headed back out on the trail. Before I knew it, I was climbing back down to Ayala Cove just in time to catch the ferry back to Tiburon. As I cruised back to Tiburon I couldn’t help thinking that this was truly a perfect day spent on the Bay!

Want to go?

Getting there: The ferry (or private boat or kayak) is the only way to reach Angel Island SP. There are several ferry services from points around the Bay. More transportation information can be found on the state park website.

Fees: Tickets for the ferry, at the time, were $13.50 for adults, round trip. This included the entrance fee. Ticket prices may vary depending on the ferry service you use.

Hours: The park kiosk is open from 8 a.m. to sunset, year-round, but NOTE, ferry schedules vary depending on the season. Make sure to check the return schedules for the ferry you take so that you do not miss your return trip!

Bicycles: Bikes are allowed on the Perimeter Road and other unpaved roads. No bikes on trails. Bike rentals are available seasonally.

Dogs: Not allowed on the island, except for service animals.

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