Pinnacles National Park
Two weekends ago, my coworkers/friends and I went to Pinnacles National Park! A mere two hour drive away, it's the closest national park in the Bay Area, and one of the most recently inaugurated, redesignated from a National Monument to a National Park in 2013. Although small and not the most jaw-dropping place on earth, Pinnacles was the perfect weekend getaway, with a great campsite and numerous hiking trails!
Our first hike - a mild 5 mile hike with little elevation gain - took us through and over the Balconies Cave, was really cool (literally, with a much lower temperature than outside), and what I'd say is one of the more distinctive parts of the park. We had to use our headlamps to see after crossing the metal gate into the pitch black darkness, and found ourselves crawling under 3 foot openings under massive boulders.
Our second hike, on the following day, was a bit more strenuous, although required more attention than actual energy. The 6-mile Condor Gulch to High Peaks loop (with a stop at Bear Gulch reservoir) took us high up to view the beautiful rolling hills and valley surrounding us.
However, to get there, we had to go up (and then down) several very steep and narrow stretches with only a handrail as support - while not difficult, it would definitely be anxiety-inducing for those with a fear of heights! Fortunately, the views on the way and at the top were well worth it.
I would definitely return to Pinnacles for a camping weekend - it was so easy to get to from San Francisco, and a low-key place to spend some time in California's beautiful rugged wilderness!