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Chumash Territory . Detail of China Alley Memorial Mural . Ventura . 2012

Leg 1
Leg 2

LEG 2 - San Rafael to San Francisco

GPX Points: Download here.


Route Overview

  • Cities: San Rafael, Larkspur, Mill Valley, Sausalito, San Francisco

  • Description: Beautiful paths from Mission San Rafael, through historic Larkspur and marshes of Mill Valley marshland to Sausalito, by the Bay. You'll walk over the Golden Gate, through the Presidio parklands, and along city streets to Mission Dolores.

    • Note: Opt to take a slightly more direct path via roads.

  • Total Miles: About 23 miles

Suggested Schedule
This section can be done in 1 day, though it's a long schlep over pavement. You may want to break it up by spending a night in Mill Valley/Sausalito hotel, take 2-4 mile detour and camp in the gorgeous Marin Headlands, or cross the bridge and getting a motel room along Lombard Street in SF.

  • Day 1 (or Days 1 and 2): Mission San Rafael to Mission Dolores


Cyclists: Bikers can take all listed routes.

Path Information

  • Elevation: Mostly flat except Wolfe Grade Road in San Rafael, the approach to the Golden Gate Bridge, and the path over the hill in the Presidio/Marina.

  • Path Surface(s): All paths are paved.

  • Path Type(s): Mix of roads and city trails.

There are a few lower cost hostel options. Camping options are available, though they're in very high demand and parks usually start accepting reservation months in advance.

  • Mill Valley / Sausalito:

    • America's Best Value Inn at Mill Valley: No frills hotel, but it's right on the route overlooking the marshlands. Standard rates at around $100. 155 Shoreline Hwy at Hwy 101. (415) 332-1732

    • There are a few hotels in Sausalito, but they're pretty expensive.

  • Marin Headlands:

    • Kirby Cove Campground (Sausalito): Tent camping on the edge of the world. Breathtaking views of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. But bring your earplugs -- foghorns are mounted on the bridge and may go off all night. And it'll be cold year round. Campground open April 1 through October 31. Reservations go fast. Rates start at $25, plus fees. Located off route, from the bridge hike 1.5 miles west. From west side of bridge, take Conzelman Road uphill. Look for access gate just past Battery Spencer Overlook and proceed down Kirby Cove Road to the grounds. 300-foot elevation gain then 400-foot drop to camp, which you'll have to reverse to get back to the bridge. (877) 444-6777

    • Bicentennial Campground (Sausalito): Overlooks Bonita Cove and the Point Bonita Lighthouse, with views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. No fee. Open all year. However reservations required, likely go fast. Also located off route; from the bridge hike 4 miles west. From west side of bridge, take Conzelman Road all the way to the camp. 500-foot elevation gain then a 600-foot drop, which you'll have to reverse to get back to the bridge. (415) 331-1540

    • Marin Headlands Hostel (Sausalito): Housed in a beautiful hospital and officer's mansion built in 1907. Views of the Rodeo Beach. Worth the 4-mile hike west from the bridge. On the weekend only, you can catch the SF Muni 76X bus from points around the Alexander Ave Bridge offramp for $2. Rates for group rooms start at $26, private rooms (sleep up to 3) start at $72. 941 Rosenstock Road, by Simmonds Road. (415) 331-2777

      (415) 331-2777

  • San Francisco:

    • Fort Mason Hostel: Can't beat the view of the Bay from historic Fort Mason. Dorm rooms start at $28/night and private rooms (2 twins) start at $65/night. 240 Fort Mason at Franklin Street. (415) 771-7277

    • Hotels/Motels Along Lombard Street, Marina District. These are along the route and are more reasonable - low $100s.

    • There are many other hostels, and slightly cheaper hotels, throughout the city, though there aren't many around Mission Dolores. Try or for options.

Food and water are readily available along this leg.

Recommendations: There are a million places to dine in the area. Here are a few sentimental favorites, all located along the path.

  • Cibo (Sausalito): Cafe with fancy soups, salads, and espresso. Open 7am-5pm daily. 1201 Bridgeway at Pine Street. On the route. (415) 331-2426

  • Warming Hut Cafe & Bookstore (Presidio, San Francisco): Just over the bridge and down the hill, stop at the Hut for a hot cocoa and a snack or sandwiches. Open 9am-5pm daily. 983 Marine Drive near Long Avenue. (415) 561-3040

  • Picaro Tapas (San Francisco): Reasonably priced tapas near Mission Dolores. Open 11:30am-10pm daily. 3120 16th Street at Valencia Street. (415) 431-4089

San Rafael can be very hot from spring through fall. Temperatures will cool as you walk toward Sausalito. The Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco are generally temperate, at best, and can be downright cold at any time during the year.

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LEG 1 - Sonoma to San Rafael

GPX Points: Download here.

Route Overview

  • Cities: Sonoma to San Rafael

  • Total Miles:

    • Backroads (3 days): About 40 miles

    • Highway (2 days): About 30 miles

  • Description: Start in leafy Sonoma. The walk takes you along highways and/or country roads, as well as city streets.

    • Note: You have the option of walking a shorter but more dangerous route along the 37 to Novato, then on to San Rafael. You can take a longer, but safer route through Petaluma, Novato, and San Rafael


Suggested Schedule

  • 2-day/Highway 37 Option: Walk southwest along Highway 37, bypassing Petaluma. Though it saves you a day of walking, the highway is pretty dangerous. Not recommended.

    • Day 1: Mission Solano to Novato

    • Day 2: Novato to Mission San Rafael* (There is an option for walkers to trek up a very pretty but steep route on a dirt path through the Loma Verde Preserve. Elevation 443 feet.)

  • 3-day/Backroads Option: Walk west/inland along Highway 116 through Petaluma. The 116 is pretty busy but the shoulders are wide. Trek through gorgeous rolling country backroads, and a short stint next to the 101 to Novato.

    • Day 1: Mission Solano to Petaluma

    • Day 2: Petaluma to Novato

    • Day 3: Novato to Mission San Rafael*

*Both routes converge in Novato and take the same path down to San Rafael.

Cyclists can take either route mentioned above, except for the alt through Loma Verde Preserve on the Novato to Petaluma section.

Path Information

  • Elevation: Mostly flat, with a few rolling hills.

  • Path Surface(s): Paths are paved.  

  • Path Type(s): Mix of highways, city streets. Alternates include country roads and dirt paths.



Ample mid-priced hotels/motels available in Sonoma, Petaluma, Novato, and San Rafael. There are a few camping options in Petaluma.

  • Tara Firma Farms (Petaluma): Organic farm located 4 mi south of Petaluma city center, but along the 3-day route. Amenable to campers bedding down in their barn. Must call ahead and sign waiver. 3796 I Street Extension. (707) 765-1202

  • San Francisco North / Petaluma KOA (Petaluma): Tent sites: Winter rate $34 (first 2 people), Summer rate $51 night/tent). Cabins also available. Located 4 miles northeast of Petaluma city center, which is off the route. Walk or take the #74 GGT bus ($4.25) or #48 SCT bus ($1.25) from 4th and D Streets. 20 Rainsville Road at Stony Point Road. 800) 562-1233

Food and water are pretty readily available along this leg.



  • Le Chalet Basque (San Rafael): Basque food near downtown. Open Tue-Fri 11:30am–2pm, 5pm–10pm; Sat- Sun 4pm–10pm. 405 N San Pedro Road at Malbry Way. On the route. (415) 479-1070

  • Sol Food (San Rafael): A popular Puerto Rican eatery. Open Mon-Fri 7am-12am, Sat-Sun 8am-12am. 903 Lincoln Ave at Third Street. (415) 451-4765

This inland leg can get very warm from spring through fall. Carry extra water.

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Leg 3
Leg 4
Section 5
Section 6

LEG 3 - San Francisco to Fremont

Google Map: Map below, link to map here.

GPX Points: Download here.
View 3. Mission Dolores to Mission Santa Clara or Missions San Jose in a larger map


Route Overview

  • Cities: San Francisco, Daly City, Burlingame, San Mateo, Redwood City, Menlo Park. You then having the choice of crossing the Dumbarton Bridge to to Fremont (home of Mission San Jose), or walking through Mountain View and Sunnyvale to Santa Clara (home of Mission Santa Clara).  

  • Description: Walk through San Francisco's Mission District, home to a large immigrant population from Mexico and Central America and, increasingly, to hipster boutiques and techie condos. See birthday cake Victorians, murals, ethnic groceries, 99-cent stores, upscale bars, and the much-maligned Google buses. Make your way through Daly City and over the hill to Colma, where San Francisco buries its dead (living population: 1,815; dead population: nearly 2 million, including Wyatt Earp and Joe DiMaggio). After you're contemplated your mortality, walk down the suburban peninsula, and through world-famous Silicon Valley (read: industrial parks). The peninsula is not the most scenic place--here's your chance to practice finding beauty in small places. If you veer east to Mission San Jose, you'll walk over the Dumbarton Bridge with its spectacular views of the bay (if you're lucky, you'll spot a gray whale), along the edge of the Don Edwards Regional Preserve, and through Fremont to the mission.

  • Total Miles:

    • Mission Dolores to Mission San Jose: About 48 miles

    • Mission Dolores to Mission Santa Clara: About 45 miles

Note: If you choose to proceed directly to Santa Clara, you can then walk from Mission Santa Clara to Mission San Jose and bus back to Mission Santa Clara before going on to Mission Santa Cruz.

SF Bay Trail Alternate: From San Francisco to Santa Clara, you can walk along the SF Bay Trail. The path follows the erratically shaped shore and takes quite a bit longer. It's also off the Camino Real. However, it's a bit more scenic. See maps for details:

Suggested Schedule

  • Day 1: This section can be done in 3 days. Suggested stopping points: Millbrae or Burlingame, and Redwood City or Menlo Park.

  • Day 2: If you choose to go over the Dumbarton Bridge, the walk to the Fremont Mission is 20+ miles. If you get tired or want to linger, there are hotels near the Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont.

  • Cyclists: Bikers can take all listed routes.

Path Information

  • Elevation: All paths are mostly flat.

    • The section from Mission Dolores to Redwood City is mostly flat, except the climb over the hill on Dolores Street in San Francisco and mild grades up and over Mission Street (SF and Daly CIty).

    • If you choose to walk directly to Mission San Jose, you'll need to go up and over the Dumbarton Bridge (elevation 340 feet).

    • If you choose to walk to Mission Santa Clara, the route is flat.

    • The SF Bay Trail alternate path is flat as well.

  • Path Surface(s): All paths are paved.

  • Path Type(s): City and suburban streets.

There are a number of hotels in Millbrae and Menlo Park/Redwood City. There are budget accommodations in Fremont and hotels around the university in Santa Clara.

Budget Accommodations

  • Fremont

    • Dominican Sisters Motherhouse at Mission San Jose (right behind the mission). It's possible to stay at the motherhouse, but their schedule may preclude hosting guests. Rate unknown. Call beforehand to arrange your stay. 43326 Mission Boulevard, right behind the mission. Contact: Sister Karen Elizabeth at (510) 657-2468. 

    • Sisters of the Holy Family Mother House: This sisterhood of progressive nuns could not have been more welcoming. Their order was founded in San Francisco in 1872, to serve poor children and families; their work today includes efforts to stop human trafficking, increase supply chain transparency, and advocate for environmental justice. Hospitality is provided free of charge, but a donation is the right thing to do. 159 Washington Boulevard at Bryant Terrace, 1/2 block west of the mission. Call beforehand to arrange your stay. Contact Sister Ruth at (510) 624-4500.


Food and water are readily available along this leg.


Recommendations: There are a lot of great ethnic restaurants along this stretch. From Mexican and Central American in the Mission, to Chinese, Russian, Italian, Basque and more on the peninsula.

  • Basque Cultural Center (South San Francisco): Just a few blocks west of the Camino Real, is the Basque Cultural Center, which hosts an amazing array of cultural events and houses a ball court and restaurant. Open for Lunch Tue-Fri 11:30am to 2:30pm; Dinner Tue- Sat 5:30pm to 9:30pm, Sun 5pm to 9pm. 599 Railroad Avenue. .7 miles west of the route. (650) 583-8091

  • Millbrae Pancake House (Millbrae): A beloved local spot for breakfast. Open Mon-Sun, 6:30am-9pm. 1301 El Camino Real. On the route. (650) 589-2080

  • Pilgrim Kitchen Bakery and Cafe (Belmont): Shortdough cookies, doughnuts, pie, cheese Danishes. Plus you get to take a picture of yourself in front of the pilgrim sign. Open Mon-Sun, 5:00am-9:00pm. 311 El Camino Real. On the route. (650) 592-0638

  • Russian Family Restaurant (Redwood City):Run by an older Russian couple, their blinchkis are delicious. Open for Lunch Tue-Fri 11:00am-3:00pm; Dinner Tue-Thu, Sun 5:00-9:00pm, Fri-Sat 5:00pm-10:00pm. 2086 Broadway Street at Jefferson Street. Close to the route. (650) 369-2950


San Francisco/Daly City/Colma are generally temperate, and can be downright cold and foggy no matter the season. As you walk into Millbrae you'll move past the fogbank and back into warmer climes. Fremont and San Jose can be scorching during the summer.

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LEG 4 - Fremont to Santa Clara

Google Map: Map below, link to map here. 

GPX Points: Download here.
View 4. Mission Santa Clara de Asis to Mission San Jose (Fremont) in a larger map


Route Overview

  • Cities: Fremont, Milpitas to Santa Clara. Note: Mission San Jose is in the city of Fremont, NOT in the city of San Jose.

  • Description: The majority of this walk takes you along suburban streets. You can opt to take the Coyote Creek trail for a stretch--the path is slightly longer, but it takes you along a lovely creek that meander along the last farm site in the area, and under flyovers. On Trimble Road, walk past the spot where a Columbian mammoth skeleton was recently discovered, then watch the planes take off overhead from SJO. The path ends on the grounds of the University of Santa Clara, which was built around the mission.

  • Total Miles 

    • Streets only mileage - About 15 miles

    • Streets + walk along Coyote Creek - About 16 miles

Suggested Schedule

  • Day 1: Mission San Jose to Mission Santa Clara

Cyclists: You can take either path, though you may have to walk your bike on a few short stretches along the Coyote Creek trail (see path types below.)

Path Information

  • Elevation: This path is flat.

  • Path Surface(s): All paths are paved, though there are a few underpasses along the Coyote Creek trail that may run through a bit of mud.

  • Path Type(s): City streets, creek trail.

Santa Clara: Currently, there isn't lodging available at the Mission or on campus grounds for walkers. Although there are quite a few hotels around the area, to accommodate campus visitors, they aren't cheap.

Food and water are readily available along this leg.

This inland area can be scorching from spring through fall. Carry extra water during these seasons.

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LEG 5 - Santa Clara to Santa Cruz

Google Map: Map below, link to map here

GPX Points: Download here.
View 5. Mission Santa Clara de Asis to Mission Santa Cruz in a larger map


Route Overview

  • Cities: Santa Clara, Los Gatos, Scotts Valley to Santa Cruz.

  • Description: This leg starts in suburban Santa Clara and winds to the mountains, including a lovely alternate bike/walk trail along Los Gatos Creek. You'll enjoy beautiful views in the Santa Cruz Mountains - but first you have to get there: it's a steep climb, from 344 feet elevation in Los Gatos to about 1,800 feet at the top. Make your way down into the charming beach town of Santa Cruz.

  • Total Miles:

    • Route taking side roads whenever possible: About 36 miles

    • Route taking streets/highways whenever possible: About 35 miles

Suggested Schedule
This walk can be done in 3 days, 2 days if you really push it.

  • Day 1: Mission Santa Clara to Los Gatos - About 13 miles

  • Day 2: Los Gatos to Scotts Valley - About 15 miles

  • Day 3: Scotts Valley to Mission Santa Cruz - About 8 miles


  • There are two ways over the mountains--along Highway 17 (very dangerous, even for drivers) or along side roads. Bear Creek Road to Skyline to Summit to Mountain Charlie Roads seems like the safest option to H17. Many cars run on Bear Creek to Summit, there's little to no shoulder, and it's a few miles of difficult climb. The rest of the path sees little to no traffic. Also note, there are a few miles along Graham Hill Road, where there's not much shoulder.

  • Lodging isn't readily available on the west side of the mountains or around the peak--if it does open up, then you could walk past Los Gatos the first day and make it to Santa Cruz on the second day.

Cyclists: Bikes ok on all routes, except the Graham Hill Road Trail (1.58 mi). Simply stay on the Graham Hill Road.

Path Information

  • Elevation: Flat until Los Altos, then a 1,500-foot gain over the Santa Cruz Mountains.

  • Path Surface(s): Paved except for Graham Hill Road Trail, which is an alt dirt path with lots of tree trunks.

  • Path Type(s): Streets, river trail. Alternate dirt trail.


Multiple hotel/motel and food options in Los Gatos, Scotts Valley, and Santa Cruz. Currently, no readily available food or lodging at the top of the Santa Cruz Mountains. (Though you might try the Presentation Center, near the summit.)

  • Scotts Valley Budget Options

    • Santa Cruz Ranch RV (Scotts Valley): No frills but friendly tent camping with showers and laundry facilities right along the route. Free coffee in the office. Tent camping for $50/night. Reservations required. 917 Disc Drive at Scotts Valley Drive. On the route. (800) 546-1288

    • Henry Cowell State Park (Scotts Valley): Tent or cabin camp among the old-growth redwoods. Restrooms, coin-op showers, water. Reservations highly recommended between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Closes seasonally; call for dates. $35/night. 2591 Graham Hill Road, near Lockwood Lane. On the route. (831) 438-2396

  • Santa Cruz Budget Options

    • Santa Cruz Hostel / Carmelita Cottages: Dorm rooms from $23-28/night, private rooms from $55-$290/night. 321 Main Street, between 2nd and 3rd Streets. 1.2 miles south of the mission. (831) 831-423-8304



Food and water are not readily available in the mountains between Los Gatos and Scotts Valley. You'll be climbing a few miles up the mountain, which can lead to overheating. Plan to carry extra food and water during this stretch.



San Jose and Los Gatos can be blazing hot, and there isn't much shade on the path. The trek over the mountain will be taxing. Bring extra water.

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LEG 6 - Santa Cruz to San Juan Bautista

Google Map: Map below, link to map here

GPX Points: Forthcoming.
View 6. Santa Cruz to San Juan Bautista in a larger map


Route Overview

  • Cities: Santa Cruz, Capitola, Aptos, Watsonville, Aromas, San Juan Bautista

  • Description: This section starts with gorgeous walks along the coast, through sparkling little beach towns south of Santa Cruz. Turn due east toward Watsonville and begin the first of many days walking along the loamy edges of farms. You're approaching the super productive Salinas Valley, known as "America's Salad Bowl." Smell 20,000 heads of broccoli at once! Walk past the occasional rows of crops with pesticide "skull and cross bones" warning signs. Note that these fields are often right next to organic farms. Also see farmworkers picking produce with just bandanas to protect them. Wind up through quaint Aromas and over the hill to San Juan Bautista, an almost unbearably charming historic town.

  • Total Miles: Forthcoming.


Suggested Schedule
This walk takes three days.

  • Day 1: Mission Santa Cruz to Manresa/Sunset Beach

  • Day 2: M/SB to Watsonville

  • Day 3: Watsonville to Mission San Juan Bautista

Days 1 and 2: You have many walking route options from Santa Cruz to Watsonville.

  • Rails-to-Trails Route: Walk down to the beach and along the train tracks, which were recently designated for pedestrian use. Although the tracks are near the water, you won't see as much of the coastline as you would on the Coast route. There are a few trestles along the way - not recommended for those with fear of heights (though you can walk down to the ground and around the trestles). And it's not easy to walk on the track ties, as you have to concentrate on each step - though I found it meditative. On the plus side, you'll get a bird's eye view of quaint Capitola and Aptos. The stretch through the slough near Watsonville is unreal - just train tracks running through the middle of a stunning marsh.

  • Coast Route: The path dips in and out along the shore, offering some great views. This includes some beach walking around New Brighton Beach all the way to Beach Road (turnoff to Watsonville), though this must be done on low tide.

    • Alt: If the tide is high, cut up before New Brighton Beach to the Rails to Trails path or follow streets (Park Avenue to McGregor and wend around to San Andreas Road).

  • Foothill Route: Route on busier, but bikeable and more direct route.

Day 3: After Watsonville, there is one recommend walking path, along San Juan Grade route to Aromas and up over the hill to San Juan Bautista.

Cyclists: The foothill route is completely bikeable. The Rails-to-Trails route is obviously not accessible to cyclists. You can take the coast route until New Brighton and cut up to the foothill route or follow the Coast alt route.

Path Information

  • Elevation: All paths are relatively flat. There's a climb of a few hundred feet on the foothill route along Freedom Boulevard, and along the walking route in the area from Aromas to San Juan Bautista. 

  • Path Surface(s)/Path Type(s): 

    • Rails-to- Trails Route: Train tracks, paved roads

    • Coast Route: Paved roads, beach (low tide only) 

    • Foothill Route: All paved roads


Hotels/motels available south of Santa Cruz / around Manresa State Beach, Watsonville, and San Juan Bautista.


Budget Options:

  • Day 1 - Manresa/Sunset Beach: There are a number of beautiful campsites along the path:

    • New Brighton State Beach (Capitola): Restrooms. Coin-op showers. $10 "hike or bike" rate. 1500 Park Avenue at Kennedy Drive. On the route. (831) 464-6330

    • Manresa State Beach: Restrooms. Coin-op showers. $35/night. Turn off at San Andreas Road and Sand Dollar Drive, then 1/2 mile to camp. (831) 763-7062

    • Santa Cruz / Monterey Bay KOA: (Watsonville) They have everything. Camp in tents, cabins, or an Airstream trailer. Showers, wifi, pool, camp store, laundry. Plus a train for kids, a bouncy house, and three 20-feet "Climbing Coconut Palm Trees" that "let you experience climbing a palm tree safely strapped in with belays." (At last.) Fees vary but tent sites go for around $45 for up to 6 people. 1186 San Andreas Road. On the route. (800) 562-7701

    • Sunset State Beach: Restrooms. Hot showers. $10 "hike or bike" rate. Turn off at San Andreas Road and Sunset Beach Road, then 1 mile to camp. (831) 763-7062

  • Day 3 - San Juan Bautista: Mission Creek RV. Camp under the redwood trees in this quaint RV park. Proprietor Kurt Kurasaki's father built the park's throwback western buildings himself, on the grounds of a former orchard. Kurt and his staff are very welcoming and accommodating -- you're in good hands. Located on the Camino Real route, about a mile past the mission. 400 San Juan Hollister Road at The Alameda / Salinas Road. (831) 623-4456

Food and water are readily available from Santa Cruz to Manresa State Beach, and in Watsonville. Less available on the stretch from Watsonville to San Juan Bautista.


  • Day 1: Santa Cruz / Monterey Bay KOA Campground Store (Manresa Beach): Even if you don't stay here, they have the WalMart of general stores. You may also be able to use their laundry facilities. (see above for info)

  • Day 2: Fruteria Quetzal (Watsonville): Fresh cut fruit, smoothies, licuados, assorted Mexican goodies. Open Mon-Sat 8:30am-7pm, Sun 10am-6pm. 433 Union Street at East Beach Street. (831) 728-6577

  • Day 3: Matxain Extea Basque Restaurant (San Juan Bautista): Basque Restaurant Alert! Matxain Extea serves tasty, hearty food. The rather jolly owner is straight from Basque country and was happy to chat with us peregrinas past closing. Lots of old world goodness here. Open Wed-Thu 4pm-9 pm, Fri-Sat 12pm-9pm, Sun 1pm - 9pm. 206 4th Street at Mariposa Street. (831) 623-4472


Generally cool along the shore. Heats up past Watsonville - stock up with extra water.

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