Our family loves the outdoors, and hiking! So, when I was researching hiking trails in the Napa Valley, I came across The Petrified Forest located in Calistoga. I had no idea we had one here in the Bay Area! This sounded amazing, and like something we needed to check out. We are so glad we did!
The Petrified Forest in Calistoga features petrified redwood tress which are frozen in time. They fell over about 3.4 million years ago, you read that right, 3.4 million years ago! The trees were knocked down forcefully by a volcanic explosion from a volcano located behind present-day Mount Saint Helena. It is no longer a mountain, and it is dormant; buried behind our current mountain. The explosion was so forceful, it toppled a redwood forest filled with trees which have been aged at over 2000 years old at the time of the explosion. Can you imagine? Trees which were already 1000-2000 years old, toppled over by a volcano, then preserved under the ash for 3.4 million years! It’s incredible!
We took the 11am guided tour which was incredibly interesting. Our tour guide taught us so much about petrified wood and the history of the forest. He was incredibly nice, and so informative! We really enjoyed the tour.
The tour is also a hike, so if you go, wear a good pair of hiking shoes or boots. My hiking boots were perfect for the terrain. Also be sure to allow enough time for the tour. It was roughly 1.5 hours which was not only a good hike, it was a lot of time to learn a ton of information from our guide. We loved it!
You can learn more about The Petrified Forest on their website.
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Have you seen a petrified forest before? What did you think?
The Big Island is famous for more than just smooth, Kona coffee, it is also famous for its active volcanoes! While there weren’t any volcanoes spilling lava during our stay in Hawaii, we were able to tour Volcanoes National Park and view the craters, and steam vents, up close.
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park was slightly over two hours by car from our hotel in Kona. It was an easy drive, and the scenery was unreal. Going over to the park, we drive up and over the mountain which allowed us to see lava fields from the car. We were also able to see the vegetation growing back over the lava fields; many of which were centuries old.
It was incredible to see how the lava dried over the years, and the land formations they created. It was beautiful and eerie at the same time. As you head in Hilo from highway 200, you can see the land go from lava and desolate, to lush and tropical. It’s really incredible!
Entering Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is easy. There were hardly any cars in front of us at the gate, and it’s only $25 for one car. The parking lot for the visitor’s center was less than a minute from the gate, so it was easy to enter, park, and then put on our hiking shoes before visiting the Visitor’s Center.
The Visitor’s Center is a must-see at Volcanoes National Park. They have incredible maps, and the rangers will gladly give you history, facts, and any information you need. They are super nice! We spent some time there before starting our first hike.
We decided to go for a flat hike since we had the kids with us. The flat hike wove through the steam vents. Apparently I cannot handle the sulfur, and I quickly needed to turn around and go back towards the Visitor’s Center. At least the kids were OK. I was left with a burning sore throat for the next twelve hours! I recommend trying another trail when you go, just a thought, but I digress. . .
Since that trail didn’t work, we went over to “Crater Trail” and hiked down towards the crater. It was lush and tropical; it was also very steep! This is fine with medium to full size kids, but if your kids are little, I would not recommend this trail. Although it is very steep, it’s such a great workout; and it was really beautiful!
After hiking, we stopped into Volcano House for lunch. This is a restaurant inside the historic inn, Volcano House, across from the Visitor’s Center at Volcanoes National Park. The food was really good, and we had a view of one of the craters! It was stunning and surreal to eat lunch knowing we were practically on top of a volcano crater! Eeeek! -that being said, I highly recommend it! Haha
After lunch, it started raining, so we decided to do the car tour. There is a road which leads you to many significant lava fields, and then ends up at the ocean where you can look back and see the lava trails on the mountain. Plus, the oceanfront offers an incredible arch!
The drive is really well planned out by the park service. There are signs along the road which tell you the name of the lava field, and the year of the eruption. The significant eruptions have turn-offs where you can park your car and view the lava field. You can get some incredible photos and views of the lava fields this way!
The ranger at the beach was also extremely nice. She told us about the lava fields leading to the ocean, some of which were roughly seven hundred years old! There was also a trail near the ocean where you can view ancient Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs drawings. We were too tired to stop and look at them, which I regret now. We should have topped to see them. If you go, stop and see them! They have been there for over six hundred years!
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a must-see if you visit the Big Island. After all, where else are you going to be able to see lava fields and learn the history behind them? It’s incredible!
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Thanks for stopping by! More Hawaii coverage coming!
If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you are well aware of the iconic sign embedded in the hillside in south city. The “South San Francisco The Industrial City” sign, is a sign that everyone who lives in, or travels through, the Bay Area, knows quite well. While we all see this sign from the freeway as we pass through south city on our way up to the city, we never really think about hiking up to it.
I had no idea there was a trail there! I always assumed the sign was inaccessible. A few days before Father’s Day, my husband said he wanted to hike up to the sign. We both grew up in the Bay Area; he on the Peninsula, me in Marin, so we both knew the sign well, we just didn’t realize we could hike to it! He had heard recently there was a trail by the sign, and thought it would be fun to go up close. So on Father’s Day, we did exactly that!
The trail which leads up to the iconic south city sign, is named Sign Hill Park. The trail is very local, so it does not attract crowds of people. We were one of three hiking groups on the trail when we arrived at 10:30am; which is a late time to arrive to a hiking trail on a summer day, especially a weekend day.
Finding the trail can be tricky. The trail head is tucked away behind a home on Franklin Ave. in South San Francisco. I felt like I was trespassing in someone’s backyard when we walked behind their fence to find the trail head. In the photo above, you can see the narrow gutter between the trail entrance, and someone’s backyard fence. This is a trail you should not hike on alone, definitely take a buddy with you! It’s a little private and secluded.
There are two trails marked at the top of the stairs when you enter the trail head. If you want to hike up to the iconic South San Francisco, The Industrial City letters embedded in the hillside, you will want to take the Letters Trails. It is a steep, quick hike up to the letters!
Make sure you are wearing good hiking boots, with good treads. The trail is very steep and if your shoes cannot grip the ground, you will find yourself having trouble navigating the trail. Also, watch for snakes! We saw plenty of snake-holes on our way up to the sign. On warm days, the area is known for ticks too, so try to go when it’s foggy, and always do a tick check after your hike.
The letters are huge! Of course they would need to be large to be seen throughout the area, but you really cannot grasp how big they are until you hike up to them. I couldn’t even get one letter to fit inside the frame on my camera!
The biggest reward from this hike is the view. You can see all of south city from the top of the hill, and you can also catch a glimpse of the bay. It’s an incredible view!
My daughters and I had to take a selfie. I mean, were you there if you didn’t take a selfie?
My husband was definitely on top of the world. It was fun being able to see the letters up close. We both have driven past them throughout our lives, so seeing them up close, and touching them, was really fun.
This was a short, but fun hike. Although the sign said 2 miles, it seemed much shorter. The steep climb was a great workout, and the short distance allowed us to add other fun activities to our day; such as grabbing burritos at Papa Joe’s Taqueria in downtown South San Francisco, and then stopping for ice cream as Baskin Robbins in Belmont on our way home.
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If you are local to the Bay Area, this is a hike you have to try at least once in your life. You know the sign, why not hike up to it! You can find the trail head at 43 Franklin Ave, in South San Francisco. I recommend parking on the cross street since the trail head is on a dead-end street.
Have you ever hiked on Sign Hill Park trail? If so, what did you think?