The building blocks of the Bay Area’s impressive views are simple: the Bay and its bridges, ridges and peaks in seasonal gold or green, the vast ocean and a panoply of architectural styles to engage the eye. Add that trickster Karl the Fog, who can make entire neighborhoods disappear or just wreathe them in billowy white, like the cotton-ball artwork of a preschooler, and we’re guaranteed a never-ending source of visual fascination. Here are 10 of my favorite vistas, some well-known but gorgeous nonetheless.
1 Atop Twin Peaks
Seen from 922 feet, especially in the soft light of sunset, the bay becomes a tranquil pond lined by undulating hills, while the city appears furrowed by forest
2 From Cityscape Lounge, Hilton San Francisco Union Square
Like Twin Peaks with cocktails, the Hilton’s 46th floor bar defines “sweeping views” (Golden Gate Bridge included) but also showcases South of Market’s busy freeways and building boom.
3 From Westin St. Francis
An exhilarating glass-elevator ride, time-traveling from ante-bellum Union Square to modern sky-scrapers, leads to spectacular views (especially of Coit Tower) from the 32nd floor Golden Gate Room.
4 From Lyon Street and Broadway, San Francisco
I rarely hike Lyon Street’s 322 steps, but my heart always pounds faster at the sight of the Palace of Fine Arts rising above the Bay far below
5 From Inn Above Tide, Sausalito
From the private decks of this lodge next to the ferry landing, the Bay seems to widen, while toy-sized San Francisco shimmers in the distance.
6 In the Marin Headlands
Out of many compelling vantage points here, stand-ing above the Golden Gate Bridge, walk-ing out to Point Bonita, and overlook-ing Stinson Beach remain highlights.
7 From Mountain Home Inn, Mill Valley
Hiking Mount Tamalpais offers numerous vistas, but brunch on the deck here afterward, gazing across redwoods and Richardson Bay to Tiburon and beyond, is doubly rewarding
8 West of I-280 near Crystal Springs Reservoir
Driving between the Peninsula and San Francisco, I’m always impressed by the broad sweep of forest-covered hills and the long, serene reservoir beneath, especially on misty mornings.
9 Point Montara Lighthouse
San Mateo County’s coast is rife with Instagram-worthy images, among them this 30-foot beacon, the rugged coves below and the immense Pacific; sunsets are showstoppers.
10 Atop Mount Diablo
California’s grandeur comes into focus here, including rippling Bay Area ranges, the sprawling Central Valley and mirage-like glimpses of the Sierra foothills