During the pandemic lockdown, folks weary of sequestering themselves on the couch, at the kitchen table or in the home office flocked to Bay Area hiking trails, eager to get some exercise, fresh air and a view of something other than the familiar four walls and Netflix.
The Bay Area’s wealth of local, regional, state and national parks and recreation areas were often inundated with visitors, some of them veteran hikers, others newcomers who crowded many trails.
Some Bay Area state parks like China Camp and Jack London in the North Bay saw 50% increases in visitors in 2020. A trail counter at Santa Clara County’s popular Almaden-Quicksilver Park recorded almost a tripling of visitors in 2020. Many other parks didn’t keep count but could tell from the overflowing trash cans and crowded parking lots that the numbers of users were way up.
Santa Clara County regularly surveys its users to measure what’s drawing them to regional parks, said Melissa Hippard, partnership manager for the Santa Clara County Parks Department.
“The No.1 answer is always hiking,” she said. “It’s super exciting to see people have a positive experience of being outdoors, enjoying the benefit of fresh air and seeing other people.”
The Bay Area has always had a healthy supply of hikers, but the pandemic seemed to create a new crop who headed out in groups — either as households or clusters of friends feeling relative safety from the coronavirus on outdoor trails stretching throughout the Bay Area.
“There’s been an overall increase in last decade or two of hiking in groups and away from the model of the lone Sierra Club hiker, if you will,” Hippard said. “I see more families, groups of friends, especially during the pandemic.”
Angel Island has miles of hiking trails and is just a short ferry ride away from Tiburon, Calif. Angel Island is a state park in the San Francisco Bay near San Francisco in California.
Brian Feulner / Special to The Chronicle
Existing hikers took to the trails more frequently, too, some of them discomforted by …….