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Finding Paths, Purpose, and People Who Like Hiking

10 Hiking Tips - Karen Rhodes Inspired: Mostly in the San Francisco Bay Area But Plenty of Resources No Matter Where You Live

This is to share information and resources from our interview with hiking enthusiast Karen Rhodes, hosted on the Revel platform as part of ongoing Fitness offerings by Dr. Alyssa Kuhn, doctor of physical therapy, Keep the Adventure Alive, and myself. Watch the interview here.


Karen hired a life coach to plan her next life adventure, retirement. "The first few weeks of retirement were exhilarating and terrifying. I had no idea what I wanted to do and I liked that sensation of landing on a bright new shore waiting to see what had come my way." She knew she wanted to be engaged, active and connected. Karen had spent 40 years working at UC Berkeley and retired as executive director for marketing and communications in the College of Engineering. In addition, she had been an avid runner and cyclist completing long distance bike rides and marathons. As a San Francisco resident, walking was her favorite mode of transportation. Eventually, she replaced running with rigorous hiking up and down the hills, stairs, nooks, and crannies of the City. Karen embraced the opportunity to be involved and contribute to her community as an advocate for hiking, first in San Francisco and expanding to Bay Area trails. Finding a niche, a purpose in life, a place to belong was important to her retirement plan.

It started when Karen met champion of Bay Area hiking, Bob Siegel. I listened to a Chronicle podcast interview of Bob here; it's easy to see how his enthusiasm is contagious. Bob got her involved in the creation of the Crosstown Trail: SF in 17 Miles. Their website tells the amazing story of how the trail was created in just a couple of years by a small group of volunteers, Karen being one of them. Opened just two years ago, the trail travels from one corner of San Francisco to another with many little known adventures along the way. For shorter hikes, the website breaks it into five segments, all accessible by public transportation.

We've scheduled a Revel event, Creeks, Peaks & Secret Gardens Hike, on part of the Crosstown Trail on August 22nd. Don't hesitate to join the waiting list; people change their plans all the time.

Bob was also instrumental in getting Karen involved in the Bay Area Ridge Trail where she now serves as a Board member. I was excited to learn more about this trail that’s been growing around the Bay Area now for many years. The trails are designed to accommodate hikers, cyclists, families, and equestrians, transvering San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Berkeley, Oakland, the Peninsula, San Jose, Fremont and more. The website offers maps and apps and activities. Check out their 2021 Ridge Trail Challenge, which began July 15 and ends December 31st -six months to complete four hikes during that time.

Karen is one strong hiker covering long distances and high elevations. Besides her years of endurance cycling and running, I was curious what else she does to perform like she does. Ah, words a strength training instructor LOVES to hear, she works out with weights plus core work and more, and has for decades! Strength training absolutely enhances any physical activity, and for Karen, it has helped with her scoliosis, a back condition she has; it improves muscle balance and, also, balance in general, so important for good footing on the trail.

Karen serves on the boards of Walk San Francisco and is a member of the city’s Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Advisory Committee. Go for a hike with Karen to find out more about what she does with these organizations! She also loves to organize urban and regional treks for anyone willing to explore with her.


We covered a lot of topics in the interview and here's some takeaways from the Revel interview and participants plus experiences Alyssa and I wanted to share. While most links and websites are local to the SF Bay Area, you can still get ideas for similar sources in your area.

Tip # 1. Find a hiking buddy. Be patient, it might take some time to meet someone in your area who hikes your distance and pace! It helps if they're adventuresome! For the past year I've hiked with a friend I met on a Meetup hike. She has guided me on possibly hundreds of miles of hikes in Marin, all new to me.

My neighbor is my other hiking inspiration. She's currently preparing for a rigorous hike around Mount Blanc, highest peak in the Alps. I’ve tagged along on an occasional training hike, many are part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail as she also serves on their Board.

Tip # 2. Set a goal. My neighbor has Mt. Blanc in September, one of my personal training clients just finished a four-day hike up Mt. Baker in Washington after months of preparation. For me personally, I'm joining the 2021 Ridge Trail Challenge. That gives me a goal of keeping track of the trails I hike which I haven't done so far. I just signed up!

Tip # 3. Meetup is a great resource. Karen offers hikes at SF Urban Hikes, Here's other Meetups she recommends: Search Hike On!, Bay Area Short Hikes, Bay Area Ridge Trail. I've discovered new trails with Women Who Walk and SF Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Tip # 4. It's nice to have help. AllTrails is a great hiking app to help you find

places to hike all over the country. Alyssa described moving to Utah from Ohio and it's been their primary source for discovering places to hike.

Hiking poles, especially the type that fold up and store in your pack, can be useful no matter your age or ability. They give confidence on steep terrain and can be useful in warding off unwanted visitors. Participant Mary suggested REI quarterly garage sale for a better price.

Tip # 5. It helps to be strong, to have good balance and be agile. Strength training that also includes agility, balance, core and cardio will help you become a stronger hiker. Mary, one participant, talked about jumping with a weight jumprope has helped her conditioning and agility. Alyssa praised the benefits of weight bearing exercises when appropriate.

Tip # 6. Google is helpful for finding hiking in your area. Duh, obvious as it seems, it's still surprising what you can discover.

San Francisco Bay Trail – A 500-Mile Trail Around the Bay is a separate entity with 500 trails for walking and cycling around the Bay.

Berkeley Path Wanderers hosts hikes and tours

California Alpine Club includes a lodge for members

Contra Costa Hills Club has been around 100 years

The Lost Coast, adventure in backpacking

Some hikes listed in the San Francisco Bay Trail website.

Tip #7. Books can be a great resource. A few good ones... Hiking Marin: 141 Great Hikes in Marin County, Walking San Francisco's 49 Mile Scenic Drive, and books about stairway walks in San Francisco and Los Angeles by author Adah Bakalinsky.

Tip # 8 Many organizations offer hikes - get on their email list.

Revel has hikes and you can post one yourself and to find hiking pals.

OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute):

Tip # 9 Check out local, regional, state, and federal government offerings.

Tip # 10 Check out your local adult education programs in your area.

College of Marin Community Education Fall catalog offers “Hiking Marin Trails, Saturdays in September - November and “Meandering in Marin: Natural History and Hiking” August – December.

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