Bay Area Hiker Links and Recommended Reading
National Weather Service, Western Regional Headquarters http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/
The Weather Channel http://www.weather.com/homepage.html
The Bay Area Weather Page http://www.weatherpages.com/bayarea/
SF Gate Weather http://www.sfgate.com/weather/
Lawrence Hall of Science http://sv.berkeley.edu/view/index.html
Golden Gate National Recreation Area http://www.nps.gov/goga
Point Reyes National Seashore http://www.nps.gov/pore
Marin County Open Space District http://www.marinopenspace.org
Muir Woods National Monument http://www.nps.gov/muwo/
Marin Municipal Water District http://www.marinwater.org
Marin Trails http://www.marintrails.com/
Mount Tam Interpretive Association http://www.mttam.net/
Tamalpais Conservation Club http://www.tamalpais.org
Marin County Parks http://www.co.marin.ca.us/depts/PK/Main/pos/parklist.cfm
Sonoma County Regional Parks Department http://www.sonoma-county.org/parks/
Sonoma County Parks and Recreation http://www.parks.sonoma.net
Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District http://napaoutdoors.org/
East Bay Regional Park District http://www.ebparks.org
East Bay Municipal Utility District http://www.ebmud.com/services/recreation/east_bay/default.htm
City of Walnut Creek Open Space http://www.ci.walnut-creek.ca.us/header.asp?genericId=1&catId=4&subCatId=247
Walnut Creek Open Space Foundation http://www.wcosf.org/
City Of Concord Parks http://www.cityofconcord.org/recreation/parks/index.htm
Save Mount Diablo http://www.savemountdiablo.org
Mount Diablo Intrepretive Association http://www.mdia.org
Livermore Area Recreation and Park District http://www.larpd.dst.ca.us/facilities.html
Hayward Area Recreation and Parks District http://www.haywardrec.org/
City of Alameda Parks and Recreation http://www.ci.alameda.ca.us/arpd/
Berkeley Path Wanderers Association http://www.berkeleypaths.org/index.htm
Nature in the City http://natureinthecity.org/index.php
San Francisco Naturalist Society http://www.sfns.org/index.html
San Francisco Parks and Recreation http://sfrecpark.org/
On the Level San Francisco http://www.onthelevelSF.com
Peninsula and South Bay
Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District http://www.openspace.org
County of San Mateo Parks and Recreation http://www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/smc/department/esa/home/0,2242,5556687_10575168,00.html
Santa Clara County Parks http://www.sccgov.org/portal/site/parks/
Santa Clara County Open Space Authority http://www.openspaceauthority.org/
Friends of Edgewood http://www.friendsofedgewood.org/edgewood.htm
Silicon Valley Trails http://www.siliconvalleytrails.com
SF Peninsula Watershed http://sfwater.org/detail.cfm/MC_ID/4/MSC_ID/68/MTO_ID/121/C_ID/1600
Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Association http://www.scmta-trails.org
Santa Cruz County http://www.santacruzparksandrec.com/parks/trails.html
Trail Center http://www.trailcenter.org
City of San Jose Parks http://www.sjparks.org/trails
Mountain Parks Foundation http://www.mountainparks.org
Heart of the Mountain (San Bruno Mountain Volunteers) http://www.heartofthemountain.com
San Bruno Mountain Watch www.mountainwatch.org
Bay Area Ridge Trail Council http://www.ridgetrail.org
Ridge Trail Hiker http://ridgetrailhiker.com/
Transit and Trails http://transitandtrails.org/
Bay Trail http://baytrail.abag.ca.gov
Park Info http://www.parkinfo.org
Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy http://www.parksconservancy.org
Frog Mom http://www.frogmom.com
Bay Nature http://www.baynature.org
Bay Area Backcountry http://www.hknot.com/bab/bab.html
Virtual Parks http://www.virtualparks.org
Bay Area Back Pages http://pages.prodigy.net/rhorii/bayhikes.htm
Western Wildflower http://www.westernwildflower.com/
Weekly Walker http://www.weeklywalker.com/
Kevin's Hiking Page http://kevingong.com/Hiking/index.html
SF Gate Outdoors http://www.sfgate.com/sports/outdoors/
Mindful Hiker http://www.mindfulhiker.com
Picnic Review http://www.picnicreview.com/
Quest's Northern CA Hiking Explorations http://www.kqed.org/quest/exploration/index
Open Road http://www.openroad.tv/
Backcountry Bliss http://www.backcountrybliss.net/
San Mateo County Birding Guide/Sequoia Audubon Society http://birding.sequoia-audubon.org
Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society http://www.scvas.org/index.php?
John Wall's Natural California http://jwallphoto.blogspot.com/
Northern California Hiking Trails http://northerncaliforniahikingtrails.com/blog
Two-Heel Drive http://www.twoheeldrive.com
4Wheel Bob http://www.4wheelbob.com/
Way Points http://randyswaypoints.blogspot.com/
Walking San Francisco Bay http://walkingthebay.blogspot.com/
Adventures from a Wheelchair http://irishsea-mark-videos.blogspot.com/
Google Maps-based Trail Sharing
Every Trail http://www.everytrail.com
California State Parks http://www.parks.ca.gov
Redwood Hikes http://www.redwoodhikes.com
BLM's California Homepage http://ca.blm.gov/index.html
National Park Service http://www.nps.gov
National Park Service Maps http://www.nps.gov/goga/maps/
Forest Service http://www.fs.fed.us
Bay Area Preservation/Land Trusts/Conservation
Peninsula Open Space Trust http://www.openspacetrust.org
Sonoma Mountain Preservation Group http://www.sonomamountain.org
Marin Agricultural Trust http://www.malt.org
Solano Land Trust http://www.solanolandtrust.org
Pacifica Land Trust http://www.pacificalandtrust.org/
Muir Heritage Land Trust http://www.muirheritagelandtrust.com
Sierra Club http://www.sierraclub.org/chapters/sanfranciscobay/
Sempervirens Fund http://www.sempervirens.org
Nature Conservancy http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/california/index.htm?intc=nature.tnav.where.list
Greenbelt Alliance http://www.greenbelt.org
San Francisco Bay Area Open Space Council http://www.openspacecouncil.org
The Trust for Public Land http://www.tpl.org
Land Trust of Napa County http://www.napalandtrust.org
California Wild Heritage Campaign http://www.californiawild.org
San Juan Canyon Preservation Trust http://www.sanjuancanyon.org
Silicon Valley Land Conservancy http://www.siliconvalleylc.org/index.html
Endangered Species International http://www.endangeredspeciesinternational.org/
Bay Area Transit
Transit and Trails http://transitandtrails.org/
San Francisco Bay Area Transit Information http://www.transit511.org
Cal Trans Road Conditions http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/roadinfo/
Post-Car Adventuring http://bikeandhike.wordpress.com/
Hiking Clubs, Organizations, and Activity websites
Sierra Club SF Bay Chapter Hiking Section http://www.sanfranciscobay.sierraclub.org/chapter/events/calendar.asp
Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter Dayhiking Section http://www.sierraclub.org/chapters/lomaprieta/dayhiking/
Mount Tamalpais Interpretitive Association http://www.mttam.net/
California Alpine Club http://www.calalpine.org
Greenbelt Outings http://www.greenbelt.org/getinvolved/outings/index.html
Cal Hiking and Outdoor Society http://www.uc-hiking-club.berkeley.ca.us/
Bay Area Orienteering Club http://www.baoc.org/
Pacific Trail Society http://www.geocities.com/pacifictrailsociety/
Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Association http://www.scmta-trails.org
East Bay Barefoot Hikers http://www.unshod.org/ebbfhike/
Intrepid Northern California Hikers (INCH) http://www.rawbw.com/~svw/inch/
Buddy Up http://www.buddyup.com
Bay Area Hiking at Yahoo Groups http://www31.pair.com/hiking/bayareahiking/
Absolute Adventures http://www.absoluteadv.com
FOM/FOK Hiking Group http://fomfok.webself.com
Bay Area Jewish Singles Hiking Club http://www.bajshc.org
Hiking Clubs in the San Francisco Bay Area http://www.geocities.com/evbuck
Bay Area Outdoor Adventurers Club http://www.sfoac.com/
Women's East Bay Hiking Group http://www.womenhiking.org/
East Bay Casual Hiking Group http://hiking.bondon.com
North Bay Christian Hikers http://www.northbaychristianhikers.com
Walk California http://www.walkcalifornia.com
Active Days http://www.Active-Days.org
Outback Adventures http://www.outbackadventures.com/
Sonoma County Adventures http://www.sonomacountyadventures.com/
Point Reyes Outdoors http://www.pointreyesoutdoors.com
Personal Sites/Mostly Photos
Nature Focused http://www.naturefocused.com/
Kai Yung http://www.trivalleyphoto.com/kaiGalleries.shtml
Hike for Discovery (Leukemia & Lymphoma Society) http://www.hikefordiscovery.org/discovery/Controller
Friends of the Regional Parks Botanical Garden http://www.nativeplants.org
Manual of California Vegetation http://endeavor.des.ucdavis.edu/cnps
California Native Plant Society http://www.cnps.org/
Botanical Data Hosted at the Digital Library Project http://elib.cs.berkeley.edu/photos/flora/
Wildflowers at Coe Park http://www.coepark.org/wildflowers/flower-album.html
California Wildflowers http://www.calacademy.org/research/botany/wildflow/
Yerba Buena Nursery http://www.yerbabuenanursery.com/
Books and maps about/for hiking
General Bay Area:
60 Hikes within 60 Miles: San Francisco, by Jane Huber (order this book from Amazon.com). Yup, that's me, the creator of this website. This book is part of a Menasha Ridge Press series. Each hike has a simple map and elevation profile, and the book has some photos, as well as suggested destinations for hikes with dogs, kids, wildflowers, etc. I think the best feature of the book is the attention to detail -- not only are the hiking directions precisely described, but you'll also find copious notes about butterflies, wildflowers, and native plants, and up-to-date information. Read more about the book here.
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub. Weintraub's book is notable for clear organization, numerous photos, and exceptional maps. 102 hikes are described, at destinations ranging from Mount St. Helena south to Henry Coe. The only weak spot in this wonderful book is a puzzling selection of hikes. For a book billed as "a comprehensive hiking guide," some great parks are missing: Santa Cruz County is not included, so you won't find any information about Big Basin, Año Nuevo, Henry Cowell, Wilder Ranch, or Castle Rock. On the other hand, Windy Hill and Russian Ridge get two hikes each, with overlapping trails; just one hike from these preserves would be more appropriate.
101 Great Hikes of the San Francisco Bay Area, by Ann Marie Brown. Brown has a nice up-beat writing style, and there are some photos to accompany many of the hikes. It's probably inevitable in a collection of "best" hikes that some destinations don't make the cut, but there are some great hikes missing: none of the Sonoma County Regional Parks are represented, nor is Almaden Quicksilver, Edgewood, or Rancho San Antonio.
The Bay Area Ridge Trail, by Jean Rusmore. The third edition of this book is finally available. The first edition of Jean Rusmore's book was the first hiking book I ever bought, and it's still a good source for hikers seeking to follow the Bay Area Ridge Trail, or experience a broad bay area geographic range. The maps, by Ben Pease, are clear and well-designed.
Top Trails: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub. Weintraub has previously published trail guides for the Bay Area's north, east, far south (Monterey Bay region), and (partially) mid-peninsula. Unfortunately, this book does not make the most of his knowledge. The maps are clear and fine, and lots of photos are a bonus, but the descriptions of the trails themselves are very short. I really miss the details about birds, flowers, and wildlife found in Weintraub's other books. With only 44 "top trails" hikers may find their favorites missing; some of my top hikes, including Angel Island, Castle Rock, Big Basin, and Edgewood are not included.
Hiking the San Francisco Bay Area, by Linda A. Hamilton. This book suffers from some conceptual flaws, and even worse, glaring mistakes. Only 40 hikes are described, but the book is crammed with information; a sidebar for each hike includes (in part) nearby restaurants, local events, and outdoor retailers. The book would have been stronger with less fill, and more hikes, including some bay area classics that didn't make the cut: Jack London, Sugarloaf Ridge, and Annadel are left out -- there are no Sonoma or Napa County hikes at all. The real problems are very poor photos and silly mistakes. Mount Tam's Table Rock is shown on the map off Steep Ravine Trail (rather than Matt Davis Trail), a buckeye is described in a photo caption as "a tree with acorns resembling Christmas tree ornaments," and elderberry is repeatedly misnamed "alderberry." The author is enthusiastic, but a lot of the nature observations in this book feel second-hand. The publisher's promotional copy claims, "this is the best hiking guide available to the San Francisco Bay area." Hardly.
California Hiking, by Tom Stienstra and Ann Marie Brown. I think prospective buyers are wise to read the reader's reviews posted on Amazon. Lots of hikers swear by this book, and it is a far-reaching guide to hiking in California, but there are no maps, and it's very hard to "follow" some of these hikes. I generally use it for new destinations, then supplement the info with other sources.
California Waterfalls, by Ann Marie Brown. This book is delightful; one of the best packaged hiking guides I've come across. Almost every hike has a simple map and a photo, and Ann Marie Brown's directions and tone are very pleasing. Her enthusiasm is obvious and contagious. This is a good book for rainy winter nights.
Trails of Northeast Marin County (map), published by Pease Press (order from Pease Press). This map is helpful navigating to parks and preserves, and on the trails.
Trails of Mt. Tamalpais and the Marin Headlands, by Gerald Olmsted. Note: this map is updated often, so make sure to get the newest one: 10th edition, 2005, on indestructible paper!
Mount Tam Trail Map, published by Tom Harrison Maps (order from Tom Harrison Maps). Comparable to the Olmsted map.
Hiking Marin, by Don and Kay Martin. This book describes more than 140 Marin hikes, with a map for each one. The descriptions could be plumped up, but the maps are very helpful.
Secret Waterfalls of Marin, by Michael McCarthy (order these e-books from the Intentional Traveler website). Two volumes of an e-book, in pdf format, are a guide to 35 Marin County waterfalls. Nice photos too.
Open Spaces: Lands of the Marin County Open Space District, by Barry Spitz. A very good guide to MCOSD preserves.
Tamalpais Trails, by Barry Spitz. I'm not the one who coined the phrase "Mount Tamalpais bible," but I have to agree. The only criticism I have is the map does not show topography.
Point Reyes by Jessica Lage. This is a very good guide to Point Reyes, particularly for out-of-town visitors, or folks new to the area. It includes descriptions of the area, lodging options, sections on natural history, a good selection of hikes, and user-friendly maps.
Exploring Point Reyes National Seashore and Golden Gate National Recreation Area by Tracy Salcedo-Chourré. This guidebook is comparable to the above Point Reyes title; both have very good detailed hikes and some extra information. Missing from Salcedo-Chourré's book is profiles of adjacent parks and preserves not part of Point Reyes National Seashore or GGNRA. This is an unfortunate omission for folks visiting from out of town who might like to explore Samuel P. Taylor State Park or Tomales Bay State Park. Also, bewilderingly enough, this title lacks an index.
Point Reyes National Seashore: A Hiking and Nature Guide, by Don and Kay Martin. Some of this material is duplicated in Hiking Marin, but if you're interested in a small, easy-to-carry guide to Point Reyes, this book has good maps and sparse but helpful guides for all the major Point Reyes treks.
Point Reyes: Secret Places and Magic Moments, by Phil Arnot. This a is very different guide to Point Reyes, focusing mostly on adventurous exploration of obscure shoreline features such as secret beaches, waterfalls, and sea caves. For the most part it's not for the timid, and requires good common sense and the use of tide tables.
Point Reyes National Seashore Trail Map, published by Tom Harrison Maps. Printed on waterproof paper, this map extends to cover Samuel P. Taylor State Park.
North Bay Trails, by David Weintraub. There a few holes in this book's content, and the maps can be frustrating, but North Bay Trails is a helpful guide for the major parks and preserves of Marin, Napa, and Sonoma.
The Hiker's hip Pocket Guide to Sonoma County, by Bob Lorentzen. This book features a good mix of coastal and inland destinations, with maps of varying quality.
Great Day Hikes in and around Napa Valley, by Ken Stanton. This second edition covers many parks and preserves neglected by the major bay area hiking books. Although a few of the park descriptions are fairly weak, north bay hikers will appreciate the in-depth narratives for such destinations as Mount St. Helena, Skyline Park, and Jack London State Park.
Peninsula Tales and Trails, by David Weintraub. This is a guide to the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, with descriptions, maps, and featured hikes for each preserve. Lots of interesting history is included, as well as very good photos (many in color).
South Bay Trails, by Jean Rusmore, Betsy Crowder, and Frances Spangle. Written by the authors of Peninsula Trails, this book is comprehensive, but riddled with typos, and suffers from a nagging, cranky tone in places. Some younger hikers might sense the disjunction of a generation gap. Even so, South Bay Trails' text and maps make for good reading when you're planning a south bay hike.
The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book, by Tom Taber. Taber's book, now in the 10th edition, contains a wealth of information, and is particularly useful for finding and hiking the Santa Cruz Mountain's minor parks and preserves. The maps are spare, and some readers may find the book's "extras" somewhat silly and dated.
Peninsula Trails, by Jean Rusmore. This book has been around long enough to reach classic status, and it does cover a lot of peninsula ground, but I am perplexed by the omission of trail descriptions at Memorial Park (which was described in the 3rd edition) and Hidden Villa. The biggest improvement to the 4th edition is maps by Ben Pease.
Trails of the Coastside and Northern Peninsula (map), by Pease Press.
Trail Map of the Santa Cruz Mountains (map 1), by the Sempervirens Fund (includes Castle Rock, Big Basin, and Portola Redwoods)
Trail Map of the Santa Cruz Mountains (map 2), by the Sempervirens Fund (includes Big Basin, Butano, and Skyline-to-the Sea)
Trail Map of the Southern Peninsula, by the Trail Center.
Trail Map of the Central Peninsula, by the Trail Center.
East Bay Out, by Malcolm Margolin. East Bay Out is a lyrical guide to parks of the East Bay Regional Park District. It's not all that useful in getting from point a to point b, but it makes for great reading.
Mount Diablo (& Surrounding Parks) map, published by Mount Diablo Interpretive Association, is invaluable for exploration of Los Vaqueros, Mount Diablo, Round Valley, and more area parklands. This huge weatherproof map could double as an emergeny shelter (kidding, but it's big). Order at http://www.mdia.org.
Trails of the East Bay Hills (Central Section), by Gerald Olmsted.
Trails of the Easy Bay Hills (Northern Section), by Gerald Olmsted.
East Bay Trails, by David Weintraub. This is a good, basic guide to the major east bay destinations. The second edition includes 3 new hikes, greatly improved maps by Ben Pease, and is more practically organized.
Stairway Walks in San Francisco, by Adah Bakalinsky. This is an ideal book for both San Francisco residents and visitors. It's a fun guide to a diverse spectrum of city walking possibilities, from Telegraph Hill to Lands End. Each walk has a simple map, directions, and accompanying text with all kinds of related facts, but (unfortunately) no mileage markers. Some historic photos and pretty line drawings are included.
Walking San Francisco, by Liz Gans and Rick Newby. If I hadn't been spoiled by Stairway Walks, I'd recommend this book more heartily. To me, Walking San Francisco is a guide best suited to visiting tourists, while Stairway Walks is for locals. Walking San Francisco includes the standard trips through Chinatown, Russian Hill, The Presidio, Lands End, and (somewhat incongruously), one hike in the Marin Headlands. Directions are clear and the maps are easy to read. I much prefer Stairway Walks, since it includes a more diverse list of walks throughout a larger geographical range, as well as rambles through some of the city's hidden wild spots, like Mount Davidson and Glen Canyon. If you're in town for a short time and want to hit all the regular city sites, Walking San Francisco may be the book for you.
The Best in Tent Camping, Northern California, by Cindy Coloma with Bill Ma.
The Best in Tent Camping, Southern California, by Charles Patterson with Bill Mai.
Camping and Backpacking the San Francisco Bay Area, by Matt Heid. All bay area camping and backpacking destinations are described in this book, which includes park maps for the car and hike-in campgrounds, and trail maps for the backpacking excursions. General trail info helps in planning hikes. I do wish Heid's book encompassed coastal Sonoma County campgrounds like Pomo Canyon and Bodega Dunes, and there are no campgrounds maps, a feature I really miss. Despite those quibbles, this is a great guide for bay area campers who love to hike.
California Camping, by Tom Stienstra. I refer to this book constantly when planning camping adventures in the state, and find it best used to obtain campground specifics and a general feeling for a place. My problem with the book is that I have a hard time following the driving directions. As an example, when driving to Letts Lake, in the Mendocino National Forest, the directions refer to a series of junctions, and instruct the reader to turn right or left, without ever mentioning the names of the roads. For me, this is the book's biggest shortcoming; it may be impossible to include more detailed driving directions, since each campground profile has a limited amount of space. In any case, for campgrounds way in the middle of nowhere, I always supplement this book's driving directions with either AAA or National Forest maps.
Birds of San Francisco and the Bay Area, by Chris C. Fisher and Joseph Morlan. A must for beginning birders. Clear, large illustrations and descriptions of all common birds around the Bay Area.
Birds of North America, by Kenn Kaufman. My favorite all-purpose birding guide; it was recommended to me by a birding hiker on Mount Tam, and he was right -- it's a great book.
Peterson Field Guides: Hawks of North America, by William S. Clark/Brian K. Wheeler. I have the first edition of this book, so I can't specifically vouch for the 2nd edition, but I've found this field guide to be very useful in my attempt to identify bay area raptors. Many bird field guides have one or two photos of hawks and eagles, but this book features multiple photos and illustrations of bird from above and below.
National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds: Western Region, by Miklos D.F. Udvardy. Good basic guide.
Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs: Western Region, by Kevin J. Colver with Donald and Lillian Stokes. This 4-cd set is a collection of all major western bird calls and songs. The common bird name is spoken and followed by a series of recorded calls and/or songs. A printed booklet is included in the set. If you're trying to expand your birding world, learning to bird by ear is the way to go, and being able to identify individual bird noises is invaluable. I recommend using the cds in conjunction with a bird field guide -- then you can weed out the birds not found wherever you happen to be (many rare southern Texas and Alaska birds are included on the cds) and more effectively narrow down a search.
The Backyard Bird Feeder's Bible, by Sally Roth. If you like to feed the critters in your neighborhood (including squirrels), this book is a comprehensive guide to feeders and foods. It covers the whole country, so if you live in the bay area you may find yourself disappointed every time the author gushes about cardinals (we don't get cardinals here).
Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, by Mark Bittner. This is much more than a bird book; it's about how caring for a flock of parrots helped the author find meaning in his own life. Bittner describes the parrots so well that at the end I felt I knew them, and was motivated to walk around Telegraph Hill looking for them. What a joyful brood they are! Noisy and colorful, they add to the charm that is San Francisco, as does this book.
Plants of the San Francisco Bay Region, by Eugene Kozloff and Linda Beidleman. The second edition of this guide is essential for bay area plant indentification. I reach for it constantly, and it never disappoints.
The Trees of San Francisco, by Mike Sullivan. This book is of particular interest for San Francisco residents wanting to identify street trees or choose a tree for a front yard or sidewalk. Sullivan describes the City's trees well, provides addresses so you can visit specimens in person, and the book is nicely illustrated with photos. Tree walking tours are also included.
Introduction to Trees of the San Francisco Bay Region, by Glenn Keator. A perfect guide to bay area tree identification -- I especially appreciate how the author includes where to find different trees.
Edible plants and foraging
The Flavors of Home, by Margit Roos-Collins. Roos-Collins has a really nice and friendly tone, and this book is informative and fun. Personal anecdotes are mixed through straightforward tips for identifying and finding edible wild plants in the bay area. Since The Flavors of Home is illustrated, it's best used in concert with a secondary source containing photos (like the Botanical Data Hosted at the Digital Library Project).
Edible and Poisonous Plants of Northern California, by James Wiltens. For me this book is a distant second to The Flavors of Home, but is does contain valuable info, particularly regarding poisonous plants.
Edible and Useful Plants of California, by Charlotte Bringle Clarke. This book holds a 1978 copyright, and it does show its age: there are more current books with better illustrations. The recipes are simple and feel like throwbacks to the 70's. However, Edible and Useful Plants of California does span the whole state, and includes plants that grown in urban areas, as well as deserts, wetlands, and mountains.
Stalking the Wild Asparagus, by Euell Gibbons. This 1962 book has a limited use for Californians. Illustrations are weak, and many plants described here are not found in our state. Also, contemporary readers may feel a bit sickened to read about eating animals including raccoons and bobcat (to be fair, Gibbons himself felt bad about the bobcat). It its defense, there are plenty of fun recipes, and the book makes for good armchair reading.
California plants and gardening
The Jepson Manual: Higher Plants of California, edited by James C. Hickman. The Jepson Manual is the classic source for California plant identification. If you are a serious student of wild vegetation, you may want to have this book in your collection.
Growing California Native Plants, by Marjorie G. Schmidt. This guide includes simple line illustrations of some plants, a few color photos, and instructions for choosing, propagating and growing native annuals and perennials.
Complete Garden Guide to the Native Shrubs of California, by Glenn Keator. I guess this book is out-of-print, which is a shame. I use it often, both in identifying wild shrubs and selecting appropriate natives for gardening.
Trees and Shrubs of California, by John D. Stuart and John O. Sawyer. This field guide has great illustrations and some photos. It's perfect for hikers striving to learn native trees and shrubs.
Peterson Field Guides: Western Trees, by George A. Petrides/Olivia Petrides. I rarely use this guide now that I have Trees and Shrubs of California in my stable.
Peterson Field Guides: Pacific States Wildflowers, by Theodore F. Niehaus/Charles L. Ripper. I don't reach for this book as much, now that I have more useful bay area guides, but it's still a good basic wildflower source.
Wildflowers of California, by Larry Ulrich. Not a guidebook, Wildflowers of California is a collection of stunning photos, and would be a nice gift for flower lovers. The book includes dates and locations for photos, useful information when you're on the hunt for the best blooms.
All That the Rain Promises, and More..., by David Arora. A pocket guide to western mushrooms and fungi. A great companion for winter hikes, this book is filled with photos and comments from mushroom hunters.
Common Butterflies of California, by Bob Stewart. Beautiful photos, and a good source for bay area butterfly identification.
Butterflies through Binoculars: the West, by Jeffrey Glassberg. A new favorite, this book has very good photos, plus loads of information about butterfly behavior. For example, the author advises looking for anise swallowtails on hilltops (once I read this I had a major "of course" moment, since I often see anise swallowtails at the crest of hills).
Caterpillars in the Field and Garden, by Thomas J. Allen, Jim P. Brock, and Jeffrey Glassberg. Finally, a reference source for caterpillars!
Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions, by Arthur M. Shapiro and Timothy D. Manolis.
An Obsession with Butterflies, by Ahrman Apt Russell. A sweet little book packed with little tidbits about butterflies and moths. I particularly enjoyed reading about butterfly behavior, including how butterflies find host plants: they look for familiar leaves, then land on contenders and "taste" the leaves with their feet.
Scats and Tracks of the Pacific Coast, by James C. Halfpenny. My favorite field guide to identify animal signs, this book includes details about mammals as well as birds and amphibians. The writing is clear and the illustrations helpful.
Animal Tracks, by Olaus J. Murie. This is the second edition (I have the first). It's a basic guide, with illustrated images of tracks and scat.
National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mammals, by John O. Whitaker, Jr.. Covers everything from squirrels to grizzly bears.
Insects and Spiders
National Audubon Society's Field Guide to Insects and Spiders/North America. A guide tailored to the bay area would be more helpful, but this guide will help you indentify some common insects and spiders.
Snakes, Reptiles, and Amphibians
A Field Guide to Snakes of California, by Philip R. Brown. I have yet to find a better field guide to bay area snakes. Brown's book contains photos and illustrations, as well as good written descriptions.
Western Reptiles and Amphibians, by Robert C. Stebbins. A good, basic guide.
Wilderness First Aid, by National Outdoor Leadership School. Standard first aid info, slanted to outdoor enthusiasts.
Geology Trails of Northern California, by Robin C. Johnson and Dot Lofstrom. Only a few bay area hikes are included in this book, which spans from the California-Oregon border south to the Carrizo Plain. There are some photos but no trail maps. The writing is lively and informative without a pedantic tone, and details hikes through parks with volcanism, fault activity, caves, fossils, geothermal activity, glaciation, mining, erosional features, rock collecting, and sand dunes. I'll certainly use book for local hikes, but it'll also find a home in my camping reference bookshelf, for future trips to Yosemite, Lava Beds, Lassen, and Pinnacles.
Geologic Trips: San Francisco and the Bay Area, by Ted Konigsmark.
Nature and spirituality
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard. This Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir is an enchanting treatise on nature and life.
Other books (travel, walking, California-related fiction, and outdoors)
Angle of Repose, by Wallace Stegner. This classic, Pulitzer Prize-wining novel, revolves around a family, but the American West really steals the spotlight. Angle of Repose travels through the midwest to Almaden Quicksilver mine, Santa Cruz, Mexico, and more.
Big Rock Candy Mountain, by Wallace Stegner. My favorite novel of all time follows a troubled family as they wander through the western states and Canada. In the last years of his life, Stegner, who lived in Los Altos Hills, became an advocate for bay area open space.
The Complete Walker IV, by Colin Fletcher. Excellent reference for all levels of hikers and backpackers. Fletcher has a wicked sense of humor, and the book is lively and packed with info.
Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey.
Blue Highways, by William Least Heat-Moon.
Close Range, by Annie Proulx.
Assembling California, by John McPhee.
Silverado Squatters, Robert Louis Stevenson.