View Full Version : Need Suggestions: Early January, SF Bay Area

Peter Collins
2-Nov-2009, 17:55
We're visiting family in Berkeley at Christmas, but we grandparents plan to get away for a week beginning the weekend after Christmas. In other words, in the rainy season, so the climate data say.

We are looking for ideas for the get-away. We'd prefer warm to cold, sun to rain. Good walks every day are a primary consideration because the cold wind does blow in winter on our street here in MI, and it can be too much for a healthy walk.

Does that mean chance the ocean instead of the Sierra? But if long rains are highly likely--near certainty--on the coast, we'd opt for inland. So, ideas? Pacific Grove/Monterey/Carmel? South coast/Big Sur? North coast? Flee to Wawona? Or just outside the park, somewhere else? Or--?

Did I mention that we don't have a money tree here? That's a consideration, at least until the house is paid for!

Yes, I'm taking the camera--Wisner 4x5, two lenses, beaucoup holders, etc., in an Osprey Sojourner bag--wheel it/backpack it.

Thanks for helping us out.

Donald Miller
2-Nov-2009, 20:53
If your up for the addition to your trip the valley of the sun (Phoenix) here in southern Arizona is a nice place to be in the winter.

Donald Miller

3-Nov-2009, 00:02
[QUOTE=Peter Collins;523753]

Does that mean chance the ocean instead of the Sierra? But if long rains are highly likely--near certainty--on the coast, we'd opt for inland. So, ideas? Pacific Grove/Monterey/Carmel? South coast/Big Sur? North coast? Flee to Wawona? Or just outside the park, somewhere else? Or--?

Or...Death Valley! January should be a good time for it: Nice skies with character but no rain - you'll be blest if it did rain! Nights will be cool and days will be mild. About an 8 hour or so drive from the bay area. Tip: Take the backroads and some infrared film on the drive down and back.

John Jarosz
3-Nov-2009, 05:25
I'll second the idea of Death valley. It will be cool enough to spend some time in the spots that will cook you to death any other time of the year. And it won't rain.


Scott Davis
3-Nov-2009, 07:48
If you drive down the central valley from San Jose through Gilroy and beyond, there will be plenty of warmer, milder climate. Pinnacles National Monument is worth a visit, which will give you plenty of hiking on well-developed trails. You can hit Pinnacles on your way to Death Valley, and pass through some interesting landscapes along the way. If you want warmer and sunnier, stay away from the coast until you get a fair bit further south, although Santa Cruz is always a pleasant visit any time of the year.

Dan Baumbach
3-Nov-2009, 10:27
There's alway Muir Woods in Marin County.

Drew Wiley
3-Nov-2009, 10:46
Sometimes it can be mild around here in Jan, sometimes quite wet. Hard to predict.
Just bring a raincoat and good hiking shoes. I personally love photography in the redwoods on rainy days; if it starts raining hard, you can just set up under one of the
larger tree and remain dry. They're like a big umbrella!
If you go inland just realize that the tule fog in the central valley can be very tedious and dangerous to drive through at night or morning hours. Death Valley is a long drive
away. Pt Reyes and the Golden Gate area of Marin can be lovely in Jan since there's
less wind at the beach than most of the year, unless of course, there's an active storm. I wouldn't personally go into Muir Woods unless it's the very coldest,wettest
day of the year. It can get very crowded. Plenty of other places nearby without all
the tour bus activity.

3-Nov-2009, 11:40
A lot of replies are forgetting one thing: the nastiest January day in the SF Bay area is going to be warmer than the nicest January day in Ann Arbor. See, there's this "snow" stuff that much of the rest of the country can get even at sea level during a season that they call "winter." I think it's what happens when rain gets real cold, or so I've been told.

Yes, there's a good chance of rain on any given day, but we don't often get the torrential downpours that the affordable parts of the country see. The rain tends to come from north to south, so a rainy day in Marin or Napa might be dry and pleasant in Santa Clara or Monterey counties. A rainy day is more likely to be a few hours of light to medium drizzle.

Here's an idea: A driving tour of some of the California missions. Most aren't on the water, and many are quite photogenic: http://www.missionscalifornia.com/missions_map.html


Jon Shiu
3-Nov-2009, 11:50
The north coast, ie north of San Francisco, is quite nice in winter, in between storms that is. It is actually my favorite time of year to photograph on the coast. Just depends on the weather patterns. In between storms it can be mild and sunny. If storms are coming in, then it can be 2-3 days (or more) of heavy rain and wind.


Drew Wiley
3-Nov-2009, 13:19
Everything in this part of the world is about microclimates. If things are too wet at the
coast, driving half an hour the other direction might prove to be a T-shirt day in Jan.
Some nice spots slightly inland from Berkeley include Mt Diablo and Sunol Regional Park
(great rocks!). A more ambitious drive down to Monterey, Pt Lobos or Pinnacles is
about 1-1/2 hr. Pinnacles can be very cold in Jan, or very nice, depending (actually
best when icicles are on the rocks! Like the Sierra, you can be shivering in the shade,
but then be back to a T-shirt in the sun! I work in Berkeley and might or might not be
around that week, but if you want you could try messaging me for local tips. Last year
it took the 8x10 repeatedly down to Sunol in Jan; but it's also a wonderful time for
wildlife viewing and general photog at Pt Reyes.

Peter Collins
7-Nov-2009, 05:11
Thanks to all who responded. That's been a big help. Anybody else got ideas for me?

John Kasaian
7-Nov-2009, 08:01
Winter in the bay area is usually nice and sunny. There is the possibilty of rain of course (as there is all over the State) Mare Island is an interesting photo op not too far from Berserkly.

The Sierras would (should) have snow and clear sunny skies (unless of course it is snowing)but you'll have to carry tire chains. The foothills should be emerald green (January is a month or so too early for wildflowers) The Valleys do tend to get foggy and humid, especially after a rain.

Winter is a good time to explore the central coast---Monterey and Big Sur all the way down to Pismo and points South. Another nice drive is the Gold Rush Country along Hwy 49.

I try to go to SF every January. Night photography is very tempting with the moonlight reflecting off the bay(I generally walk along the waterfront from Crissy Field, get a cup of coffee from the 24 hr Safeway en route to the Ferry Terminal before sunrise on a Saturday morning. Watching the sky turn from a starry night to a steel gray sky over the bay is a splendid early morning jaunt! The Ferry Terminal has a farmer's market and they serve a good (but pricey) breakfast. If you're into street photography, angle off in the direction of Columbus and cut into Grant Street and the Chinese markets will be getting their morning deliveries of all kinds of interesting stuff---very photogenic (in a chaotic way!)

7-Nov-2009, 10:28
If you are in Berkeley, almost the whole East Bay ridge are parks. Check the internet to get some ideas. Also in town there are a bunch of interesting boulders. They are popular climbing areas. In fact, Indian Rock is legendary for climbers. There is an REI in Berkeley. Go in ask for suggestions.
South of San Francisco there are many parks. You can photograph ocean, deep redwood forests and open grasslands in a day.
If you narrow it down let us know and any of us who know the areas can give more specific info. Take care

Jon Shiu
7-Nov-2009, 11:51
In Berkeley, take a drive up Grizzly Peak Blvd., some nice vistas up there of the bay, gg bridge, marin headlands. Can take a hike on the fire trail starting on Panoramic. Also in Tilden park, you can go out the Nimitz way trail at Inspiration Point or the Seaview trail behind the steam trains. There are some rocks at Indian Rock park, and I think Cragmont rocks. The pier and north waterfront park are good for walks and vistas. On UC Campus there is sometimes a good view from the steps in front of Campanile steps, also Eucalyptus grove and some interesting oaks and architecture. Also a place called Aquatic park usually has some geese and ducks and is a nice walk.


8-Nov-2009, 22:14
How far are you willing to go? I live 5 minutes from Berkeley and while the weather will be unpredictable in Jan. it won't be too bad - certainly not warm though. I've been to Death Valley in March, spent the whole month there hiking. There was still snow in the high parts, can't imagine January will be fair. Central valley, towards the south, maybe something like King's Canyon or Sequoia would be great.

Merg Ross
8-Nov-2009, 22:58
Within the confines of Berkeley, and within a few hundred yards of each other, I would suggest that you take your 4x5 to the following: UC Botanical Gardens, and up the road a short distance, park at the Lawerence Hall of Science and you will be treated to a magnificent bay view with San Francisco in the distance. The campus itself is also worth a visit.

The best place to purchase 4x5 film in Berkeley (or anything related to large format) is at "The Looking Glass" photo shop on Telegraph Avenue.
Enjoy your visit!

Drew Wiley
9-Nov-2009, 10:23
There are certain distinct advantages to roaming the UC Berkeley campus in the evening with a big conversation-piece 8X10. Besides getting a few interesting architectual shots, that's how I acquired my wife!

9-Nov-2009, 10:59
Here's a vote for Highway 49. It is 'above the fog, and below the snow'. It is often quite pleasant in the Sierra Foothills in January.

A nice loop would be from SF to Placerville (on US 50)>south to Mariposa (on CA 120) and then back to the Bay area.

There are several small Gold Rush era towns along the way. There are also many historic buildings, very nice natural scenes, and wineries. If the snow level is high, you could make a side trip up CA 4 (from Angels Camp) to Calaveras Big Strees State Park. These are Sequoia giganteum, the same species as in the groves in Yosemite and Sequoia NP. It is a very pleasant place. Columbia State Park and Railtown 1897 in Jamestown are also worthwhile. If you go through Sonora, be sure to have dinner at the Diamondback Grill--killer!

Enjoy your trip!


Dave Hally
9-Nov-2009, 13:29
Two of my favorites are Point Lobos, just south of Carmel (plus you have Camera West in Monterey) and Pebble Beach up by Pescadero. If you go to Pescadero, check out the metal sculpture on Stage road, about a mile north. If you go to the Monterey area, try The Whole Enchilada in Moss Landing for dinner on your way back. Or you just drive down Highway 1 from Carmel- lots of pictures there! Don't take the Old Coast Road if it's been raining a lot (a back road from Bixby Bridge to Point Sur).
Have Fun!

Ivan J. Eberle
12-Nov-2009, 18:20
We received early rains this October and the El Nino might be moderating. If it happens this can mean a very dry middle part of the winter. So don't count on the weather being terrible.
If it's your first trip to the Left Coast in winter you may be in for a surprise, with the earlier rain it'll likely be so green you'll swear you landed in New Zealand.

Lichens at Pinnacles NM can be rather interesting even before the wildflowers are out.
Redwoods. Big Sur. Enormous surf (Mavericks). Whale watching. Plenty to see and photograph.