A Day in the Bay

Angel Island offers great escape and historical sites

By TERESA HAMMOND

For the explorer looking to escape the Valley heat or get a reprieve from unseasonal allergies, a day trip to Angel Island may be just what the doctor ordered.

Situated just a ferry ride away from San Francisco or the quaint town of Tiburon, Angel Island is the largest natural island in the San Francisco Bay. This beautiful gem of the San Francisco Bay Area is in total 730 acres. The island is filled with varying activities catering to all interests. Everyone from the history buff, day hiker, bicyclist, sailor and camper will find something of interest on this historic piece of land.

Accessible only by ferry, visitors are welcome to pack picnic lunches, barbecue accoutrements or bring their bicycles for a day of riding around the island.

Its first known inhabitants were the Coast Miwoks over 2,000 years ago. In 1863, the U.S. Army established Camp Reynolds during the Civil War. The island has over 100 years of military history, as well as landmarks and buildings still in place.

One historical building, open for visitors, is the U.S. Immigration Station. The United States Immigration Station processed hundreds of thousands of immigrants from more than 80 countries from 1910 to 1940. The immigration staff ensured those coming through were healthy and self-sufficient. A large number of the immigrants were from China and some from European countries.

During World War II prisoners of war from Germany and Japan were detained at the station before being sent farther inland. The island is also home to where the Army returned in 1954 to build a Nike missile site. By 1962 the system had become obsolete and the base was decommissioned.

In 1963, a large majority of the island was established as a California State Park.

In addition to touring the buildings and the history lessons one may gain, the island hosts a wide variety of natural history, including a hikers’ only trail which wraps around the island. Hiking trails span a total of 13 miles around varying corners of the island. For the adventure seeker looking for great views of the San Francisco skyline or its neighboring cities, the hike to Mount Livermore is one which will not disappoint.

Beginning the hike at Ayala Cove, it is approximately 2.5 miles to the summit’s 788-foot elevation. Approximate time for the round trip excursion is two and a half hours, depending on ability. Once at the top views are both breathtaking and one of a kind, as the eye can take in views from the east point of Oakland, completely around to the Richmond Bridge, complete with a skyline view of San Francisco from the Bay to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Paved roads also surround the island for those wishing to take in the sights by bicycle. Personal bicycles are permitted and rentals are available on the island as well. Nine miles of paved road are available for cyclists. Foot trails, as well as Mount Livermore are closed to cyclists. Guided nature hikes, as well as building tours and tram tours are also available for an additional fee.

For additional information on Angel Island, services and ferry schedules and fees visit www.parks.ca.gov/angelisland or call (415) 435-1915.

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