Since I’ve been immersed in making the end-of-year “top” lists for the past week or so (most-read stories, most-viewed photo galleries, etc., etc.), I started to think about the hikes of the year. So, because I can, here are my favorites for the year:

3. Muir Beach.

I did a couple of hikes that started and ended from this spot in the Marin Headlands. It’s easy to go from here and cover a lot of ground on the ridges overlooking the Pacific Ocean. For much of the hike, you can see where you’re headed, and if you’re into rigorous climbs, that’s possible too. Terrific coastal views, nearly the entire way, plus the ability to detour a few times and see some gems, such as Pirates Cove. And as a bonus, you can recover from the hike at a beautiful beach.

2. The Palisades, Calistoga.

When I hike up on the old mine trails just north of Calistoga, it’s fascinating to see the old wagon-wheel ruts and think of the miners who toiled there. And then to see the volcanic rock formations formed many, many years ago is another nod to history. Whether going all the way across the mountainous region, or just ducking in from one end, each visit here is rewarding, rocky and memorable.

1. Alamere Falls, Point Reyes.

An easy choice for the top spot. I’ve done it many times, going from different directions and different trailheads, and even in different seasons, and different times of day. It’s yet to be disappointing. In fact, to emerge onto the beach underneath a cascading waterfall coming down a cliff is startling and amazing. Or to detour into a secluded lake isn’t a bad bet either. Just two of the many treats that this hike provides.

It’s entirely subjective and unfortunately no park officials tried to bribe me to get their park on this list, but I had a heck of a good time this year exploring various trails and pathways, some of which were well marked and well traveled and some of which were far off the beaten path. With a crazy travel schedule that takes me out of town way too often, it was always a thrill to find time to hike around the Bay Area. Home sweet home. And I’ve had an even better time meeting many of you along the way.

Here’s to more happy trails in 2011. Cheers.