Angel Island has a long history, beginning with regular visits (though no permanent settlements) by the Coastal Miwok tribe. The Northern U.S. army created a fort on the island in anticipation of Confederate sea attacks from the Pacific. Though those attacks never came, the army maintained a base.
Today, many 19th-century army buildings remain. You can see them on the tram tour ($13.50, 1 hour), walking, or on a docent-led segway tour ($65 per person). Later, the Army built a Nike missile base on the island to protect strategically important San Francisco  from possible Soviet attacks. The missile base is not open to the public, but can be seen from roads and trails.
Not all the history of Angel Island brings pride to the state of California. The West Coast’s answer to Ellis Island in the early 20th century, Angel Island served as an immigration station for incoming ships, and a concentration camp for the flood of Chinese attempting to escape the collapse of their homeland.
While Europeans were waved through with little more than a head-lice check, the Chinese were herded into barracks while government officials scrutinized their papers. After months and sometimes years of waiting, many were shipped back to China. Today, poetry lines the walls of the barracks, expressing the despair of the immigrants who had hoped for a better life and found little more than prison. Docent-led tours show this poetry and the buildings of the camps.
Angel Island is a major destination for hikers both casual and serious. The island-wide park offers kayaking, swimming, hiking, and road and mountain biking. Trails of varying difficulty levels crisscross the island, creating fun for hikers and bikers alike. Adventurous trekkers can scale Mount Livermore via either the North Ridge Trail or the Sunset Trail.
Each runs about 4.5 miles round-trip for a moderate, reasonably steep hike. But stopping at the top for a rest and some of the gorgeous Bay views hardly feels like a chore or a defeat. For the best experience, make a loop of your trip, taking one trail up and the other one back down the mountain. If you’re up for a long paved-road hike, take the Perimeter Road (5 mi, moderate) all the way around the island.
Angel Island is located in the middle of San Franicsco Bay. To get there, you must either boat yourself in or take one of the ferries that services the island. The harbor at Tiburon  is the easiest place from which to access Angel Island State Park (415/435-1915, www.parks.ca.gov , daily 8 a.m.–sunset, prices vary by ferry company). The private Angel Island–Tiburon Ferry (21 Main St., Tiburon, 415/435-2131, www.angelislandferry.com , $13.50 adults, $11.50 children, $1 bikes, no advance ticket sales) can get you out to the island in about 10 minutes and runs several times a day.
Ferries have plenty of room for you to bring your own bike, or you can rent one at the main visitors’ area for $10 per hour or $35 per day. Grab a map from the gift shop. Not all trails are open to bikes, but those that are include the easy five-mile, paved Perimeter Road around the island, which is perfect for newcomers.