Sykes Hot Springs is one of my favorite places to take first time backpackers who are reasonably fit. The destination has some nice hot springs and a trout filled stream. The hike is pretty. The trip is long enough that people have a sense they have accomplished something, but short enough that it’s not overwhelming for most.
The trail is easy enough to follow that no maps are needed and there is little to no risk of getting lost. There are a number of clear milestones, so people can easily see that they are making progress. The conditions tend to be moderate year round so there is never a bad time to go.
Sykes is only a two hour drive from the bay area, so it can easily be done in a 24 hour period, though some people like to take several days by the hot springs and/or the river. For people who are fit, It’s also doable as a day hike. The only down side is that you aren’t going to find solitude, except maybe Tue-Thu in the middle of the winter.
The Pine Ridge Trail mostly weaves through a cover of redwoods, pine and oak. The trail is typically well maintained and extremely easy to follow. In the winter months, especially after a storm, you might find dead fall, or short sections of trail washed out… but these tend to be repaired reasonably quickly. April – October the trail is typically clear of deadfall and easy to follow.