Even within a busy, internationally known city such as San Francisco, one will find a variety of trails, roads, and stairs to hike or stroll along. When you don’t have time to drive over to Mount Tamalpais or Mount Diablo from San Francisco, check out our Top 10 Walking and Hiking places in San Francisco for a nearby cardio workout.
Crissy Field / Fort Point / Golden Gate Bridge
It is a fantastic flat-level walk or a run along the waterfront. One has wonderful views of the bay while walking toward the Golden Gate Bridge. It starts from the the marina to Fort Point below the Golden Gate Bridge. Heading back one sees the San Francisco skyline and all the delightful hills.
It is an exciting hike up the hill with a multitude of stairs/steps to show the way. Begin your venture near Washington Square in North Beach. Take any street toward Telegraph Hill and you will certainly find the stairs that lead the way to the top of the hill. Lombard Street is one of the streets and when you look back it gives a wonderful view of the crooked street. Once on top of the hill, you will have beautiful views of the city, the Bay Bridge and way over to Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge. Take a break and enjoy the historic Coit Tower. Inside there are 1934 murals that depict life in California during the depression.
If you do not want to take the same way to go down the hill, head east toward the stairs that lead past homes and gardens. The tranquility may be interrupted at times, due to the cherry-headed parrots socializing quite loudly as one passes. Upon reaching Battery Street, one can head south to the financial district or continue east to the Embarcadero Street along the waterfront.
Golden Gate Bridge
Most major bridges do not allow pedestrians. Yet, we are certainly fortunate this magnificent bridge gives everyone an absolute life time experience to walk a portion or all the way across its’ gorgeous span. It is a real up close and personal event. Venture clear to the end of the span and over to Vista Point and gaze at your fantastic accomplishment of crossing an internationally acclaimed bridge. It is 1.7 miles long, so give yourself plenty of time to either walk halfway or all the way and the return across the bridge. Always layer your clothing, due to either fog or there may be a very brisk wind coming across the bridge.
Hyde Street is an invigorating hike in an urban setting. The best starting point is near Ghirardelli Square at the cable car turn around. Be sure to stay on the sidewalk and follow the cable car tracks up the hill. Once at Lombard Street you may walk up along the crooked street for a superb view of the city and Telegraph Hill in the distance. At this point there are many options. One can continue to Russian Hill and then veer east either over Filbert or Union Street toward North Beach (Italian neighborhood). Otherwise continue on Hyde Street and then turn east on Washington Street to visit the Cable Car Museum (free admission). Currently the hours are from 10 am to 6 pm, April 1 through September 30, 2012.
Take a ferry on over to Angel Island and discover flat and hilly trails with terrific views of the bay and the surrounding cities. A loop around the island is five miles long. One can start on the Northridge Trail near the ferry dock.
While hiking realize that the Coastal Miwok tribe hunted and fished on this island. Years later the Spanish explorer, Juan Manuel de Ayala, had a ranch where cattle roam freely. Yet, during the Civil War it dramatically changed when the US Army constructed a post.
Jump ahead and from 1910 to 1940 hundreds of thousands of immigrants (mainly Chinese) were processed or sent back from the United States Immigration Station now established on the island. Then came World War II and Japanese, along with German prisoners of war, were held on the island. During the 1950s and 1960s a strategic Nike missile site was constructed.
The missiles are now gone, though the US Immigration Station was restored and allows park docent guides lead tours through the museum from Wednesdays to Fridays. The station is open for self-guided discoveries on Saturdays and Sundays. Please note no dogs are allowed on Angel Island except for service dogs.
Presidio Baker Beach
Baker Beach has a variety of pathways. Whether dirt, paved or the sandy beach, one has a multitude of views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Plus, native wildflowers have carefully been restored to many fields.
Mt. Sutro – Twin Peaks
An approximate 4.5 mile hike from the Golden Gate Park, one will enjoy eucalyptus forests over to the summit of Mt. Sutro. Continue on to the top of Twin Peaks to have a 360 degree view of the surrounding area, if the fog permits. Head over to the eastern side of Twin Peaks and one can appreciate the rural atmosphere.It is an interesting loop as you stroll back to the Golden Gate Park.
It is relaxing wandering through the narrow streets in this semi-bohemian atmosphere known as Bernal Heights. The hill’s bedrock foundation survived the 1906 earthquake and fire. Thus, one has a nice hike on solid ground on the various paved streets and stairs. Don’t forget to look up and beyond for there are panoramic southern views of San Francisco.
Golden Gate Park
Whether starting from the east end or the west end, one can stroll along quaint pathways to Stow Lake and return to the other side. Closer to the west end, one can view and enter the historic Conservatory of Flowers, admire the Dahlia Garden, along with the California Garden. You may even have the chance to see red-tailed hawks flying majestically above.
If one starts from the west end, one will be enchanted with the Beach Chalet and windmills. The Dutch Windmill recently was restored. A process for many, many years is now a grand sight to see. The Murphy windmill, about a mile south, was also restored. Both windmills previously pumped water for the park. It is exciting to watch the sails turn once again, since both windmills existed for over 100 years.
Continue over to John F Kennedy Drive and either veer off to North Lake or gaze at the bison grazing in their pasture off of the drive. Nearby is Spreckles Lake where many local residents enjoy steering model yachts on the tranquil surface of the lake.
There are many beautiful sights in the park, Japanese Tea Garden, Lloyd Lake, along with far too many to list here. This park is a walker’s paradise.
If you enjoy the wind, head over to Ocean Beach off of Skyline Blvd. This is a sandy stretch of beach and cliffs where one will find hang gliders and frisky dogs with owners trying to keep up. Approximately four miles will entice you and keep you in shape. Please be leery of the surf as it is dangerous and has an extreme undertow.
Have a fabulous time whether strolling, hiking or running in a wonderful diverse city that embraces all.