When I lived in San Francisco, I often overheard visitors say the darnedest things. “We have to see Alcatraz! And Ghirardelli Square!” Ugh. Seriously? Guys, you’re missing out: San Francisco is the capital of urban hiking.
I get it. With the trails of Marin and Pacifica just a short drive away, why bother hiking in a city? And just what is “urban hiking,” anyway? For those of us who habitually and deliberately plan travel, as well as a general lifestyle, around being car-free (guilty), it’s imperative to find a way to experience nature without driving to it.
Luckily, the hills, parks and even sidewalks of San Francisco provide ample opportunity for just that. One gluteal-busting walk from the Ferry Building to Ocean Beach shows that the word “hike” may even be an understatement within the city limits; this so-called walk is a bonafide butt and core workout. Luckily, the views, as well as the delicious food in which one feels justified to indulge afterward, more than make up for the scaling involved. In fact, one in-person look at these views, and urban hiking becomes one of the best reasons to visit San Francisco.
1. Filbert Steps, Telegraph Hill
Before you get there: If you find yourself in this part of town on a Saturday, be sure to fuel up at the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market. Our picks are the chilaquiles from Primavera Tamales.
2. Jones Street & Green Street, Russian Hill
Where to go from here: Continue on Green Street toward Pacific Heights for more great views, or walk down the hill toward the Marina for great shopping and restaurants.
3. Alta Plaza Park, Pacific Heights
What to do, now that you’re here: Go early, and quietly sip on your coffee (stop at Jane on Fillmore on your way over), while you watch the dogs play in the off-leash park.
4. Sutro Heights Park, Sea Cliff
They call it “Land’s End” for a reason. Breathe deep, and give thanks.
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Top photo: Andrew Moore
Summit photos: Amanda Zantal-Wiener