While it’s well-known that the Bay Area has thousands of miles of breathtaking trails and parks, there are also quite a few fantastic hiking trails within the confines of San Francisco itself. At 49 square miles large, the city of San Francisco packs in everything from diverse neighborhoods and top-rated restaurants, to beaches and hiking trails. There are more than just ten to explore, but the below are some of the most popular and most beautiful hiking trails located within San Francisco’s city limits.
Smack in the middle of the city and rising out from the concrete jungle surrounding it is Corona Heights Park. It’s only about a mile to the peak from the base, but it offers one of the best views of San Francisco. It was once a quarry in the 1800s, and the exposed rock is still visible once you reach the top. Now, in addition to offering an unobstructed view of San Francisco, Corona Heights also features the Randall Museum, a playground, tennis courts, and basketball courts, as well as a large grass field. For easy weekend plans, explore the park and hike to the peak in the morning, followed by brunch in the Castro or Duboce neighborhoods afterward.
Fort Funston sits above Ocean Beach in San Francisco’s southwestern corner, and on any given day can be blazing hot or densely coated in fog. Popular during the day for dog walkers and parents with young children, this area gets extremely crowded on the weekends. There is the paved Sunset Trail which you can use to branch off to the Low Tide Trail, which will take you down to Ocean Beach and back for a total of 2.5 miles. The remnants of the World War II bunker Battery Davis, covered in graffiti, puts the ‘urban’ back into this hike.
Arguably one of the best hikes in San Francisco is Land’s End Trail, mostly due to its incomparable views of the ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge. Consisting of around 4 miles and also sitting above Ocean Beach, but towards the northern end of the city, Land’s End showcases some exciting history of San Francisco, including Sutro Baths, the Cliff House, Point Lobos, Mile Rock Beach, and Mike Rock Lighthouse. And if you want to turn this into a longer urban hike, you can take the Coastal Trail down to Baker Beach, the Presidio and eventually to the Golden Gate Bridge.
Welcome to the highest natural point in San Francisco, sitting at 927 feet. Another close competitor for best hikes in San Francisco, Mt Davidson’s 40 acres is most recognizable because at the peak sits a giant sculpture of a cross. If you happen to be there on a clear day, the views towards San Francisco are stunning. But even coated in fog, the trails offer a creepy-cool setting for a hike. Mt Davidson is located directly south of Twin Peaks and northeast from Fort Funston.
While there isn’t much in terms of hiking at Twin Peaks, the view is well worth the trek. There are options to drive right up to the top or trek from the base if you’re looking for a workout. The main viewing area offers a 360-degree snapshot of the city. It’s second-highest only to Mt. Davidson and part of “The Seven Hills of San Francisco.” Make sure to trek up to both peaks, and clear paths are attaching them. The northern peak (the one with the parking lot) is named Eureka, and the southern peak (the one with the better view) is called Noe.
Hidden amongst the city and even unknown to locals living just a few blocks away is Mt. Sutro. Featuring unique forest-like hiking in San Francisco, the trail here spans about 2.2 miles in a loop dotted with 200-foot-tall eucalyptus trees. This 80-acre eucalyptus forest is known to get drenched in fog to the point of feeling like you’ve escaped the city and are walking amongst the clouds. Even though these trees aren’t native to the area, they’ve been thriving in San Francisco’s climate since the forest was planted in 1886 by the mayor at the time, Adolph Sutro, in celebration of Arbor Day.
Glen Canyon Park
Sitting just south of Twin Peaks and east of Mt. Davidson is Glen Canyon Park, a 70-acre parcel of open space that was formed by Islais Creek, one of the last remaining free-flowing creeks in San Francisco. Hiking here involves a 2-mile loop throughout the park that is home to many wildlife species of birds and plants. The park is also home to tennis courts, sports fields, a community center, and a children’s camp.
Another eucalyptus forest is hidden within San Francisco, just northeast of Fort Funston in the Sunset District called Stern Grove. Most known for its free concerts in the park, a tradition dating back to 1938, the park offers so much more. Taking the trail loop around the park is about 2 miles and will take you past Pine Lake, through a large grass area popular for off-leash dogs, and past the concert meadow and Trocadero Clubhouse. Overall, it’s around 33 acres, or about 15 blocks long by three blocks wide.
Bernal Heights Park
Those looking for another 360-degree view of San Francisco will find it by climbing Bernal Hill in Bernal Heights Park. Located in the Bernal Heights neighborhood just south of the Mission District, Bernal Heights Park is a designated off-leash park for dogs, so expect to see lots of them running around this 1-mile hike to the peak. The park also features playgrounds, a basketball court, picnic benches, a recreation center with a gym, and a rock labyrinth.
Trails of the Presidio
Technically not one trail, but an entire trail system, the Presidio of San Francisco includes 24 miles of trails, by far the most complex trail system in the city. Formerly an Army base, there are hiking options that range from short, relaxed strolls to the Golden Gate Bridge, to a 3-mile segment of the California Coastal Trail, a 1,200-mile route from Mexico to Oregon. Some of the most notable trails in the park include the Batteries to Bluffs Trail, Presidio Bay Area Ridge Trail, and Coastal Trail.
There are still more trails in San Francisco than the above list to explore and thousands of miles more in the surrounding Bay Area. If you live in San Francisco and have access to a car, make sure to get out and explore the surrounding open spaces and parks after exploring all the city has to offer.
Kim Suarez is a Bay Area native who has been exploring local trails and spending time outdoors hiking, camping, climbing, surfing, mountain biking and trail running at any free moment for most of her life. Working in the outdoor apparel industry, she is able to take her love for the outdoors and combine it with creating products built for athletes and outdoor enthusiasts. She currently lives in Oakland, California.