Hiking in San Francisco



Hiking options in and around San Francisco include everything from the easygoing Golden Gate Promenade along the city's waterfront to the more rigorous sections of Angel Island and the Bay Area Ridge Trail. But you don't have to leave the city for a nice hike. In the middle of San Francisco you can climb to the top of Mt. Davidson, Bernal Heights, Corona Heights, or Buena Vista Park. Little more than undeveloped hilltops, they offer spectacular views of the city and beautiful shows of wildflowers in spring. And there are plenty of great hikes to be had in the Presidio.

Angel Island State Park. Hikers head to Angel Island State Park for access to 13-plus miles of sometimes-steep foot trails and fire roads. The Northridge/Sunset loop trail to the 788-foot summit of Mt. Livermore rewards with fantastic views; the Perimeter Road passes beaches and historic sites. Blue & Gold Fleet (415/705–8200 blueandgoldfleet.com) operates a ferry to the island from Pier 41 at Fisherman's Wharf; the $17 round-trip fare includes park admission. San Francisco, CA. 415/435–1915. www.angelisland.org.

Bay Area Ridge Trail. Hills and mountains—including Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County and Mt. Diablo in the East Bay, which has the second-longest sight lines anywhere in the world after Mt. Kilimanjaro—form a ring around the Bay Area. The newest completed stretch of Ridge Trail connects the Pacific Overlook and the Golden Gate Overlook in the Presidio area of San Francisco, offering up the most spectacular views. The Bay Area Ridge Trail is an ongoing project to connect all of the region's ridgelines. The trail is currently more than 340 miles long, but when finished it will extend more than 550 miles, stretching from San Jose to Napa and encompassing all nine Bay Area counties. One of the trail's most impressive ridgelines can be found on Mt. Tamalpais, in Marin County. San Francisco, CA. ridgetrail.org.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA). The Presidio is part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), which also encompasses the San Francisco coastline, the Marin Headlands, and Point Reyes National Seashore. It's veined with hiking trails, and many guided walks take place. You can find current schedules at visitor centers in the Presidio and Marin Headlands; they're also online at www.nps.gov/goga/parknews. For descriptions of locations within the recreation area—along with rich color photographs, hiking information, and maps—pick up a copy of Guide to the Parks, available in local bookstores or online from the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy (www.parksconservancy.org). GGNRA, San Francisco, CA. 415/561–4700. www.nps.gov/goga.

Golden Gate Promenade. This great walk passes through Crissy Field, taking in marshlands, kite-flyers, beachfront, and windsurfers, with the Golden Gate Bridge as a backdrop. The 3.3-mile walk is flat and easy—it should take about two hours round-trip. If you begin at Aquatic Park, you'll end up practically underneath the bridge at Fort Point Pier. If you're driving, park at Fort Point and do the walk from west to east. It can get blustery, even when it's sunny, so be sure to layer. San Francisco, CA.

Presidio. Hiking and biking trails wind through nearly 1,500 acres of woods and hills in the Presidio, past old redbrick military buildings and jaw-dropping scenic overlooks with bay and ocean views. Rangers and docents lead guided hikes and nature walks throughout the year. For a current schedule, pick up a copy of the quarterly Park News at the Presidio Visitor Center, in the park's Main Post area, or go online. The promenade at Crissy Field leads north past views of Golden Gate Bridge. If it's open, fortify yourself with coffee or snacks at the Warming Hut (983 Marine Dr., off Long Ave.) before following the paved road that continues on to the Civil War–era Fort Point, which sits under the bridge. Presidio Visitors Center, 105 Montgomery St. at Lincoln Blvd., San Francisco, CA, 94129. 415/561–4323. www.nps.gov/prsf.