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Published September 27, 2023

10 Scenic Hikes in San Francisco

In San Francisco, hiking isn't just a walk in the park; it's a Stairmaster with a view. 🥾🎒🏞

by San Francisco Bucket List


From the Golden Gate Bridge to Chinatown, there's plenty to love about San Francisco. But perhaps most noteworthy is the seamless blend of nature and cityscape that San Francisco has pulled off. More than any other major US city, SF's outdoor parks, cliffsides, forests, and coastline have been woven into the fabric of the city—which means exploring the outdoors on foot is a must-do if you're in the Bay Area.

From sweeping coastal panoramas to serene redwood forests, the city boasts a plethora of hiking options that cater to every level of outdoor enthusiast. For an ideal Sunday, kickstart your day with a revitalizing hike and return to the heart of the city for a delightful brunch. Or maybe you've been sucked into a computer vortex and need a small dose of the outdoors to reset your workday. To aid your quest, we've curated a selection of exceptional hiking trails across San Francisco and the Bay Area.

10 Beautiful Hikes in San Francisco

Lands End Trail

3.4 miles round trip; 561 feet elevation

If we're going to talk about hikes in SF, we can't do it without mentioning Lands End Trail. It's one of the most popular hikes in the Bay Area, and for good reason. This iconic trail leads you along the city's westernmost edge, treating you to awe-inspiring views of the Pacific Ocean as it crashes against rocky cliffs. You'll also wind through cypress-lined pathways and historic landmarks like the Sutro Baths, plus it offers amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands, and the city skyline.

Trailhead address: 2008 Merrie Way, San Francisco, CA


Bernal Heights Park Loop

1.0 miles roundtrip; 108 feet elevation

This quick and easy loop is only a mile, so if you're looking for something low input, high return, this is a great hike to try. Located in a friendly residential area, you'll climb to the top of Bernal Hill and find a picturesque spot that offers some of the best views of SF and the Bay, even when the fog has settled over other parts of the city. Bonus points if you go during sunrise or sunet.

Trailhead address: Bernal Heights Boulevard, San Francisco, CA


Batteries to Bluffs Trail

2.3 miles round trip; 446 feet elevation

This trail in the Presidio winds through historic batteries and vantage points that once safeguarded the bay, providing hikers with panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean. As you make your way down the path, look out for dune plants, wildflowers, and butterflies. If you set your sights further out, you might even spot dolphins or a gray whale if you're lucky.

The trail culminates at Marshall's Beach, a secluded beach offering a serene retreat from the city. Just be aware that clothes are optional there—you can also access Baker's Beach via the Sand Ladder.

Trailhead address: 6302 Merchant Rd, San Francisco, CA


Mount Sutro Loop

2.2 miles round trip; 498 feet elevation

Located right in the middle of SF, this enchanting trail is a bit of a hidden gem. Within the first few minutes of starting the hike, you'll feel like you've been transported right out of the city. The trail winds through a dense eucalyptus forest and leads to a summit that rewards you with panoramic city views juxtaposed against the lush greenery.

Trailhead address: Historic Trail Trailhead, 1235 Stanyan St, San Francisco, CA 94117


Fort Funston Coastal Trail

2.0 miles roundtrip; 160 feet elevation gain

For a trail with great beach and ocean views, hit the Fort Funston Coastal Trail. The winding path takes you across sandy bluffs overlooking the sea and past remnants of the old Fort Funston. It's a popular trail for dogs, too, so feel free to bring your pup along or go for some prime dog-watching. Just be prepared for sandy trails and wind. A windbreaker and sunglasses are a good idea.

Trailhead address: Fort Funston, Fort Funston Rd, San Francisco, CA 94132


Bay Area Ridge Trail – Presidio

2.6 miles round trip; 131 feet elevation

The Bay Area Ridge Trail runs 550 miles all around the bay. While hiking the whole thing is definitely a bucket list experience, try the Presidio section to start, which links the Arguello Gate to the Golden Gate Bridge and takes you along the edge of the Presidio Golf Course.

This trail offers lots of great stopping points to rest and snap photos. You’ll pass through the Presidio forest and encounter the Golden Gate OverlookPacific Overlook, and National Cemetery Overlook. And don't miss Andy Goldsworthy’s Spire, a 100-foot sculpture made of felled Monterey cypress trunks.

Trailhead address: Arguello Gate


Philosopher’s Way

2.3 miles round trip; 328 feet elevation

The Philosopher's Way trail takes hikers through 14 musing stations featuring plaques with a quotation, a bit of park history, or other interesting information. Located in John McLaren Park, you can expect to pass through Eucalyptus groves, open meadows, wildflowers, and views of San Bruno mountain.

Note: Lots of trails cross the Philosopher's Way. Make sure to check your map or hiking app as you go to stay on course.

Trailhead address: 1229 Mansell St., McLaren Park, San Francisco, CA 94134


Fort Point – Baker Beach Coastal Trail

4.1 miles round trip; 843 feet elevation

This trail is all about the sights. Treat yourself to a coastline walk with stunning GG Bridge and Marin Headlands views on this four-mile out-and-back-again trail. You'll also pass by the historic gun emplacements along the route, and you can jaunt out to Baker Beach if you're in the mood for a seaside stroll.

Note: Prepare to climb! This trail has lots of stairs and can get foggy and windy (because San Francisco). It's always a good idea to bring a light jacket or windbreaker.

Trailhead address: San Francisco Bay Trail, San Francisco, CA 94129


Twin Peaks

2.1 miles round trip; 272 feet elevation

For panoramic views of SF, Twin Peaks is a must-do. Located in the center of the city, you'll ascend to San Francisco's iconic vantage points for unparalleled views of the city. We recommend heading up early or going for a post-work evening hike to catch the sunrise or sunset.

Trailhead address: Edith’s Garden, 275 Twin Peaks Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94114


Fairy Gates Trail

0.9 miles round trip; 321 feet elevation

This short and sweet trail will take you through a quiet, lush forest in the middle of the city—with whimsical fairy houses, doors, and figures inconspicuously tucked away along the trail. While there are various loops you can take to change things up, the roughly one-mile trail out and back is perfect for a chill walk in the woods. The dense trees provide lots of cover and quiet, so if you're in need of a little midday serenity (and magic), this is the hike for you.

Trailhead address: Edgewood Trail, 300 Edgewood Ave, San Francisco, CA 94117


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