Go Beyond the City: This Is the Best Hiking in San Francisco
Hiking in San Francisco is one of our favorite things to do. Because the Bay Area city is so hilly and on an incline almost everywhere, it’s a serious workout. Let’s recall the Sex and the City episode where Carrie says she doesn’t hike and is called out that hiking is walking: That’s not the case here. You’ll definitely break a sweat. Throughout the city, there are beginner-level trails like reaching the peak of Mount Davidson as well as more challenging ones like trekking to Coit Tower and climbing the Filbert or Greenwich Steps.
Aside from these workouts being completely free, another added bonus is the beautiful views of San Francisco’s landmarks like the obvious Golden Gate Bridge and Northern California’s nature, including the Pacific Ocean, forests, cliffs, and beaches. Are you getting your Creative Recs ready? Ahead, eight of the best places to go hiking in the Bay Area.
Batteries to Bluffs Trail
We’re obsessed with the views on this Presidio trail, which starts at the Golden Gate Bridge and goes to Battery Crosby. The path is less than a mile long and is adjacent to Baker Beach’s sand ladder. Note: Dogs and bikes are not allowed on the Batteries to Bluffs Trail.
Battery to Bluffs Trail, San Francisco
This is seriously one of the best hikes in San Francisco. Here, you’ll have access to the Sutro Baths and spot pieces from a 1936 shipwreck. The hike starts from Point Lobos and goes to El Camino Del Mar. Choose from trails including the Sutro Heights Loop Trail, Sutro Baths Upper Trail, and the Coastal Trail. We suggest printing the map.
680 Point Lobos Avenue, San Francisco
Like in all of the places on our list, there are a few trails you could take on this Sausalito-side hike. Do like Julia Engel and hike the short but steep one-mile distance to the top of Slacker Hill. (Start from the parking lot and take the coastal trail to the top). Here, you’ll take in gorgeous views of the Golden Gate Bridge and downtown San Francisco.
Golden Gate View Point, 5702 Conzelman Road, Mill Valley
Filbert and Greenwich Steps
Near the Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill are these two sets of stairways where you can get your steps in. The Filbert and Greenwich Streets are nestled within lush landscaping and a short walk from one another. At Filbert, expect to see concrete and wooden steep steps, while the Greenwich ones are brick. Regardless of which you do, climbing them will kick your butt, which we’re all about because summer is around the corner.
231 Greenwich Street, San Francisco
This dog-friendly hike (just search the location on Instagram) has various path options including hiking along the cliffs toward Mussel Rock Beach. Note: It gets pretty windy up here. Also, from Fort Funston, Lake Merced is a stone's throw away where you could hike along the lake.
Fort Funston Road, San Francisco
There are tons of trails in Marin Headlands (check out the map), including a one-and-a-half-mile loop around Rodeo Lagoon at Fort Cronkhite, where we’d recommend having a picnic at dog-friendly Rodeo Beach. Or walk along the half-mile Point Bonita Trail to the southernmost tip, where you can reach the lighthouse. (Note: The tunnel halfway to the lighthouse is only open Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays.) There’s also Fort Baker in Marin Headlands, with many paths including a one-mile loop along Drown Road and the Chapel Steps Trail. From here, you can head down to the Fort Baker Bay Trail for views of the boats at bay.
Marin Headlands, Sausalito
Hiking to the top of Twin Peaks is a must—at least once—if you’re visiting San Francisco. The path has a lot of twists and turns, with stairs leading you to the top. Once here, expect to see, well, tourists but also some of the most expansive views of the Bay Area, including Bernal Hill, Mount Davidson (which is the highest point in SF), downtown San Francisco, and Marin County.
501 Twin Peaks Boulevard, San Francisco
Speaking of the highest point in San Francisco, try the trail to the top of Mount Davidson. The mile-and-a-half loop will lead you through a eucalyptus tree forest, blackberry plants, and coastal scrub. Take your dog (on a leash), bike, walk, or run up the beginner-level path, where you’ll find one of San Francisco’s oldest landmarks: a concrete cross that’s a memorial to the Armenian Genocide. (Sidenote: Armenia is where this editor was born and grew up. It’s also Teni Panosian’s background!) It goes without saying the tallest peak in San Francisco offers expansive views of the city, too.
39 Dalewood Way, San Francisco
Do you have a favorite place to go hiking in San Francisco that isn’t on our list? Share in the comments below!