The beautiful surroundings of San
Francisco offer many exciting outdoor
opportunities. From bridges to beaches and
scenic headlands, parks, preserves, and hiking
trails, there's something (a lot) here for
everyone to savor.
There are myriad parks -- national, regional, and local -- to explore, and you'll enjoy walking through The City's many neighborhoods -- Chinatown, North Beach, The Presidio, The Embarkadero, and more.
Walk the Golden Gate Bridge
With parking lots at both ends of the great bridge,
you'll have easy access to some of the finest views of
the city and bay. This half-hour walk (one-way) leads
from the toll station plaza at the edge of the Presidio
to the large parking lot and viewpoint on the Marin side.
Along the bridge and from the Marin side, are splendid
views and memorable photo opportunities. And if you have
a car at the Marin side, we suggest that you continue on
to the Marin Headlands. For photos and lots of bridge
information, go to the Golden
Gate Bridge website.
This wonderful scenery is part of the Golden Gate
National Recreation Area. The Marin Headlands Visitor
Center, at Fort Barry, is open daily 9:30 a.m. to 4:30
p.m. For information on ranger-led hikes and other
Follow the signs pointing west shortly after driving
north across the Golden Gate Bridge. The road leading
sharply up the hill takes you to a number of attractions
-- historic and scenic. The main headlands route is
Conzelman Road. Turn right onto McCullough Road, and
drive into Rodeo Valley. Fort Cronkhite, formerly an army
post built to guard the Golden Gate, is located here.
There is a small visitor center at the fort, which is
also the regional headquarters for the Golden Gate
National Recreation Area. A few trails lead to scenic
views and historic artifacts. There's a picnic area with
another good view of the city.
Rodeo Beach is a sandbar separating the Pacific
and Rodeo Lagoon. The beach is a good place to look at
the ocean, and for an informal picnic.
Point Bonita Lighthouse, has been on the
headlands since 1855. The lighthouse is situated on a
ridge, reached through a tunnel and a high foot bridge.
The tunnel and lighthouse are open from 12:30 p.m. to
3:30 p.m. on weekends. But don't miss this walk if you're
there at other times. The view from the tunnel entrance
is worth the walk.
Beaches and More
Several beaches lie next to the busy city. Two are
close to the downtown area -- China Beach and Baker Beach. Lands End is a cluster of
hiking trails and cliffs above the shoreline that provide
an excellent way to get some exercise without leaving the
The largest beach -- on the Pacific Ocean -- is at
Point Lobos. Ocean Beach stretches for several
miles from the Cliff House and Seal Rocks
-- and the ruins of the old Sutro Baths. The views here
are excellent, and the beach is often sunny when the
nearby Golden Gate area is shrouded in fog. The Cliff
House contains two restaurants -- both with views -- and
a museum of historic amusement arcade games.
Fort Point and the Presidio
Under the Golden Gate Bridge on the city side. Call
556-1693 for information on Fort Point activities and
exhibits. The Fort is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Wednesday through Sunday.
This little corner of the city, west of the main
Presidio, offers one of the city's great vistas -- a huge
panorama of ocean, with the bridge above, the city to the
east, and headland across the Golden Gate channel.
The fort is a national historic site, and park rangers
dressed in period soldier suits demonstrate what army
life was like a century ago: loading cannons and
conducting rifle drills. You can prowl the great echoing
corridors of the fort and capture stop-action glimpses of
the city through its windows and gun ports. Go up to to
the old cannon batteries atop its eight-foot-thick
The fort was constructed in the 1850's.
One-hundred-twenty-six cannons were aimed at the Golden
Gate channel. The enemy never appeared, and the cannons
were withdrawn around 1900. The U.S. Army occupied the
fort during World War II and again aimed guns on the
channel, waiting for Japanese ships. The Japanese Navy
never showed up and today, the fort is a tourist
attraction, one of the less-visited in the city.
Close to the Fort, The Presidio, the army base
that the Spanish first established, has now been turned
over to San Francisco and the National Park Service.
While the Presidio will be under new construction for
some years, Crissy Field -- once an airbus landing strip
-- is being reshaped as a recreation center, and a salt
marsh is being restored along the shorefront. The
Presidio offers some of the finest views of the bay and
the Golden Gate Bridge.
Muir Woods and Pt. Reyes
This highest point of land in the San Francisco area
is Mt. Tamalpais (Mt. Tam to locals). It is found
north of the Golden Gate, in Marin County. Highway 1
leads west to the ocean shore from the freeway (Hwy 101),
at Mill Valley. Highway 1 also leads to two superb
natural places, Muir Woods and the Pt. Reyes
Muir Woods National Monument is a lovely
setting of coastal redwoods and coastal hills, just off
Highway 1 (follow the signs). A small creek winds through
a deep valley with the redwood grove. It takes a
half-hour to get there from the city, and you should
schedule about two hours to soak in the atmosphere of the
Pt. Reyes National Seashore is an amazing piece
of land on the Marin Coast. The San Andreas Fault
separates it from the mainland, and the fault in this
area (near the town of Olema, was the epicenter of the
devastating 1903 San Francisco Earthquake. The entrance
road crosses the fault and near the park visitor center
is an earthquake display. Whale and bird watching are
favorite activities along the seashore, and people hike
to see elk that live at the northern end of the preserve.
Several trails cross the hills and seaside meadows, and
the famous lighthouse at the southwest point is a popular