Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Hike all of SF Post 4: Take a Stroll with Sutro

I'm on a mission to #hikeallofsf. These are the stories of my hikes.

Interior Greenbelt and Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve
Hike Name: Interior Greenbelt and Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve
Location: Twin Peaks
Distance: 3 miles
Difficulty: Easy - moderate

One of the best moments on our Urban Jungles tours is when our hikers enter a eucalyptus forest behind Sutro Tower. I love to see people's eyes widen when they discover a vast expanse of green space right in the center of the city. And this is just scratching the surface...

Between the northwest end of Twin Peaks and the southeast end of Golden Gate Park are two parks that combine to form 80 acres of eucalyptus forest, the Interior Greenbelt (19 acres) and Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve (61 acres).

About Adolph Sutro

Eucalyptus Trees on the Trail
These parks were once the private land of Adolph Sutro, the mayor of San Francisco from 1894 to 1896. Before he was mayor, Sutro was a German immigrant and an engineer who came to San Francisco in 1850 to make a fortune in gold. When Sutro's dreams of gold were crushed, he became a tobacconist, eventually owning three stores. Now with dreams of silver, he sold his stores took off for Nevada. His goal was to construct a tunnel that would help drain and mine the Comstock Lode.

More Eucalyptus Trees on the Trail
The tunnel was constructed between 1869-1878, but toward the end of that time, Sutro realized the silver deposits were wearing thin. He immediately sold his shares in the tunnel and made millions. He then returned back to San Francisco and bought up 1/12 of the city's land. One of Sutro’s many land holdings was Mount Parnassus (now Mount Sutro). While this land was once covered in native grasses and shrubs, Sutro began planting the hill with imported eucalyptus trees in 1886 in celebration of Arbor Day. The non-native and invasive eucalyptus thrived in its new location and became the main tree species on the hill.

The parks today
Today, Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve is owned by UCSF, and the Interior Greenbelt is owned by the city of San Francisco. They are both maintained by a volunteer group, the Sutro Stewards.

So I digress...back to the hike!

For a full map of this route, visit:
Route Details
A full map of this route is here:

I recommend starting this hike in the Interior Greenbelt at the stairway just south of 17th and Stanyan. At the top of the stairs, you will find yourself on the Historic Trail. Follow this trail until you reach a main road, Medical Center Way.

Cross the street *carefully* to continue on the Historic Trail. You will now be in Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve. To explore Mount Sutro's summit (909 feet), continue on the Historic Trail until it intersects with the South Ridge Trail. Then take the South Ridge Trail, and make a left onto Nike Road to continue up to the summit. You will know you are there because you will see a clearing as well as informational signage about the park.

Mount Sutro Trail Markers
To get back to your start, take the East Ridge Trail (or the Mystery Trail to the East Ridge Trail) down to Johnstone Drive. Walk down the hill and pass Medical Center Way again. Then, on your left, you will see a UCSF sign for 66 Johnstone Drive. Just behind that sign you will see trail markers again. From here, you can get onto the Fairy Gates Trail, which will connect you back to the Historic Trail and finally to 17th and Stanyan. 

For a shorter variation (red shortcut above)
If you're up for a slightly shorter hike (1.75 miles) that still visits the summit, follow
Historic Trail --> Edgewood Trail --> North Ridge Trail. At the end of this trail, you will be at the Mount Sutro summit. From there follow the same directions to the hike's end.

We hope you'll enjoy exploring this eucalyptus forest in the center of the city. If you go on this hike, let us know what you think by leaving a comment.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Hike all of SF Post 3: The Philosopher's Way

I'm on a mission to #hikeallofsf. These are the stories of my hikes.

Area of detail - McLaren Park
Hike Name: Philosopher's Way
Location: McLaren Park in Visitacion Valley
Distance: 2.7 miles
Difficulty: Easy

In the past week, summer weather has arrived in San Francisco. When you live here, you never know when the heat will suddenly come - or go - so I wanted to make sure to get outside while balmy temperatures lasted.

Philosopher's Way Hikes
I decided to head to McLaren Park to do a hike called the "Philosopher's Way." There are Philosopher's Walks or Philosopher's Ways in many cities such as Heidelberg, Toronto, and Kyoto. Their goal is to provide an opportunity to walk, ponder, and meditate.

About McLaren Park
Map of McLaren Park and the Philosopher's Way
McLaren Park is the second largest park in the city after Golden Gate Park. It's less central, and as a result, less visited, however, it still houses a number of appealing points of interest including seven miles of walking trails, a golf course, a water tower, a reservoir, a lake, and the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater.

About the hike
The Philosopher's Way (larger map here) allows you to explore a large part of McLaren park while walking a distance achievable by most people (2.7 miles).

You can start your hike in the Overlook parking lot at the intersection of Mansell Street and Visitacion Avenue. From there, head to the southwestern corner of the lot, and you will see the start of the trails.

Looking back toward the start of the hike between two groves of trees.

One of 60+ markers to help you find your way
At the hike start, you have views of the bay, San Bruno Mountain, and the Cow Palace. To keep you on the path, you'll look out for stone pillars with arrows that show you the way. Interspersed with these pillars are other markers with quotes or images that give you something to think about. 

Note: When you see two arrows on a pillar, one set of arrows will take you on the full Philosopher's Way route, while the other will take you on a shorter route. You will have to use your sense of direction (or Google Maps) to judge which arrow will keep you more toward the center of the park, and which will take you to the outer periphery of the park.

After starting in a clearing, the path goes through groves of cypress and eucalyptus trees. Keep following the markers until you reach Mansell Street. Cross Mansell Street, and then you will find yourself in a grassy meadow littered with the occasional tree.

Runners on the Philosopher's Way

The water tower
At this point, you are making your way to the 80-foot-tall blue water tower at the top of the park. Standing near the water tower, you will have unobstructed views of downtown San Francisco, Twin Peaks, and Mount Davidson. If you brought a picnic lunch, this is the perfect place to take a break while taking in the views.

Heading back to the start
Philosopher's Way stairway
After you visit the water tower, you can visit McNab lake, or you can continue on the path. You will walk through over some shaded areas with paved walkways and stairs.
While on this part of the trail, feel free to visit the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater. Or, once you cross John F Shelley Boulevard, you can take a walk to McNab Lake.

After a relaxing 2.7 miles, you will cross Mansell Avenue again, and you should see the parking lot at your right. 

'It ain't over 'til it's over'
If you're up for a little more walking, follow the markers to the east side of Visitacion Avenue. You will see a picnic area with stunning views of the Visitacion Valley neighborhood. You can then take the trails back and return to the parking lot.

Getting there
By car: Look for the Overlook parking lot on Mansell Street and Visitacion Avenue 
By bus: Take Muni's No. 29 line to Mansell Street and John F. Shelley Drive. Then, walk east on Mansell to reach the Overlook parking lot.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Hike all of SF Post 2: Batteres to Bluffs Trail

I'm on a mission to hike all of SF. These are the stories of my hikes.

Area of detail in the Presidio
My last hike all of SF post was about hiking from Fort Funston to the Cliff House. This post is about another great coastal hike, the Batteries to Bluffs Trail.

This gorgeous bayside trail is short - 0.7 miles one way -  but still manages to pack a punch due to a large number of stairs. But don’t worry too much about the stairs, there is plenty to distract you. When you’re not staring at breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, or the Marin Headlands, you can learn about the historic gun batteries you’ll pass the cliffs. 

So what's with the gun batteries? 
As a direct result of the Gold Rush, San Francisco's population exploded from 50(!) in 1844 to over 20,000 in 1850. With this mass influx of people and with San Francisco now on the figurative map, a joint Army-Navy board called for a plan to defend the San Francisco Bay and Pacific Coast. The first forts were put into place on either side of the Golden Gate - one at Fort Point in San Francisco, and the other at Fort Lime, in Marin. 

As time went, on more forts were built, and in 1885, President Grover Cleveland established what was known as the Endicott Board (named after Secretary of War William Endicott) to modernize forts across 22 seaports across the US.    

Battery Godfrey with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background
The first E
ndicott-era battery was built between 1892-1896. This battery, later named Battery Godfrey, remained in place during World War I and over a year of World War II before being decommissioned in 1943. Neighbors Battery Crosby and Battery Boutelle were both completed around 1900. While the guns of Battery Boutelle were dismounted in 1917 (for use in WWI), Battery Crosby remained in operation until 1943. 

The batteries have been out of use for decades now, however, they are worth a visit for an understanding of San Francisco's past.
Batteries to Bluffs western trailhead

Back to the present day...
To visit the Batteries to Bluffs Trail, you can start at the north or south trailhead. In the north, you can park in the Langdon Court parking lot. In the south, you can look for 2-hour parking on Pershing Drive at Lincoln Boulevard. For those of you taking the bus, Muni's #29 line will do the job for you. 

Add another battery to your arsenal (get it?!)
For a slightly longer hike, start your walk at the Baker Beach parking lot. You can walk to the end of the beach to find Battery Chamberlain. Then head up to Lincoln Boulevard and you'll soon see the Batteries to Bluffs trailhead on your left. 

PS - We weren't kidding about the stairs
Let us know what you think of this trail by leaving us a comment on this post. Happy hiking!

Friday, February 14, 2014

10 unexpected outdoor (and mainly free!) date ideas to impress your Valentine this February 14th

So once again Valentine’s Day is upon us. And you’ve planned…..nothing. Don’t let yourself end up in this situation. If you’re in San Francisco and poor planning is your thing, you’re in luck - some of the best Valentines Day ideas here require neither reservations nor prior planning.

If your special someone likes spending time outdoors, places like Twin Peaks and Ocean Beach are always crowd pleasers. However, if you want to go a little farther off the beaten path, here are 10 unexpected spots (in no particular order) to share with your love this February 14th.

  • Vibe: Romantic, Classic SF 
  • Neighborhood: Russian Hill 
  • Details: What this park lacks in size, it more than makes up for in romantic ambience. After climbing a quick flight of stairs, you’ll find yourself on a small platform that is Jack Early Park. This pint-sized wonder has panoramic views of the Bay including the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, and Alcatraz. What’s more is that while you can fit approximately 10 people in the park, nine times out of 10 there are approximately zero people up there. So, what are you waiting for? Let the smoochfest begin.

2. Lovers Lane
  • Vibe: Romantic and historic
  • Neighborhood: Presidio 
  • Details: In late 1700s, the Spanish used this footpath to walk between the Mission and the Presidio. A century later, US soldiers used this path to walk back into town to meet up with their sweethearts. The walk itself is short, but sweet. Don’t miss out on a photo opp of you and your partner in front of the Lovers Lane trailmarker, and while you’re here, why not check out  nearby Wood Line (photo below).

3. Andy Goldsworty Works in the Presidio

  • Vibe: Casual, but cultured
  •  Neighborhood: Presidio
  • Details: English artist, Andy Goldsworthy now has three large-scale artworks in the Presidio including Wood Line Mentioned above. You’ll get bonus points for all the planning it will look like you did.

4. The Ecology Trail (plus wine and cheese!)
  • Vibe: Rustic, but cultured
  • Neighborhood: Presidio 
  • Details: The Ecology Trail houses the Presidio’s largest redwood grove. On one end of the trail, you can walk to Spire and Inspiration Point. On the other end, you have the Presidio Main Post. I recommend starting your hike at the Main Post, walking to one end of the trail and then back. On your way back, stop for a glass of wine at the firepit in the back of the Inn at the Presidio.  

  • Vibe: Carefree fun
  • Neighborhood: Bernal Heights
  • Details: Want something fun and free spirited to do for Valentine’s Day weekend? Then you perfect itinerary might include a walk up Bernal Hill and a ride down the Bernal Heights Mini Park Slides. The slides are less-well-known than the Seward Street Slides, so you’ll get extra points from your special man or lady for your insider knowledge. 

  • Vibe: Carefree fun 
  • Neighborhood: Glen Park 
  • Details: For another carefree and fun idea, try the Billy Goat Hill Rope Swing. While just featured on the cover of San Francisco Magazine (check out the January cover here), this spot is still a secret to many locals. 

7. The Sunset’s new Mosaic Steps 
via @mcarrick on flickr:
  • Vibe: Quirky fun 
  • Neighborhood: Bernal Heights 
  • Details: Now in addition to the 16th Avenue Tiled steps, there is a new mosaic stairway just down the road. You can combine both stairways into a fun stairway walk. Then, after you’ve burned some calories, head back to Irving Street for some delicious ethnic food.

8. Hilltop Picnic Anywhere! 
  • Vibe: Romantic 
  • Neighborhood: All over SF 
  • Details: Grab a bottle of wine and snacks and you’re off! Climb up to your nearest hilltop park (we’ve got over 40 hills - one of them has to be near you) and you’re all set for a perfect picnic for two. Whether it’s Bernal, Corona, Tank Hill, or Kite Hill, unless Karl the Fog has taken over the city, you can’t go wrong.

9. Urban Hike and wine tasting on Treasure Island
  • Vibe: Eclectic  
  • Neighborhood: Treasure Island 
  • Details: Yes, Treasure Island is part of SF, and yes there are wineries on the island. Check out our blogpost on the subject for an example itinerary that will make you look like you’ve got it all planned.

  • via @ stevedamron on flickr:
    Vibe: Romantic, beachy
  • Neighborhood: Sea Cliff
  • While folks are congregating on Ocean Beach and Baker Beach, you’ll have China Beach to yourself. A neighborhood gem in Sea Cliff, it’s quieter and has fewer visitors than its neighboring beaches. You can have a picnic or watch the sunset here, but whatever you do, definitely bring a sweater!

So there you have it - 10 ideas to try out on Valentines Day. Even with more planning next year, you might not be able to beat these great unexpected outdoor gems.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Hike all of SF Post 1: California Coastal Trail from Fort Funston to the Cliff House

I'm on a mission to hike all of SF. These are the stories of my hikes.
With my goal to conquer all the hiking trails of San Francisco, I first had to figure out a starting point. I wanted to tackle something big to get my momentum up, and chose to hike all the segments on and near the California Coastal Trail, or CCT. One day, the CCT will line the entire 1,200 mile coast of California, and today, it is over half complete. Within San Francisco's city limits, the trail runs from Fort Funston to the Golden Gate Bridge. I decided to break up the trail into a number of segments, and started by hiking from Fort Funston to the Cliff House.

About Fort Funston
See, I told you there were a lot of dogs.
Fort Funston was originally built as a military fort in the early 1900s, and was named for the Major General Frederick Funston after his death in 1917.  
Today, when San Franciscans think of Fort Funston, they generally think of two things - dogs and dunes.

This sandy spot, well-loved by dogs and their humans alike, can fill up with literally hundreds of pups at a time. For that reason, we don't recommend hiking here if you’re not a fan of four-legged friends. If you have a dog, however this a veritable doggy Disneyland full of sights, smells, and space unparalleled elsewhere in the city. There are no leash laws here, so your pets can roam free along the trails.

Other remarkable features of this area are the wind and  200 foot high cliffs that overlook the Pacific. Both of these combine to create an air current called “Funston Shear,” which makes the area a choice spot for hang gliders.


CCT Hike #1 - Fort Funston to the Cliff House
Fort Funston Trail Map

Hike Statistics
  • Distance: 5 miles 
  • Elevation: -200 feet 
  • Time: 2-3 hours
  •  Dog Friendly: Dogs allowed off leash at Fort Funston. Dogs are required to be on leash on Ocean Beach. 
  • Notes: One segment of the hike is impassible at high tide. Please check tide table (info below) to properly time your hike.

For a complete trail map of Fort Funston Trail, look here.


Area to look out for in high tide
Before you start:
In the past, you could use walk on the Coastal Trail through Fort Funston and connect directly to Ocean Beach. As a segment of this trail is now closed due to erosion, you can now reach Ocean Beach by hiking below Fort Funston on the beach.

While this route may seem straightforward (it is a straight line after all!), hikers will have to pay attention to the tides as one part of the beach is impassable at high tide (if you don’t want to swim, that is). In order to properly time this hike, you should consult the tide table for Ocean Beach: You will ideally want to do the hike at a time when the tide is at one to two feet. If you forget to reference the tide tables, don’t worry, you won’t get stuck! You can always turn around and head back to your start.

Route Details:
Sand Ladder at Fort Funston

To start this hike, head from the Fort Funston parking lot directly to the Sand Ladder, a steep downhill climb to the beach 200 feet below. Then, turn right and start walking north until you reach Ocean Beach. 
Fort Funston turns into Ocean Beach at Sloat Boulevard, which you’ll pass right after the San Francisco Zoo. If you decide to take the beach route to the Cliff House, you can walk on the beach until you reach Balboa Street. At that point, you can take a sidewalk up to the Cliff House.

If you want to walk close to the ocean, but on firmer (paved) ground, you can follow these directions:

From Sloat Boulevard, you can walk on paths on either side of Great Highway. After two miles, you will reach Lincoln Way, which marks the bottom of Golden Gate Park. (As a note, after Lincoln, the streets are named alphabetically from Irving Street to Sloat Boulevard). Once you reach Fulton Street, you’re at the top of Golden Gate Park. You can continue on either side of Great Highway until Balboa Street, where you’ll have to walk on the ocean side of the street to take the paved path up to the Cliff House. 

Getting there
  • Public Transit: MUNI Bus #18 brings you close to Fort Funston. For MUNI bus information, call 311. Outside San Francisco, call (415) 701-2311. 
  • Parking: Free parking is available at Fort Funston off Highway 35.