Thursday, February 27, 2014

Hike all of SF Post 2: Batteries 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 pass on 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: Telegraph 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 / Diamond Heights
  • 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. Hidden Garden Mosaic Steps
via @mcarrick on flickr:
  • Vibe: Quirky fun 
  • Neighborhood: Inner Sunset
  • 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.