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: http://goo.gl/Orzy1K. 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.


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