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, 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.