6 Ways to Get Active in San Francisco

How to have fun while keeping fit in the City by the Bay

If you’re ready to start the New Year off right, San Francisco is a good place to be. The city is paradise for those seeking an active lifestyle. We have mild weather year-round for outdoor pursuits and a glorious natural backdrop to inspire us. Here you can hike along the Pacific with the majestic Marin Headlands on the horizon on Lands End Trail or kayak under the Golden Gate Bridge in the sparkling bay. Around the city, you’ll glimpse bikers of all ages whizzing by, many with yoga mats jutting out of their messenger bags, and in the parks you’ll encounter runners of every stripe. At Ocean Beach, you’ll spot surfers and kite boarders dotting the water despite the chilly winds. While you’re here, take a cue from the locals and set off on a fitness excursion. Here’s your guide to hiking, biking, running, kayaking, climbing, trampoline jumping (!) and more in the City by the Bay.

 

Hike

You don’t have to leave the city limits to get in a heart-pumping, nature-filled hike or run. As its name implies, Lands End Trail is located in the outer reaches of the city on the Pacific Coast, and it feels somewhat like the edge of the earth. The gorgeous, well maintained 3.5-mile out-and-back trail is packed with photo-worthy vistas. Jagged cliffs covered in windswept cypresses dramatically meet blue sea, with the Golden Gate Bridge and grand Marin Headlands in the distance. If you have energy to spare when you reach the end of the trail, continue on to admire the mansions in the Sea Cliff neighborhood and take a detour to Baker Beach, a mile-long stretch of sand tucked below rugged hills with a famous panoramic view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Before or after your hike, be sure to make time to visit the beautiful new Lands End Lookout Visitor Center, which outlines the nature and history of the area and has a nice gift shop and cafe. The Presidio, a former military base on the northern edge of San Francisco with a magnificent forest of pine, eucalyptus and cypress trees, is now a flourishing park with nearly 1,500 acres, more than 25 miles of trails and views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the bay. Plan your route on the park’s helpful website. Crissy Field, a restored tidal marsh, makes another beautiful walk. On the 3.5-mile path, you’re likely to spot birds (more than 135 species have been seen) as well as kite surfers attracted by the ideal breezes. 

 Biker on the Embarcadero (©SF Travel

Bike

San Francisco’s infamous hills can be intimidating, but there are plenty of reasonably flat and scenic routes on the 65 (and counting) miles of bike lanes around the city. You have plenty of options for borrowing a pair of wheels if you haven’t brought your own. Popular rental outfits include Blazing Saddles, Bike and Roll and the Electric Tour Company. Some of the best recreational bike routes are the waterfront path along the Embarcadero, where you’ll pass AT&T Park, the Ferry Building, giant palm trees and Coit Tower, as well as the ride along pristine Marina Green to the strikingly scenic and picnic-friendly Crissy Field promenade.

On Sundays in the vast Golden Gate Park (larger than Central Park), two miles of JFK Drive are closed to traffic. The road goes by the Conservatory of Flowers, the de Young Museum, the California Academy of Sciences and lush waterfalls, and if you pedal to the end of the park you’ll come across grazing bison and the Dutch Windmill. For a more urban ride, the path down hip and buzzing Valencia Street in the Mission District is entirely flat with designated bike lanes. But perhaps the finest trip for visitors is the ride from the northern waterfront to the picturesque seaside town of Sausalito. It takes cyclists along the bay’s edge, starting on Embarcadero (with its freshly painted green bike lanes) and climbing up Fort Mason (the arresting views of the bay and Golden Gate Bridge alleviate the steep but brief ascent) before a flat, pleasant ride parallel to Marina Green. Another incline up past historic Fort Point leads to the Golden Gate Bridge, which bikers cross to their final destination. After the seven-mile jaunt, most riders break for lunch, brews or ice cream and opt to take the ferry back. No matter where you cycle, be sure to ride perpendicular to MUNI light rail and cable car tracks. They’re a common cause of two-wheeled spills. Also, take advantage of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition's website, a valuable resource for tips, info and maps. 

Yoga class in Golden Gate Park (©Purusha Yoga) 

Workout in the Park

San Francisco parks host free outdoor yoga and dance classes and skating sessions on the weekends. On Saturdays in Golden Gate Park, you can roll out your yoga mat for a morning class or take swing dance lessons (DJ included; no partner required) in the afternoon. On Sundays in Dolores Park, you can get your om on at yoga class or go old school with group skating at 6th Avenue and Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park. Skate rentals are available at the nearby Golden Gate Park Bike and Skate.

 Climber at an indoor climbing gym (©Mission Cliffs)

Climb

San Francisco is home to a world-class climbing gym with 50-foot-high walls and 23,000 square feet of climbing terrain. The newly expanded, wildly popular Mission Cliffs is the original flagship of the world’s largest indoor climbing company, Touchstone Climbing. Its new sister gym, Dogpatch Boulders, dedicated to a type of rock climbing that does not use ropes or harnesses, is the largest gym of its kind in the country. On the other side of the city, climbers can scale walls at Planet Granite, another spiffy climbing gym conveniently located in the verdant Presidio. 

 Paddling in the bay (©City Kayak)

Kayak

If you want to get out on the water, several local outfitters (City Kayak, Sea Trek and San Francisco Kayak and Adventures) catering to both beginner and advanced paddlers lead tours from downtown San Francisco and Sausalito’s Richardson Bay. You’ll get spectacular views of the skyline, and you’re likely to encounter some wildlife as well—harbor seals, pelicans, bat rays, porpoise, herons and egrets are all a possibility. On a windless day, you can paddle under the Golden Gate Bridge. Another option is to paddle from South Beach into the famous McCovey Cove outside AT&T Park (where you might catch a fly ball).

 Jumper at indoor trampoline park (©House of Air)

Jump

Kids go crazy for House of Air, an indoor trampoline park in a historic airplane hangar with incredible views of the Golden Gate Bridge. But you’ll also see adults and couples bouncing to their hearts content (and getting in some serious cardio) on the impressive main trampoline floor, which is bigger than a regulation size basketball court. The park hosts open jump time by the hour (just 60 minutes is enough to leave about anyone utterly exhausted), trampoline dodge ball and fitness classes. Little ones ages 3 to 6 have their own inflatable bounce house. Make reservations in advance because slots fill up quickly. 

 

 

Rachel Ward
About the author

Rachel serves as the San Francisco editor fo...