Hiking in the Marin Headlands across the Golden Gate Bridge

Hiking in the Marin Headlands across the Golden Gate Bridge (©Kirke Wrench/NPS)

Things to Do in San Francisco: Outdoor Adventures

By Rachel Ward on 04/28/15, updated 10/12/15
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The Bay Area is home to a large number of outdoor enthusiasts—ultra-marathoners, triathletes, avid cyclists, backpackers and windsurfers take advantage of all the glorious natural splendor that's so conveniently accessible to the city of San Francisco. The mild temperatures allow for year-round outdoor recreation, and the region boasts an exhaustive variety of spectacular landscapes, diverse terrain and majestic wildlife (from mountain lions to orcas). 

To really appreciate the San Francisco Bay Area, take a cue from local athletes and nature-lovers and plan your own outdoor adventure. Run through Crissy Field or Golden Gate Park, bike over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, climb up Mt. Tam or spend a day hiking through the rugged Marin Headlands

 

Lands End

©Mason Cummings

Attractions

Lands End

This gorgeous trail winding along the rocky, windswept, cypress-lined Pacific Coast leads to striking views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the ocean. The beautiful Lands End Lookout visitor center at the entrance offers context on area's natural and cultural history and houses a gift shop, cafe and restrooms.

Crissy Field

Crissy Field with Alcatraz in the background. (©Mason Cummings)

Attractions

Crissy Field

This formerly abandoned airfield is now one of the city's most beautiful and popular trails for walking, running and cycling. The flat waterfront path offers views of the Golden Gate Bridge, bird-watching (the restored marsh is home to rare species), beaches, picnic sites and two cafes.

Marin Headlands

(©NPS/Kirke Wrench)

Attractions

Marin Headlands

Just across the Golden Gate Bridge, these wild and majestic hills are the jewel of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Come for sweeping vistas of San Francisco (most notably from Hawk Hill), a plethora of wildlife (bobcats, otters, seals), beaches and miles of biking and hiking trails, including a jaunt to Point Bonita Lighthouse.

The Presidio

Aerial look at The Presidio from the East.

Attractions

The Presidio

A former military post on the city's northern tip, the Presidio is now a wooded national park with 1,480 acres. It's home to 24 miles of hiking trails, 14 miles of paved cycling trails, eight beautiful vista points, outdoor art by nature sculptor Andy Goldsworthy and popular picnic events with food trucks.

Kayaking by the Golden Gate Bridge

(©City Kayak)

Activities

City Kayak

Advanced and well-equipped paddlers can venture out into the sparkling San Francisco Bay, and beginners can book guided kayaking trips along the city's shoreline.

Golden Gate Park

(©SF Travel)

Attractions

Golden Gate Park

This massive city park, home to thousands of acres of trees, is a destination for walking, running and biking. You're also likely to spot locals practicing yoga, skating, swing dancing and paddle boating.

San Franciscans flock north to Marin to hike, cycle, camp and horseback ride on this 2,572 foot-high mountain. The park connects to a 200-mile trail system, and the views from the summit are spectacular, stretching all the way to the Sierra Nevada mountain range on a clear day.

Sausalito waterfront

(©cdrin/Shutterstock)

Areas to Explore

Sausalito

Rent a bike and cycle from San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge to the charming seaside town of Sausalito, where you can enjoy lunch and ice cream. Most touring cyclists opt to take the ferry back to the city.

Angel Island

(©California Parks Company)

Attractions

Angel Island

Head to this state park, accessible only via a scenic ferry ride, for hiking, biking, camping, picnicking and outstanding views of San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area.

Ocean Beach

Gull sp. at Ocean Beach (©John Leszczynski, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License)

Attractions

Ocean Beach

This beach's waters are frigid and dangerous, but it still draws serious surfers. The shore is a popular spot for locals, who come to run, walk their dogs and build bonfires. Rare bird and whale sightings aren't uncommon.

Baker Beach

(©SF Travel)

Attractions

Baker Beach

This is arguably the city's most scenic beach, surrounded by rugged cliffs with views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Naturally, it's a popular spot for sunset walks and picnics.

Muir Woods

(©Adam Kazmierski/iStock)

Attractions

Muir Woods National Monument

This famous grove of virgin redwoods, filled with trees that are 400-800 years old and more than 250 feet high, feels worlds away from busy San Francisco although it's just 16 miles outside the city. Paved walking trails take visitors up close to the giant trees.

Map of Things to Do in San Francisco: Outdoor Adventures

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