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The 7 Best S.F. Hikes With Stunning Views

The 7 Best S.F. Hikes With Stunning Views

By California.com
January 12, 2021

As California mitigates health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, some travel restrictions may remain in certain communities. Call the local and regional tourism offices to learn more about the restrictions in your intended destination. Thank you for reading, and stay safe. 

Wondering how to kick off your New Year’s resolution to work out more? Look no further than a scenic S.F. hike. The best hikes in San Francisco feature mesmerizing views, beautiful flora, unique landmarks, or wildlife-viewing opportunities—and a breathtaking geological feature (or two) is certainly a much-appreciated bonus.

Whether it’s a trek along the famous coast, through the busy city, or across lush national parks, the best San Francisco Bay Area trails offer something extra special that sets them above the rest. When you’re looking for places to hike in San Francisco, these are the routes you can’t miss.

The Best Hikes in San Francisco

Trek along the scenic Lands End Trail to experience one of the best hiking trails in San Francisco.

1. Lands End Trail

Location: 680 Point Lobos Avenue, San Francisco

Parking: Available at the Lands End Lookout Visitor Center

Level of difficulty: Moderate 

Round-trip length: 3.5 miles

Route: Loop

Pet policy: Dogs allowed on leash

This S.F. hiking trail is a favorite among Bay Area residents. With access to the historic Sutro Baths and brilliant vistas of the Pacific Ocean and Golden Gate Bridge, the Lands End Trail is a must-see for any visitor. Also one of the best dog-friendly hikes in the Bay Area, this trail in San Francisco offers varied terrain, sweeping views, beautiful wildflowers, and a cliff-top walk through dark cypress trees. 

If you have a couple of hours to spare after your S.F. hike, drop by the nearby Legion of Honor Museum (open during normal circumstances). Built to commemorate the California soldiers who died during World War I, the museum now displays an impressive collection of 4,000 years of ancient and European art. 

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Hike the Twin Peaks Trail in time for golden hour and be rewarded with breathtaking sunset views of the city.

2. Twin Peaks Hike

Location: 501 Twin Peaks Boulevard, San Francisco

Parking: Free parking available in the north peak lot 

Level of difficulty: Easy–moderate

Round-trip length: 2.1 miles

Route: Out and back

Pet policy: Dogs allowed on leash

Wondering where to watch the sunset in Northern California? Head to Twin Peaks. The Twin Peaks Trail is one of the best hikes in San Francisco, offering panoramic views, vibrant wildflowers, paved pathways, and easy access (thanks to its location in the middle of the city). 

This popular S.F. hike is accessible year-round and usually heavily trafficked; it is often used by hikers, runners, cyclists, and drivers alike. If you’re not looking to share the trail with lots of other people, we recommend going early on a weekday, but if crowds don’t bother you, traverse the trail during golden hour. You’ll be rewarded with amazing sunset views at the top by the time you finish this short urban hike in S.F.

Enjoy sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and dramatic S.F. skyline while exploring the Angel Island Perimeter Loop.

3. Angel Island Perimeter Loop

Location: Angel Island State Park

Parking: No parking (you get to the island via ferry)

Level of difficulty: Easy

Round-trip length: 5.9 miles

Route: Loop

Pet policy: No pets allowed

Tranquility in San Francisco? Turns out, that isn’t too far fetched of an idea after all. Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, this Angel Island hike offers a calm escape amidst magnificent Bay Area views—you can spot the Tiburon Peninsula, Golden Gate Bridge, S.F. skyline, and Alcatraz Island. The easygoing Angel Island Perimeter Loop is one of the best San Francisco hikes, providing access to pretty much everything you can see and do on the island. 

You can easily make a day out of traversing this trail, as there are plenty of things to see and do along the way. Segway and bike rentals, a small store, dining options, a museum, and picnic grounds are a few of the amenities you can enjoy on this S.F. hike with views. The island itself is rich in history, too, so keep an eye out for informational plaques scattered across the trail.


Picturesque Presidio Hikes

Admire beautiful coastal vistas as you make your way down to the shores of Marshall's Beach on the Batteries to Bluffs Trail.

4. Batteries to Bluffs Trail

Location: The Presidio of San Francisco 

Parking: Available near visitor destinations

Level of difficulty: Easy–moderate

Round-trip length: 2.2 miles

Route: Loop

Pet policy: No pets allowed

The historic Presidio of San Francisco is a prime hiking spot in San Francisco thanks to its spectacular scenery. One of the most beloved pathways here is the Batteries to Bluffs Trail. Bordering the western bluffs of the city, this quintessential San Francisco hike boasts views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands, and secluded Marshall’s Beach that are hard to beat. 

The coastal Bay Area hike is also short enough to add as a stop to your S.F. sightseeing itinerary, and trust us—you don’t want to skip this hike. As the name suggests, the Batteries to Bluffs Trail leads to the beach. So after finishing your scenic hike, reward yourself by kicking back on the shores of Marshall’s Beach and taking in the sounds of the crashing waves.

5. Ecology Trail 

Location: The Presidio of San Francisco 

Parking: Available near visitor destinations

Level of difficulty: Easy 

Round-trip length: 1.6 miles

Route: Loop

Pet policy: Dogs allowed on leash

It’s easy to tell why this hiking trail in San Francisco is called the Ecology Trail. Offering diverse habitats ranging from shaded forests to lush grasslands, this multi-use path is great for lovers of nature hikes. The route lies within the Presidio’s largest watershed and connects the Arguello Gate and Inspiration Point to the historic Main Post. Along the way, you’ll encounter plenty of native California plants such as serpentine grasslands as well as redwood, eucalyptus, Monterey pine, cypress, and oak trees. 

Suitable for pedestrians and cyclists alike, the trail also features one of the best vista points in the city: Inspiration Point Overlook. Here, you’ll get an eyeful of the San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz Island, and Angel Island.

Take a leisurely stroll on the Presidio Promenade Trail to learn about the region's rich history and see the city from a different perspective.

6. Presidio Promenade Trail

Location: The Presidio of San Francisco 

Parking: Available near Lincoln Boulevard

Level of difficulty: Easy

Round-trip length: 4.5 miles

Route: Loop

Pet policy: Dogs allowed on leash

This S.F. hiking trail is more of a leisurely stroll than a strenuous hike and is highly recommended for history buffs—the Presidio Promenade Trail passes by many places that highlight the area’s rich history. Albeit quite long, this paved hiking trail in San Francisco doesn’t have many inclines, making for a laid-back journey. 

Along the way, you’ll encounter the Letterman Digital Arts Center, the Main Post, the San Francisco National Cemetery, Golden Gate views at Battery East Vista, and more. Make sure to set aside enough time to explore the landmarks on this trail; you might even discover a few S.F. hidden gems you didn’t know about.

Always dreamed of crossing the famed Golden Gate Bridge? Walk this section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail for an unforgettable hike in S.F.

7. Bay Area Ridge Trail: The Golden Gate Bridge to Marin Headlands

Location: Fort Point National Historic Site

Parking: Available nearby 

Level of difficulty: Easy

Round-trip length: 1.7 miles

Route: Point to point

Pet policy: No pets allowed

Arguably the most famous hike in San Francisco (for good reason), the Bay Area Ridge Trail is also one of the most popular routes in the state, leading across the Golden Gate Bridge—dedicated in 1937. A trip by foot, bike, or wheelchair offers visitors a great opportunity to understand the Bay Area geography, admire the breathtaking views, and spot coastal wildlife. 

Encountering crowds while traversing this S.F. trail is almost unavoidable due to its prominence, but it deserves a spot on your San Francisco bucket list nevertheless. Try to visit on a non-foggy day to get clear views of the city from the iconic bridge.

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