Hidden Gems Around the San Francisco Coastline
Check out staffer, Edwin Tsun’s, favorite coastline spots to see in San Francisco. It's a big day to take on all these spots but not impossible! If you do embark on the entire route, bring plenty of water and lunch. For a shorter adventure, we recommend picking the spots that interest you the most or that you’ve never been to before. Don’t forget to tag us @sportsbasement if you visit!
Here's a list of my favorite places along the coastline on both sides of the Golden Gate Bridge. You can hike/jog/run along these spots depending on your pace and time you spend taking pictures. Be careful and always stay alert! Practice the same precautions you would normally: tell folks where you're going, bring a map/GPS, and don't take unnecessary risks. Be sure to check that all parks and trails are still open as the Shelter-in-Place rules and regulations evolve.
On this route, you will see a lot of batteries built in different war periods. Study the map and bring it along. You can even map it on Strava to get the mileage and elevation.
What to bring: water bottle(s), lots of nutrition gels for energy, sunblock, headlamp, camera, or a phone with clip-on wide-angle lens, gloves and lunch! A few spots can be very cold and gusty around sunrise/sunset even on a sunny day, so keep this in mind. A little scrambling is required in some places to get the best view.
Park along Lincoln Blvd near Baker Beach Sand Ladder and go east towards the Golden Gate Bridge. There are some stairs up & down going towards the water and you will start seeing many batteries. Almost at the end of the stairs, take the left branch to Marshall Beach. This is the best vantage point for GGB. On a low tide, you can go as far as you want and scramble over. Be sure to check the tide charts and know your pace or else the tide will come back up before you get a chance to go back! Be cautious.
Retrace your steps back to the fork and go up towards the Golden Gate Bridge. After crossing, take the stairs underneath the bridge to go to the south-bound side. Here you will see a small parking lot, just go up to Conzelman road and continue onto Hawk Hill.
After reaching Hawk Hill, go through the tunnel, take the Coastal Trail wooden stairs down to Conzelman Road to Black Sand Beach. You will see black rubbles, black sand, camouflage-like granites, and a cave of sedimentary rocks. Scramble over the rocky section to the other side of the beach.
Now backtrack up to Conzelman and continue down towards the end of the road, which leads you to the Point Bonita Lighthouse. The connecting tunnel is also close.
There is another big military installation called Nike Missile Site SF-88 along the way. After that, head to Rodeo Beach, where the network of Marin Headland trails go through. Here you have many trails to pick from to go back up to Slacker Hill. I really like going up on the north side: Hill-88. You can take Wolf-Ridge/Miwok or Miwok/Rodeo Valley or Coastal Trail and find your way to Slacker Hill.
At Slacker Hill, go down as much as you can and you will likely be rewarded with some coyotes and a guaranteed unobstructed view of the Golden Gate Bridge and downtown San Francisco. Tourists don't come here so you will definitely get to enjoy the solitude. From Slacker Hill, you can take SCA Trail back down to the bridge. Continue down to Fort Point Museum. Now all you have to do is go back up to Lincoln Blvd to your car.
But we’re not done yet! If you’ve got some more energy in ya, keep going west on Lincoln or get onto Baker Beach, and go towards the El Camino Del Mar neighborhood. Continue west into the Lands End Trail, Mile Rock Beach, and then last but not least, Sutro Bath. Yes, it was the largest indoor saltwater swimming pool way back in the days.
Now you only have 2.7 miles to backtrack to your car (and you’ve earned a full day of rest from your epic solo adventure!).
Here are all the points I talked about in case you'd rather just pick a few of those:
South side of the bay, from the West end to GGB (pretty flat with stairs, a common oxymoron in SF)
- Sutro Baths (4 hr free parking, restroom, water fountain)
- Lands End Trail
- Mile Rock Beach
- Legion of Honor
- El Camino Del Mar neighborhood
- Baker Beach (free parking next to the beach or on Bowley St)
- Sand Ladder (4-5 free parking along Lincoln Blvd)
- Marshall Beach (best spot for GGB, also: you will see naked people!)
North side of the bay, from GGB to West end (STEEP, with Hawk Hill being the high point)
- Conzelman Road to Hawk Hill (restroom)
- Coastal Trail wooden stairs
- Black Sand Beach
- Point Bonita (Lighthouse is likely closed at this time)
- Rodeo Beach (restroom, water fountain)
- Marin Headland trails (Hill 88, Miwok, etc)
- Slacker Hill