We have to admit that we were quite surprised with the amount of hiking trails there are in San Francisco and we couldn’t miss the chance to do a route ourselves, to check out more of the natural side of the city and away from the chaos and traffic from Downtown. One morning we decided to do a 10km (6 mile) walk from Crissy Fields, walking westwards along the coastline via Golden Gate Bridge and Lands End until we arrived at our accommodation on Ocean Beach. What a walk we had and beautiful views we saw. This was our walk and what we saw on the way.
Crissy Fields was the ideal starting place for us. First thing in the morning, the sun shining down on San Francisco bay, Alcatraz island and the Golden Gate Bridge, the views from here were amazing. This park was once a former U.S. army airfield up until 1972 and then taken over by the National Park service some time later where they found lots of hazardous materials being dumped by the army. After the major clean up, it is now a huge open space with green parks, cycle tracks, trail paths, easy access to the beach and viewing points all along the seafront. Whilst walking along the trail towards the west, every angle we looked, the two iconic landmarks were seen as well as other beauties in the area.
We then had a coffee break at the north-western point of the park in a cafe known as the ‘Warming hut’ which is more of a gift shop but the small cafe was very welcomed. This was probably the first time we enjoyed a decent cup of tea in the United States with a breakfast snack. A great opportunity to refresh in the washrooms as well before heading out and completing the hike. By this point we only did around 1.3 miles so there was quite a fair way to go. Just behind the warming hut is Fort Point which lies underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. This fort was built during the Civil War many moons ago but was never used in battle. In fact, San Francisco has never been attacked (apart from many earthquakes which come along now and again).
Backtracking to the warming hut and heading up a set of steps (where many more fantastic views of the bay and the bridge come into view), the ‘Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center’ is found at the summit. However we bypassed this and followed the California Coastal Trail which headed southwards. The trail follows the side of ‘Lincoln Boulevard’ but still pretty and calm to walk along with its many trees and ocean views. Below us there was a few trail paths leading to the battery’s (small defensive forts) which dot along this part of the coastline. The trail eventually bends away from the road and down the hillside to the beach down below.
There are two beaches joined together to which nobody knows where they start of finish, however they are world renowned for its awesome surfing location and sun tanning spot. Marshall’s beach and Baker’s beach is also known for its rugged terrain, a great place to get views of the Golden Gate Bridge from the ocean side and to check out the local birdlife.
Leaving the beach, the trail goes through a housing estate (not just any estate, these houses here are worth a few dollars’) before entering the Lands End park at the eastern end. This was probably our favourite part of the hike we did, a proper wild and windy trail and in places there were stunning views to be had. We saw lots of wildflowers (even in the coldness of winter!), hillsides of cypress and some sights along the way. We were told we could see shipwrecks in the sea as well but to be honest, none were to be seen (unless we were going blind of course!)
One of the best parts of Lands End park is to take a trail path to the Labyrinth. Now it isn’t signposted the labyrinth but follow signs for Mile Rock Beach. This path leads down to a very small (and rocky) beach but one side of the beach, someone and somehow, a labyrinth has been created and no one knows why, who and how? People today like to walk around the labyrinth but one no touches the stones. Are they cursed? Who knows. One of our favourite view points was directly above the labyrinth where a great aerial view can be taken in but we were still getting fantastic views of the rugged coastline and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Backtracking along the trail path (which is a nice tasty hill climb) and turning right at the top, we followed the path through woodland before coming out the western end of the park. Here lies the Sutro Baths which were built in the late 19th century which were opened to the public and once held seven saltwater swimming pools. Now it’s in ruins but a splendid place to wander around and take in the sun going down beyond the horizon. Above the ruins is the Lookout Cafe (a great place to use the washrooms) but we didn’t stop here for a drink. We walked slightly down the road a bit (around 150 meters) to Louis, an old fashioned American diner which has excellent breakfast dishes served most of the day. Despite having a good tasting food and beer (which is tradition to have after a long walk of course), the views over the ocean is another reason we recommend eating here. It maybe a small place but once seated, the experience is wonderful.
Leaving the diner we passed the Cliff House (another place to get some decent food I been told) and followed the road around the cliffside to Ocean Beach. The view before us was amazing. To the left was Golden Gate Park with its two windmills, the road with a path running alongside it full of skateboarders, artists and people playing music via their boombox and then of course, the sandy beach and sea. Nothing could beat this and for us, a typical view which represents California. Sun, sea and sand! It was the perfect view for the end of a perfect hike.
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