Lovers of the great outdoors this blog is for you.
On my last day in San Francisco I hoped to spend as much time as possible California dreamin’ in the great outdoors. Lands End and Golden Gate Park afforded the perfect location to do just that. As getting there is a bit of a hike itself, I opted for taking public transit the majority of the way. Lucky me, I ended up hopping off the bus right in front of this beauty:
These mosaic stairs I stumbled upon coincidentally and thought that they were the 16th Street mosaic stairs. While I was not on 16th street, and they weren’t the same stairs… they were done by the same artist and definitely caught my attention. The Lincoln Park mosaic stairs are only .2 miles from the Lands End trailhead. Worth a quick visit!
While in San Francisco, I was staying with my hometown pal Jimmy. He and I were reunited in Chicago for a few years, and for the last few years he’s been living in San Francisco. He encouraged me to check out Lands End… because… look:
From almost anywhere on the California Coastal Trail at Lands End you have an outstanding view of the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. The beginning of the trail is handicap accessible and is bike-friendly as well. This is a great short hike for novice hikers or regular tourists looking to take a great selfie with the Golden Gate Bridge.
As you approach Eagle Point on the trail, it does become more rugged and steep. It’s still a fairly easy climb, but from this point forward there are a lot of stairs to climb so it’s a good turnaround point if you have bad knees. I stumbled upon this little lookout point, caught a glimpse of mile rock and was super jealous of this lady who found that perfect resting spot before me.
Mile Rock Beach & Eagle’s Point
Mile Rock Beach and Eagle’s Point are great places to stop for a picnic lunch, open-air yoga or just to pop-a-squat and take in all the beautiful surroundings. I really enjoyed Eagle’s Point for as you’d listen to the waves crash on Mile Rock Beach below, you’d get whiffs of the thick pine landscape creeping up to the shoreline. Parts of Eagle’ Point are smooth and flat, perfect for laying out blanket and pouring a glass of red wine.
On Eagle’s Point you’ll find a hidden labyrinth. I was entirely unaware of these until this trip to San Francisco. We had come across one earlier in the trip and Jimmy had explained that the labyrinth is a meditative tool. It’s an ancient symbol that relates to wholeness. It combines the imagery of the circle and the spiral into a meandering but purposeful path. The Labyrinth represents a journey to our own center and back again out into the world. This labyrinth was originally built in 2004 and has been destroyed and reconstructed numerous times. The San Francisco community came together shortly before my visit to restore it once again.
While California doesn’t experience the seasons quite like I’m used to in the midwest, you could see some resemblance of Fall in the colors on this cliffside. This was the steepest descent and incline on the hike, so if you’re looking for an easier trek, jut skip the beach. It was pretty, but you can take in the experience from Eagle’s Point and breath a bit easier.
Sutro Bath Ruins
The California Coastal Trail originally served as a railway for the San Francisco elite. The trains would transport these wealthy residents to the famed Cliffside restaurant and beach. The Sutro Bath Ruins were an unexpected treat on this hike. Ruins, in America? What? It’s true! While the ruins aren’t really old compared to that which you’ll find in ancient Rome, but it was really neat to see what’s left of what was a significant venue in the late 1800s.
The Sutro Baths, built in 1984, was a massive public bathhouse covering 3 acres. By the time the bathhouse opened, the railway had become much more affordable for the general public. The bathhouse and amusement venue could entertain more than 10,000 people at one time. Families would flock to the Sutro Baths to take a dip in the 7 temperature controlled pools, see bands perform or explore natural history exhibits.
Due to the Great Depression, the baths weren’t commercially successful over the long-term. The Sutro family tried to sustain the property for a number of years and turned the once popular space into an ice skating rink. The new entertainment option couldn’t draw crowds who were unable to afford transportation to the venue, and they sold the property in 1964 to developers who planned to develop high-rise apartments. While the developers did demolish parts of the property, they abandoned their plans for the apartments and the National Parks took over control of the property in 1973.
I popped into the Cliff House restaurant and bar for a rest and a drink. I was excited to find inside numerous relics from the Sutro Baths era. The Cliff House has an impressive history of its own – it’s been rebuilt numerous times in its over 100 year history as it overcame damage from fires, abandoned ship explosions, earthquakes, closures and more. Now it’s also owned by the National Parks.
Just next to the Cliff House is Ocean Beach. While touted as a hot spot for surfers; it’s said to be dangerous for swimmers. I didn’t see many people out there when I visited.
Golden Gate Park
Although the California Coastal Trail at Lands End is a pretty substantial distance, if you’re up for more walking Golden Gate Park intersects with Ocean Beach. The 3 mile park is pretty impressive and loaded with things to do and is a nice scenic walk too.
Hiking trails continue…
Row and paddle boat rentals…
And lots of little creatures strewing about…
I loved this day in San Francisco. While my feet were hurting quite a bit by the end – it was a pretty great day. If you’re going to San Francisco, you should probably make it a priority. And if you’re up for more, then you can extend your trek a few miles further and see the Painted Ladies and the Full House House.