Home > BART, Hike, San Francisco > Mission to Haight Hike: Corona Heights, Buena Vista Park, Golden Gate Park Oak Woodland

Mission to Haight Hike: Corona Heights, Buena Vista Park, Golden Gate Park Oak Woodland

December 10, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Connecting the busy Mission and Haight-Ashbury neighborhoods of San Francisco, this urban hike offers several opportunities to experience natural areas and bay and city landscape views. On this route you will walk on some of San Francisco’s stairways, climb to the peaks of Corona Heights and Buena Vista Park, and hike through a quiet oak woodland area of Golden Gate Park.

Places visited: Corona Heights, Buena Vista Park, Golden Gate Park oak woodlands area, Panhandle paths, San Francisco stairways
Approximate length: 7 miles
Hiking time: 4-5 hours
Map: No official online maps; see link to route on Google Maps, below
Terrain: Stairways, moderate hills (paved and dirt), and some flat sections
Transit schedule: BART
Start and end point: 16th and Mission BART station, San Francisco
Getting to the start point:

  • From San Francisco: Take BART to 16th and Mission station. Or take Muni to 16th and Mission; routes 14, 22, 33, and 49 serve the station. If Muni Metro K/L/M/T are the most convenient lines, you may wish to take Muni Metro and get off at Castro Street station to start the walk from this point. The route will be shorter, but will still include the major points of interest.
  • From the Peninsula and South Bay: Take Caltrain to the Millbrae station. Transfer to BART, and take a San Francisco train to 16th and Mission station.
  • From the East Bay, take a San Francisco BART train to 16th and Mission station.
  • From the North Bay, take Golden Gate Transit Route 70/80 or 10 to San Francisco. Get off at Hyde and Grove streets (just before Market Street), and walk to the Civic Center BART station on Market Street. Take a Daly City, Millbrae, or SFO train one stop south to 16th and Mission station. Alternately, take the Sausalito or Larkspur ferry to San Francisco. Walk down Market Street to the Embarcadero BART/Muni station. Take a Daly City, Millbrae, or SFO train one stop to 16th and Mission station.

Notes:

  • Although this hike can be done any day of the week, I recommend Sunday for the full car-free experience. On Sundays, Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park is shut to car traffic, and the street is full of walkers, cyclists, and inline and roller skaters. If you want to experience more of Kennedy Drive, continue on Kennedy past the route’s turn-off spot at the Conservatory of Flowers (see directions) and then turn around and come back to continue the route.
  • To take advantage of the views from Corona Heights and Buena Vista Park, you may wish to plan this hike during the fall, winter, and spring, when there is less fog. If you do go in the summer, you could try starting the hike around mid-morning for your best chance of avoiding the fog at the view spots. Regardless of fog, this will still be a nice hike any time of the year. Remember to bring extra clothing layers; temperatures in the Haight can often be significantly lower than in the Mission where you start the hike.
  • There are numerous variations on the routes through Corona Heights, Buena Vista Park, and the section of Golden Gate Park through which you will be traveling. You may wish to vary the route a bit or take side trips to do some more exploring of any of these areas. None of these areas are too big, so you can easily reorient and return to continue the original route. If you get lost wandering through Buena Vista Park, walk downhill until you get to a street. If you are at Haight Street, turn left to continue the route. If you are at Buena Vista West, turn right, then turn left at Haight Street to continue the route; if you are at Buena Vista East, turn left and then take another left at Haight Street to continue the route.
  • Numerous choices for food and snacks are available along this route, particularly in the 16th and Mission area (start and end of hike) and in the Haight. The route includes a walk along upper Haight Street, where you can either eat lunch or take some food to go for a picnic in Golden Gate Park.
  • As noted, the estimated hiking time for this route is 4-5 hours; start early and add extra time if you also plan on doing some shopping in the Haight or Mission or visiting the Conservatory of Flowers (open Tuesday-Sunday; admission fee) or the Randall Museum (open Tuesday-Saturday; free admission).

Directions:

  • From the 16th and Mission BART station, head west on 16th street past the Wells Fargo building. If you have taken the main BART exit, you will not be crossing any streets to do this.
  • Cross Valencia Street.
  • Turn left at the next block, Albion.
  • Turn right at 17th Street.
  • Walk several blocks on 17th until you get to Market Street.
  • Cross Market, then immediately cross left and head past the gas station on your right and up the hill to continue on 17th Street. You will be passing the Castro Muni Metro station on your left, and veering away from Market Street rather than staying on it.
  • Turn right at the next block, Douglass.
  • At the end of the street head up the stairs on the right (don’t take the other stairs to your left).
  • Turn right at the street (States) at the end of the stairs.
  • Very shortly, cross at the crosswalk and head up the driveway into the park. Watch for cars here.
  • Look for a switchbacking path to your left and head up the hill this way.
  • At the top of the path, bear left and around the building. This is the Randall Museum.
  • Past the museum is a view spot with a bench, where you may wish to stop.
  • Once you are done at the view spot, continue up the stairs behind the bench.
  • Follow the stairs to the left and continue on the stairs as they wind to the top of Corona Heights. Here you can spend some time admiring the views and climbing on the rocks if you wish.
  • When you are ready, continue down the other side of Corona Heights on the stairway.
  • Veer right, passing a field/dog area on your right, and head out to the street.
  • Cross straight at the crosswalk, and then turn right at the sidewalk to begin walking on Roosevelt Way.
  • At the next intersection, turn left and uphill onto Park Hill Ave.
  • At the next block, Buena Vista East, carefully cross straight and then turn right to begin walking on the sidewalk that borders Buena Vista Park.
  • Pass one staircase, continuing on Buena Vista.
  • At the next intersection (Buena Vista East, Buena Vista Terrace, and Duboce), turn left and up the stairway into Buena Vista Park.
  • Stay left at the path to continue uphill.
  • At the next intersection, head straight up the stairs.
  • Continue uphill on the winding stairs and trails.
  • Eventually, you will reach a small open grassy area at the park’s summit, where you can admire the view if it is a clear day.
  • When you are ready, continue on the path slightly to the left and through an overgrown area.
  • Head left and downhill when you reach the wide paved path.
  • Follow the path as switchbacks to the right, and continues downhill.
  • Stay left at the next intersection (when you are most of the way downhill), and then shortly make a left to turn past a small playground and out to the street.
  • Turn right at the street, which is Buena Vista West.
  • Turn left at Haight Street.
  • Continue on Haight for several blocks, stopping to get food if desired.
  • When Haight Street ends (you see the park ahead of you), turn right on Stanyan.
  • Cross Page Street and Oak Street.
  • Turn left at the next intersection, crossing Stanyan and entering Golden Gate Park on Kennedy Drive.
  • Immediately cross to the other side of Kennedy Drive, following the sign for “Golden Gate Park pedestrians.”
  • Turn left and walk along the path on the right side of Kennedy Drive, passing McLaren Lodge and its access roads.
  • Cross Conservatory Drive East, continuing straight on Kennedy Drive.
  • Turn right to head towards the Conservatory of Flowers, a large white domed building on your right. You can use any of the paths leading up to the building.
  • When you get to the conservatory, turn left and head around the side of the building and the restrooms.
  • Cross the street that runs behind the conservatory building.
  • Shortly, turn right and cross through a picnic area.
  • On the other side of the picnic area, look for a narrow dirt path. You may have to head slightly left, depending on how your crossed through the picnic area, and then turn right on the dirt path to enter the oak woodland area.
  • Stay left at the fork in the dirt path, heading downhill.
  • At the next fork, stay right where the other path heads up to the street.
  • Continue on the trail as it curves right and starts looping back in the direction you came in.
  • Stay right at the next fork.
  • When the trail ends at the road, which is Conservatory Drive, cross the street and head onto the path. There are a couple of paths close together here; either is fine.
  • At the next intersection, turn left.
  • Continue straight ahead (you will be heading east), through picnic areas and the park’s fuchsia dell. Ignore all of the other paths leading north and south, and continue straight until the path ends at the road.
  • When the path ends, turn right on the path that runs alongside the narrow road. You will see a Fuchsia Dell sign, and you will be heading along the right side of the road.
  • Shortly, trees and shrubbery separate your path from the road, and you will pass an area of camellias on your right.
  • Continue straight at the fork, and then pass an open lawn (Peacock Meadow) on your right.
  • Turn left at Kennedy Drive.
  • Cross Conservatory Drive and continue straight on Kennedy Drive past McLaren Lodge.
  • At Stanyan, cross straight to exit the park and enter the Panhandle.
  • Immediately cross again to your right, and then turn left onto the bike/pedestrian path.
  • Shortly, stay right at the fork to continue on the pedestrian path.
  • Continue on the path through the Panhandle, ignoring any paths that lead out to the street.
  • Cross Masonic and continue on the Panhandle path.
  • When the Panhandle ends, turn right and cross the street to head up Baker.
  • Cross Page Street
  • At the next street, Haight, cross straight and then turn left to cross Buena Vista East. Turn right and head up the left-hand sidewalk of Buena Vista East.
  • Shortly, look for stairs on your left. The stairs have a metal railing and lead down to the right-hand side of the street below.
  • Take the stairs down and continue straight ahead on Waller Street.
  • Turn right at the next block, Alpine Terrace. Cross over to walk on the left sidewalk.
  • Cross Duboce Ave. and 14th Street.
  • At 14th Street, continue straight as Alpine Terrace becomes Roosevelt Way. Shortly the street starts to curve to your right.
  • Look for stairs heading down on your left, almost halfway through the curve, signed as the Roosevelt and Henry Stairs.
  • Head down on the stairs to the street below.
  • Veer to the left to continue on Henry.
  • Turn right at the next block, Castro Street.
  • Turn left at the next block, 15th Street.
  • Turn right at the next block, Noe Street. Cross to walk on the left sidewalk.
  • Cross Market Street and then make a sharp left onto 16th Street.
  • Continue on 16th Street to Mission Street and the BART station. Congratulations, you made it!
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Categories: BART, Hike, San Francisco
  1. December 12, 2009 at 8:53 am

    A balanced combination of built and open spaces. What was the inspiration for this hike?

    • December 12, 2009 at 6:50 pm

      I’ve been to the Mission and Haight many times, but these trips almost always involved purely urban activities. I wanted to find a way to experience some nature along with a visit to these busy neighborhoods. As with most of my hike planning I spent a fair amount of time staring at a paper map of San Francisco to imagine possible routes. Originally I planned the route to include more of Golden Gate Park, but it proved to be a bit too long!

  2. September 2, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    Thank you! I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to stumble upon your site. Though I’ve done variations of the Haight-Mission walk dozens of times, I’m so stoked to have a this to help me get OUT of the City to explore! I mean, I’m relatively resourceful and can find beauty all over the city, but I really feel like my world just opened up……Much gratitude, katie

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