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San Francisco’s China Basin and Potrero Hill

April 4, 2010 1 comment

This urban hike visits part of the waterfront that runs south along the Embarcadero from the Ferry Building, turns inland at China Basin and through the park that runs along the Mission Creek Channel. In contrast to the busy northern Embarcadero, this route is generally peaceful and quiet (unless there is a Giants game the day you go). From there, this route takes you  from the flatlands up through Potrero Hill to climb steep stairways — including stairs connecting twisty Vermont Street (“the other Lombard Street”). Sights along the way include birds and butterflies, houseboats, community gardens, unique stairways, and Bay and city skyline views.

Places visited: San Francisco Bay waterfront, China Basin, Mission Creek Channel, Potrero Hill stairways
Approximate length: 7 miles (see Notes for shorter option)
Hiking time: 3-4 hours
Map: see Google Map below
Terrain: Mostly paved; flat to Potrero Hill, steep stairways and streets in Potrero Hill
Transit Schedule: BART
Start Point: Embarcadero BART
End Point: 16th/Mission BART

Getting to the start point:

  • From San Francisco, take Muni Metro J/K/L/M/N/T or BART to the Embarcadero station.
  • From the Peninsula and South Bay, take a San Francisco BART train to Embarcadero station. If you are closer to Caltrain, take Caltrain north to Millbrae, transfer to BART and take a San Francisco train to the Embarcadero station.
  • From the East Bay, take a San Francisco BART train to Embarcadero station.
  • From the North Bay, take Golden Gate Transit Route 70/80 or 10 to San Francisco. Get off at Mission and 1st Streets, walk north one block to Market Street, turn right on Market, and to the Embarcadero BART station.

Notes:

  • The first part of this hike is mostly flat, whereas the Potrero Hill section is much more challenging. If you would prefer to take a leisurely stroll, turn around at the end of Mission Creek Park and return the way you came from Embarcadero BART. This walk is approximately 5 miles round trip.
  • Several options for food can be found at the start of the hike and in Potrero Hill, and numerous restaurants can be found near the hike’s end at 16th and Mission. A Safeway is located a block off the route near the start: when you turn right on 3rd Street after passing behind the ballpark, continue straight and turn left at King Street. The Safeway market is on this block. When done, continue on King Street, turn left at 4th, and resume the route as it heads over the 4th Street bridge. A Whole Foods market is located a block off the route in Potrero Hill: After turning left onto De Haro from 16th Street, turn right at the next block, 17th. Turn left at the next block, Rhode Island; the Whole Foods is in this block. When done, continue on Rhode Island, turn left at the next block (Mariposa) and right at De Haro to continue on the route.
  • The Mission Creek Conservancy has some photos of wildlife you might want to watch for along Mission Creek. The Oakland Museum of California has a map and information about the Mission Creek Watershed.

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Categories: BART, Hike, San Francisco

Western San Francisco Hike: Presidio, Lands End, and Sutro Baths

January 24, 2010 1 comment

Starting at the N Muni Metro stop in Cole Valley, this route takes you north to the Presidio via stairways, through the Presidio on the Presidio Promenade path, along the Coastal Trail to Lands End, and on through the Sutro Baths to end at the N-Judah’s final stop at Ocean Beach. You will have a chance to walk on the nicely constructed stairs of the Batteries to Bluffs Trail and will pass many of San Francisco’s beaches on this journey.

Places visited: Presidio, Lands End, Sutro Baths, San Francisco stairways
Approximate length:
11 miles
Hiking time:
5-6 hours
Map:
Presidio (PDF), Lands End and Sutro Baths (PDF)
Terrain:
Mix of flat stretches and moderate hills, with a few steep stairway sections.
Transit schedule:
Muni Metro N Judah
Start point: N Judah stop at Carl and Cole
End point: N Judah stop at Judah and La Playa

Getting to the start point:

  • From San Francisco, take the Muni Metro N Judah to the Carl and Cole stop.
  • From the Peninsula and South Bay, take Caltrain to the Millbrae station. Transfer to BART, taking a train to San Francisco. At the Civic Center BART/Muni station, transfer to Muni, taking Muni Metro N Judah to the Carl and Cole stop.
  • From the East Bay, take a San Francisco BART train to Embarcadero station. Transfer to Muni Metro inside the station, and take the N Judah (Outbound) to Carl and Cole.
    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/Muni station on Market Street. Enter the Muni Metro station, and take the N Judah (Outbound) to Carl and Cole.

Notes:

  • This route offers many chances to pick up lunch or a snack: the Carl and Cole area at the start of the walk, Haight Street (one block north of Waller), Geary Street, and near the N Judah line at the end of the route. This is a nice route to pack a lunch for a stop in the Presidio or along the beach areas of the Coastal Trail.
  • I provide a suggested route through Lands End and Sutro Baths, but both of these areas  have additional trails and areas to explore. They are contained enough that you can wander a bit and easily get back to the main route. Be extremely careful in the Sutro Baths area along the crumbling walls and always keep your eye on the water for changing surf conditions. You will also pass Baker Beach and China Beach on this route, where you may wish to stop for awhile (an extended stop at the beach is not included in the time estimate).
  • As of this writing (January 2010), construction has begun on the Doyle Drive replacement in the Presidio. Because this route goes near the construction area, it is possible that you could encounter a detour from 2010 to early 2013; print the current map to bring with you, and check the project website for any updates.

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Categories: Hike, Muni, San Francisco

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

December 10, 2009 3 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).

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Categories: BART, Hike, San Francisco

San Francisco Waterfront: Ferry Building to Fort Point

November 6, 2009 2 comments

Boats on the San Francisco Bay near Golden Gate Bridge -- by Jen English

This urban hike along a section of San Francisco’s waterfront visits a mix of natural and man-made points of interest and provides views of the Bay Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and ships and sailboats on the Bay. Fort Mason, Fort Point, the Wave Organ, and other stops along the way make this an ideal route to revisit multiple times. It is also a nice hike for visitors to San Francisco who would like to get some exercise while visiting some of the city’s popular tourist stops.

Places visited: Aquatic Park, Fort Mason, Golden Gate Promenade, Crissy Field Marsh, Fort Point, Wave Organ (on optional side trip)
Approximate length: 9.5 miles (10.5 with optional side trip to Wave Organ)
Hiking time: 4-6 hours
Map: Aquatic Park to Fort Point (download the close-up map of Golden Gate National Parks), Fort Mason (download the Fort Mason map)
Terrain: Mostly flat
Transit Schedule: Multiple, for route to start point (see links for each region); Muni F-Market & Wharves (end point back to start point)
Start Point: San Francisco Ferry Building
End Point: Muni F-Market & Wharves stop at Jones and Beach Street
Getting to the start point:

  • From San Francisco, take Muni Metro J/K/L/M/N/T or BART to the Embarcadero station. Exit the station and walk east on Market Street for a short distance to the Ferry Building. Numerous Muni buses stop within three blocks of the Ferry Building as well.
  • From the Peninsula and South Bay, take a San Francisco BART train to Embarcadero station. Exit the station and walk east on Market street for a short distance to the Ferry Building. If you are closer to Caltrain, take Caltrain north to Millbrae, transfer to BART and take a San Francisco train to the Embarcadero station.
  • From the East Bay, take a San Francisco BART train to Embarcadero station. Exit the station and walk east on Market Street for a short distance to the Ferry Building. Alternately, take the Alameda/Oakland Ferry to the San Francisco Ferry Building from the Alameda Ferry Terminal or Jack London Square in Oakland.
  • From the North Bay, take the Sausalito or Larkspur ferries to the San Francisco Ferry Building. Alternately, take Golden Gate Transit Route 70/80 or 10 to San Francisco. Get off at Mission and 1st Streets, walk north one block to Market Street, turn right on Market, and walk 5 blocks to the Ferry Building.

Notes:

  • There are numerous opportunities for food along this route: the Ferry Building at the start of the routes, along the piers, at and near Fort Mason, and at the Warming Hut. With the many scenic picnic opportunities along the way, this is an ideal hike for either bringing your own lunch or picking up some takeout food along the route to eat later at a view spot of your choice.
  • This route passes through tourist areas and popular recreation and exercise spots. Take this hike on a day when you are in the mood for being around lots of people. If you would like to skip the crowds at Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf, take a brief detour around this spot by turning left at North Point street from the Embarcadero. Turn right at Hyde, walk two blocks to Jefferson, and turn left to continue the route as described.
  • This is an all-season walk; you’ll enjoy excellent views on a clear, sunny day but the route is nice at other times of the year of the year as well. The weather can vary greatly depending on the time of year. As with most San Francisco walks, clothing layers are recommended.
  • You may want to spend some times at some of the stops along this route, such as Fort Mason, Fort Point, and the Wave Organ. I recommend doing this route multiple times, each time picking one spot to explore in more detail.

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Categories: Hike, Muni, San Francisco

Southwest San Francisco Nature: Lake Merced, Fort Funston, and More

September 24, 2009 1 comment

Fort Funston, Battery Davis -- by Joe Reifer
Battery Davis at Fort Funston — by Joe Reifer

Starting at Balboa Park BART station and traveling through San Francisco’s Ingleside neighborhood to end at West Portal Muni Metro station, this urban hike takes you to some of the natural areas in the southwest corner of San Francisco: to the Merced Heights landmarks of Brooks Park and Shields Orizaba Rocky Outcrop, around Lake Merced, out to Fort Funston (part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area), and through Pine Lake Park and Stern Grove. At Fort Funston, you have a chance to see the remains of the World War II era Battery Davis and (if you are lucky) a hang glider or two flying along the coast. This hike will give you a taste of each of these nature areas and of the Southwest city neighborhoods; If you find a favorite location from the hike, you can plan a future visit for more in-depth exploration!

Places visited: Lake Merced, Fort Funston, Pine Lake Park/Stern Grove, Brooks Park, Shields Orizaba Rocky Outcrop
Approximate Length: 10 miles
Hiking Time:
5-7 hours
Map:
Lake Merced, Fort Funston
Terrain:
Mostly flat, with the exception of one steep block up to the rocky outcrop and a moderate stair climb into Fort Funston
Transit schedule:
BART (select Balboa Park as your arrival station)
Start point: Balboa Park BART/Muni
End point: West Portal Muni

Getting to the starting point:

  • From San Francisco, take BART to Balboa Park Station. Or, on Muni, take the J, K, or M Muni Metro lines, and get off at Balboa Park Station (trains do not go inside station). Several Muni Bus lines (26, 29, 36, 43, 49, 54) stop at or near Balboa Park BART  and City College of San Francisco. If you get off the bus on Ocean Ave. or San Jose Ave., walk to the Balboa Park BART station to start the walk.
  • From the Peninsula and South Bay, take Caltrain to Millbrae. Transfer to a San Francisco BART train, and go to Balboa Park station.
  • From the East Bay, take a San Francisco BART train to Balboa Park station.
  • From the North Bay, take Golden Gate Transit Route 70/80 or 10 to San Francisco. Get off at the Hyde St. and Grove St. (just before Market Street). Walk to Market St. and down the stairs into Civic Center BART station. Take a Daly City, SFO, or Millbrae train to Balboa Park station. Note that on the way back to Marin, you will board the GGT transit bus on 7th Street just North of Market St. Golden Gate Transit has downloadable maps of its routes in the Civic Center area and San Francisco.

Notes:

  • Don’t be scared off by the distance of this hike, It’s mostly flat, and includes opportunities to stop and rest before continuing on with your journey.
  • This part of San Francisco is often foggy and colder than other parts of the city. It could also be windy out at Fort Funston, so make sure to bring extra clothing layers.
  • I recommend packing a lunch for this hike. Despite its urban setting, the hike does not pass many commercial establishments until the end. At SFSU, there is a coffee and sandwich stand (Station Cafe) visible from the corner of 19th and Holloway. Other eating establishments may be open on the campus depending on the time of your hike. Numerous restaurants and cafes can be found along West Portal near the end point of this hike.
  • Unless you enjoy constant booming sounds, get an early start for this hike. A rod and gun club is open from 11 am to 5 pm on Wednesday/Saturday/Sunday on Lake Merced. You pass it on the first part of your hike before heading out to Fort Funston, so you will miss most of the noise if you get started by 9:30 or so on the weekend.
  • If you would like your walk through Stern Grove to be a more peaceful experience, check the Stern Grove Festival schedule during the summer months so as not to take this hike on a concert day. On the other hand, you could plan this hike as an activity before one of the events; just be aware that Stern Grove will be extremely crowded.
  • If you would like to learn more about the history of this part of San Francisco, the Western Neighborhoods Project website has stories and photos about places such as the (now gone) Ingleside Racetrack. They have information on Brooks Park, which is also covered by an extensive website dedicated to the park history and activities.

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Categories: BART, Hike, Muni, San Francisco