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San Bruno Mountain Summit

April 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Located just south of San Francisco, San Bruno Mountain is a great destination for urban dwellers looking for nature close to home. San Bruno Mountain is a favorite spot for wildflower viewing in the Spring and a year-round hiking option. Starting at Daly City BART, this hike takes a neighborhood route to the park, climbs to the mountain’s summit and back down again via a loop trail, and ends at Balboa Park BART.

Places visited: San Bruno Mountain State and County Park
Approximate length: 9 miles
Hiking time: 4-5 hours
Map: San Bruno Mountain Park (PDF)
Terrain: Mix of flat sections and gradual climbing on paved and dirt trails.
Transit schedule: BART
Start point: Daly City BART
End point: Balboa Park BART

Getting to the starting point:

  • From San Francisco, take BART to Daly City.
  • From the Peninsula and South Bay, take Caltrain to Millbrae station. Transfer to BART, and get off at Daly City.
  • From the East Bay, take BART to Daly City.
  • 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 BART to Daly City.

Notes:

  • A number of variations on this hike are possible. From the mountain’s summit, you can hike out and back along the ridge a ways (note that the Ridge Trail does not connect to neighborhoods in Brisbane, so you will need to return the way you came). For a shorter and less steep hike, take the Saddle Loop Trail from the Old Guadalupe Trail. Or, take the Dairy Ravine and/or Eucalyptus trails with the Summit Loop Trail for a short loop hike.
  • This hike is pleasant even after heavy rains. The muddiest section is a very short section from the small parking lot at the start of the loop. An alternative to this section is to walk along Radio Road  and then turn right to connect to the Summit Loop. Despite its name, the Bog Trail should be passable after wet weather, but feel free to take the paved Old Guadalupe Trail both ways if this is not the case.
  • Be prepared for foggy and/or windy weather at San Bruno Mountain, especially during the summer.
  • Food options are available on Mission Street near the end of the hike. There are several good spots in the park to stop and eat a bag lunch.

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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

Around and Above Lake Merritt

March 7, 2010 1 comment

This urban hike in Oakland takes you around Lake Merritt, up stairways (including the historic Cleveland Cascade) and around the Morcom Rose Garden. Lake Merritt is a National Wildlife Refuge (the first in the U.S.) with a variety of migratory birds and a nature center. This hike uses paved paths and stairways and is enjoyable any time of the year.

Places visited: Lake Merritt, Oakland paths and stairways, Oakland Rose Garden
Approximate Length: 6.5 miles (see notes for shorter version)
Hiking Time: 4 hours
Map: See Google map of route, below
Terrain: Paved paths and stairways; flat around the lake, steep paths and stairways.
Transit Schedule: BART
Start and end point: 19th Street Oakland BART

Getting to the start point:

  • From San Francisco, take a Richmond or Pittsburg/Bay Point BART train to 19th Street/Oakland station.
  • From the Peninsula and South Bay, take Caltrain to the Millbrae station. Transfer to BART and board the SF/Bay Point train (on weekdays, you will take the SF/Richmond train). Exit BART at 19th/Street Oakland station.
  • From the East Bay, take BART to 19th Street/Oakland station. If traveling from Dublin/Pleasanton or Castro Valley, you’ll need to transfer to a Richmond train at Bay Fair.
  • From the North Bay, take Golden Gate Transit Route 42 (from the San Rafael Transit Center) to El Cerrito Del Norte BART. Take a Fremont or San Francisco BART train to 19th Street/Oakland station.

Notes:

  • For a shorter route (about 4 miles), you could skip the trip up the stairways and to the Morcom Rose Garden, and just walk around Lake Merritt. I recommend the full route, but the shorter route is great if you have limited time or would like a flat route.
  • If you have more time to spend, there are several places to visit around the lake’s perimeter, including a boating center (rents pedal boats, canoes, kayaks, sailboats, and rowboats), Lakeside Demonstration Gardens (including a Japanese garden and a bonsai garden), a nature center, and Children’s Fairyland. The Friends of the Cleveland Cascade website has history, videos, and information about restoration of the stairway. You may also want spend additional time at the lake relaxing in one of the grassy areas with a picnic or a book.
  • Many food options are available at different points along this route, particularly along Grand Ave. and Lakeshore Ave. On Saturdays, the Grand Lake Farmer’s Market operates at Splash Pad Park along Grand Ave. soon after you head away from Lake Merritt toward the Oakland Garden.

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Categories: BART, East Bay, Hike

Bayside Berkeley: A Stroll Around the Berkeley Marina and Cesar Chavez Park

January 15, 2010 1 comment

This mostly flat hike takes you over the Berkeley bicycle-pedestrian bridge and around the western-most land of Berkeley to visit the Berkeley Marina, Cesar Chavez Park, and part of Eastshore State Park. Much of the route is on paved paths, making it a good rainy season destination. It’s also an ideal hike for summer days when you want to escape the heat further inland. This route includes views across the Bay, boat watching opportunities, and birds and other wildlife.

Places visited: Berkeley Marina, Cesar Chavez Park, Eastshore State Park (portion)
Approximate Length: 8 miles (9 miles total with optional side trip; also see notes for shorter version starting from Berkeley Amtrak station)
Hiking Time: 4-5 hours
Map: Berkeley Marina, Cesar Chavez Park
Terrain: Mostly flat
Transit Schedule: BART
Start and end point: North Berkeley BART

Getting to the start point:

  • From San Francisco, take a Richmond BART train to North Berkeley station.
  • From the Peninsula and South Bay, take Caltrain to the Millbrae station. Transfer to BART and board the SF/SFO/Bay Point train (on weekends). Transfer to a Richmond train at 12th Street/Oakland City Center, and take the train to North Berkeley station. (On weekdays, you do not need to transfer BART trains; a direct Richmond train leaves from Millbrae.)
  • From the East Bay, take a Richmond BART train to North Berkeley station. (If you are on the Pittsburg/Bay Point or Dublin/Pleasanton lines, you will need to transfer to a Richmond train.)
  • From the North Bay, take Golden Gate Transit (GGT) Route 42 (from the San Rafael Transit Center) to El Cerrito Del Norte BART. Take a Fremont or San Francisco BART train two stops south to North Berkeley station.

Notes:

  • If you would like to pick up some lunch for a picnic, Sea Breeze Market and Deli is a convenient option along this route. You will pass the market when you cross over the pedestrian/bicycle bridge on your way to the Marina. On 4th Street between University and Addison is Grocery Outlet, a discount grocery store. Several restaurants can be found along 4th Street in West Berkeley. You will pass some of them on your route; continue north of Delaware for one block for more options.
  • This route starts from BART, which is convenient for people coming from most parts of the Bay Area. If you are near an Amtrak Capitol Corridor station, you could take the train to the Berkeley station and start the hike from this point in the directions instead. The hike will be a couple of miles shorter, but just as pleasant.
  • The Berkeley Kite Festival is a popular annual event held at Cesar Chavez Park in the summer. If you would like to watch some kite-flying and don’t mind crowds, you may wish to do this hike on the weekend of the event.

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Categories: BART, East Bay, Hike

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

Albany Bulb Adventure

December 3, 2009 1 comment

This urban hike explores the unique East Bay shoreline area know as the Albany Bulb. This piece of land that sticks out into the Bay is home to a rotating collection of sculpture and other art pieces fashioned from concrete, wood, rebar, bicycles wheels, and other construction materials and items from the area’s time as a city landfill. Also popular for dog walking and wildlife viewing, the Bulb is a great destination for a wide variety of people. On this hike, you will also get a chance to walk along a portion of the Ohlone Greenway, a rail-trail built alongside the BART tracks, and to stop by Schoolhouse Creek Common in Berkeley.

Places visited: Albany Bulb, Eastshore State Park (portion), Ohlone Greenway (portion)
Approximate Length: 7.5 miles
Hiking Time: 4-5 hours
Map: No official map; see Google map of route, below
Terrain: Mostly flat
Transit Schedule: BART
Start and end point: North Berkeley BART

Getting to the start point:

  • From San Francisco, take a Richmond BART train to North Berkeley station. (On Sundays, take a Pittsburg/Bay Point train and transfer to a Richmond train at 12th Street.)
  • From the Peninsula and South Bay, take Caltrain to the Millbrae station. Transfer to BART and board the SF/SFO/Bay Point train (on weekends). Transfer to a Richmond train at 12th Street/Oakland City Center, and take the train to North Berkeley station. (On weekdays, you do not need to transfer BART trains; a direct Richmond train leaves from Millbrae.)
  • From the East Bay, take a Richmond BART train to North Berkeley station. (If you are on the Pittsburg/Bay Point or Dublin/Pleasanton lines, you will need to transfer to a Richmond train.)
  • From the North Bay, take Golden Gate Transit (GGT) Route 42 (from the San Rafael Transit Center) to El Cerrito Del Norte BART. Take a Fremont or San Francisco BART train two stops south to North Berkeley station.

Notes:

  • Although the Albany Bulb can be enjoyed at any time, a trip at low tide will allow you to explore more of the area. If you are checking tide tables, Berkeley (or sometimes Richmond) is the nearest location usually listed. If you go at high tide, two alternate routes are provided at the end of the hike directions. Sturdy shoes with some traction are recommended for the rocky sections, and to provide protection from sharp objects. Feel free to vary your route through the Albany Bulb from what is described here. However, I don’t recommend wandering into overgrown areas; at times people have set up campsites in some of the remote areas of the Bulb.
  • Pack a lunch or dinner to eat out at the Bulb, or stop for food along the route. Near the beginning of the route, turn off on Gilman Street for food (bagel shop, natural foods store, and a deli) in the Westbrae shopping district. On the way back, several options can be found in West Berkeley along or near Gilman Street and San Pablo Avenue.
  • The beginning of this route travels along the Ohlone Greenway, a paved rail-trail built beside the BART tracks. Although the trail is off the street, you will be crossing several intersections along the way. Exercise caution crossing at these streets, as cars may be traveling at high speeds and/or not be aware of pedestrians crossing the street.
  • Adjacent to the Albany Bulb is Golden Gate Fields, the only remaining live horse racing venue in the Bay Area. The track sometimes promotes “dollar days” on Sundays, with $1 admission, $1 beverages, etc. On days that the track is closed, the walk through the parking lot will be quieter and easier; at other times, watch for cars entering, exiting, and parking on your walk through here.

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Categories: BART, East Bay, Hike

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