3 Best Urban Hikes in San Francisco

I’ve been walking a lot this fall.  Every morning I open the curtain and the blue sky just beckons.  I can’t help but sprint out the door.  This morning I walked from my house in Cow Hollow all the way to downtown San Francisco to have my hair trimmed. 

Walk with Audrey

Walking with Audrey

I have done the same walk before, but today I looked at everything more carefully, with a new lens.  I was carrying in my purse a book called Cool Grey City of Love by Gary Kamiya.  The book talks about many of the streets and trails that I have walked on, but didn’t really pay attention to.  Today I was seeing the beauty of Grant Avenue afresh having read a chapter on the history behind its birth.

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 10.36.03 PM

I remember roaming the city on my own when I first moved here to marry Peter.  He was always busy at work and I had no friends yet. I walked around the unfamiliar neighborhoods with an avid curiosity as if I was getting acquainted with a new and exciting friend. 

When Angela was long overdue and getting huge inside of my belly, I took to waddling around San Francisco aimlessly but purposefully hours on end in an effort to get her out. 

With a blink of an eye, Angela is now almost sixteen.  And her little sister Audrey is twelve.  We have taken countless hikes together around our amazing city.  Here are three of our favorite hikes:

1. Land’s End


Little Audrey walking

Mr. Kamiya opened his Land’s End chapter by saying, “This is where it begins and ends.  The city has no dominion here.  There is only the land and sea and the place where they come together, a seething encounter as old as the planet.  This is where San Francisco keeps its secrets.  This is the wild corner.”  And yet it is only 15 minutes drive from my house.

The first time I went there I was 21. I flew to San Francisco that summer to join Wayne Wang’s low budget film Dim Sum.  Somehow the production office, which consisted of no more than a handful of people, completely forgot about my arrival.  It was about 8:30pm when I arrived and I waited at the gate for about half an hour.  I didn’t know what to do next when a tall young man with blonde hair approached me.  He said his name was Tom Fitz and he’d been waiting for his friend who was supposed to be on this flight, but he didn’t see him.  Tom was an architecture major in Berkeley and his father had just given him his old car.  He said he could take me where I needed to go.  I said I didn’t have a place to go.  Seeing that I was kind of fresh of the boat, he suggested the Holiday Inn in Chinatown.  The next day, Tom returned to take me to see San Francisco.  And Land’s End was the first place he took me.  The cliff-side trail was the most enchanting place I had ever been.  When I fell in love with Peter, a San Francisco cardiologist, I conjured up the image of us walking the trails in Land’s End, and perhaps one day with our children.  And that’s exactly what happened and I still pinch myself in the morning to make sure I am not just dreaming.


Itty bitty Audrey with the Golden Gate Bridge

The icing on the cake is that there is a great Indian restaurant called Indian Clay Oven near the trail, where we always go to pig out after the hike.

2. Crissy Field


Angry Angela.

Angela Close-up

Little Angela


A morning strut

This is a walk I do at least once a week.  Ever since the kids could walk, we have taken them there and spent countless hours on the beach.  It is a perfect place for families and dogs.  We would walk past the Palace of Fine Arts and then make a stop at the Warming Hut and drink hot chocolate and eat cupcakes.


refueling at the Warming Hut

3. From our home in Cow Hollow to Clement St.

Clement St. is where I buy my Chinese snacks.  It also has one of my favorite book stores, Green Apples, and one of my favorite restaurants, Burma Super Star.  When I began to take walks with my children, they always asked where are we going.  For the longest time, they didn’t comprehend why we took walks that didn’t get us anywhere.  So walking to Clement St. was easy to explain.  We would climb the gorgeous Lyon St. steps to the Presidio and come out on Arguello St..  We would pass Temple Emanu-El and St. John’s Presbyterian Church.  It is a beautiful little old church which I would not have visited if I didn’t take this walk.  The first time we went in was because Angela had to use the bathroom but there was none nearby.  The church served as her refuge that day and it was a wonderful discovery.

8 thoughts on “3 Best Urban Hikes in San Francisco

  1. I loved Gary’s book Cool Grey City of Love. I’ve lived in San Francisco for 8 years yet still find places I never knew about quite often! Just the other day my son and I discovered Land’s End and the Labyrinth with the beautiful view of the Golden Gate (I even posted a picture on my blog: http://mcurtin.com/2014/09/new-discovery/). Gary is right that the city has no claim to that wild landscape. Another good book you might like is Infinite City by Rebecca Solnit. It is a historical atlas of San Francisco and along with Gary’s book has given me a very good understanding of San Francisco.

    Nice blog, I’ll follow and look forward to your discoveries.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. On the southern tip of San Francisco, is San Bruno Mountain State Park. A great Hike with sweeping views of the entire bay area and ocean. I promise, you and your family would like it.


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