San Francisco, with its stunning landscapes, offers an ideal destination for runners to explore. From ocean views to hilly terrains, the city has everything to offer. With incredible trails, accessibility, and diverse weather conditions, San Francisco is a must-visit for runners who love urban running and adventure.
One of the most popular running routes in San Francisco is the trail from the Embarcadero to Fort Mason, along Crissy Field, and leading towards the Golden Gate Bridge. Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and exploring the scenic viewpoints is an unforgettable experience. Golden Gate Park, Ocean Beach, and urban hill running also offer runners an excellent way to explore the city.
Twin Peaks is a cherished spot for hill runs and sunset views, offering a mile-long ascent using Twin Peaks Blvd, which provides fantastic views of beautiful homes and sunsets. Visitors can also explore the nearby trails of Mount Sutro, which is similar to a city ‘cloud forest.’ Combining this with the eastern sections of Golden Gate Park, approximately 1 mile away from Twin Peaks Blvd, creates an exceptional running experience.
Running from Fort Mason to Fort Point along Chrissy Field is one of the most scenic urban runs in the world. Runners can experience the views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Headlands, and Sausalito/Tiburon. The route begins with a paved path/sidewalk around the Yacht Club, then follows a wide gravel pathway to Fort Point. The route is around 2.3 miles, and there’s a warming hut at the Fort Mason Visitor Center. Ambitious runners can continue up to Golden Gate Bridge, which is an additional 2.5 miles.
The Embarcadero is another popular route for runners. From AT&T Park to the end of Fisherman’s Wharf, the route is 3.4 miles. Key landmarks include Bay Bridge, Market St., the Exploratorium, Alcatraz Ferry, Pier 41, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Ghirardelli Square. The route ends at Marina Park, but runners can continue around the park up the hill to Fort Mason and Crissy Field.
Running across the Golden Gate Bridge is a must-do for all visitors. The route offers breathtaking views of the city, and there are viewpoints at each end of the bridge. It is around 1.7 miles across the bridge, making the route around 4 miles, including a visit to Vista Point.
The route from AT&T Park to Vista Point is the big kahuna for runners, encompassing the Embarcadero, Crissy Field, and the Golden Gate Bridge, covering a total distance of 9.6 miles. The run begins at AT&T Park, then moves to Fort Point, and eventually leads to the trails that lead to the Golden Gate Bridge, and then over the Bridge to Vista Point.
The route between the Golden Gate Bridge and Land’s End is unique, covering spectacular ocean views, hills, wooded sections, and beautiful homes. The approximately 5-mile route follows the Coastal Trail, with some road connections. The trail includes landmarks such as overlooks down to the water, Baker Beach, Seal Rock, and Sutro Baths. Runners can choose to take road sections instead of trails, especially Lincoln Blvd. between Golden Gate and Baker Beach. Another shorter option is to explore just the Coastal Trail section around Land’s End, which is around 3.5 miles with various options to add on.
Similar to New York’s Central Park, Golden Gate Park is a stunning park that boasts lush greens, serene ponds, picturesque paths, open fields, and various amenities, such as the Botanical Gardens, the Japanese Tea Garden, the De Young Museum of Asian Art, and a “Music Concourse.” Runners can enjoy a variety of options, from running along the perimeter roads to exploring some of the park’s fantastic trail runs. The park spans roughly 3.6 miles from the intersection of Lincoln Way and Martin Luther King Dr. to the intersection with Stanyan St. to the east, stretching from Highway 1 at the ocean to the Haight-Ashbury area to the east. Visitors can also run along the “Panhandle” trail to Baker St., which covers an additional 0.8 miles. The eastern end of Golden Gate Park offers several trails near John F. Kennedy Dr. and other iconic landmarks, spanning approximately 1 mile to the Arguello Gate of the Presidio, using Arguello Blvd.
Located on the western side of the Golden Gate Bridge lies the Sunset/Ocean Beach area, which stands out from the Marina/Golden Gate area in terms of appearance, ambiance, and climate. The area is characterized by its rugged terrain and can often be chilly and foggy. However, the waterfront offers breathtaking running routes with stunning views of the crashing surf. Visitors can choose from a variety of paths, including a paved route that extends along most of the way between Highway 1 and the beach, a path on the beach itself, an interior path on the eastern side of Highway 1, and a path on the shoulder of Highway 1.
The Presidio, once a military base, is now a stunning park with miles of scenic trails for running and walking. The park offers hilly terrain, wooded paths, and breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean. The Presidio also serves as a hub for connecting nearby neighborhoods such as the Marina, Pacific Heights, Crissy Field, and the Golden Gate Bridge recreational area.
If you’re looking to get out of the city and explore some breathtaking running routes, the San Francisco Bay Area has plenty of options to offer. Here are three of our favorites:
- The Golden Gate National Recreation Area/Headlands: a vast area with stunning views and countless trails. Be warned: the terrain is challenging, with steep hills and rugged paths. If you go, we recommend running with a partner to stay safe (there are coyotes and mountain lions in the area).
- Mt. Tamalpias: located about 15 miles from San Francisco, this area offers hundreds of miles of trails and sweeping vistas from the summit. The switchback trail is a popular route to the top, spanning 5-7 miles depending on the path you take.
- Point Reyes National Seashore: for a day trip, head to Point Reyes for some unforgettable running scenery. The area offers a range of trails, from green pastures to dramatic ocean vistas. A must-do route is the 5-mile run from Pierce Point Ranch to Tamales Point, followed by a leisurely drive back to the city along Route 1 with a stop at one of the area’s charming restaurants.
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San Francisco has a vibrant running community, and there are events nearly every weekend. Some of the city’s signature running events include:
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- Bay to Breakers: the oldest continuously run footrace in the world, held in May. It’s a 12k race from the Embarcadero to Ocean Beach and attracts a huge crowd.
- San Francisco Marathon: held in June or July, this marathon takes runners through some of the city’s most scenic neighborhoods.
If you’re looking to join a group run in San Francisco, there are several options available:
- Fleet Feet, located in the Marina, hosts group runs throughout the week. You can check their calendar for details.
- A Runner’s Mind has group runs on Tuesdays (hill repeats), Thursdays (3-6 mile runs), and Saturdays (long runs at 9am). Their calendar has more information.
- See Jane Run hosts group runs on Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings. You can check their calendar for details.
- DSE Runners lead a group run every Saturday morning in Golden Gate Park.