7 Running Trails in San Francisco
With its temperate climate and ocean views, San Francisco is home to some of the most scenic running in the country. Races like Bay to Breakers and the San Francisco Marathon draw participants looking for a challenge, while scenic trails encourage runners of all skill levels. For those daunted by San Francisco’s famous hills, many local routes are relatively flat or include small climbs.
Whether you’re looking for a trail featuring photo-worthy views of the Golden Gate Bridge or a simple jaunt through a neighborhood park, San Francisco has the running trail for you.
Located at the heart of Golden Gate Park near the Inner Sunset neighborhood, this two-mile dirt trail winds its way around Stow Lake and onto Strawberry Hill, a small island named for the abundance of strawberries that previously inhabited it. The trail passes a man-made waterfall, a relaxing pagoda, and it's home to numerous plant and animal species. For those looking to avoid the numerous San Francisco hills, this trail is relatively flat with a total elevation gain of 154 feet.
Many runners choose to bring their dogs on this trail, but they must keep them on leashes. To extend the route, runners can head west towards Ocean Beach.
For runners looking for a little more elevation and a view of the coast, the Batteries to Bluffs Trail in the Presidio neighborhood is the route for you. This 2.2-mile dirt trail features approximately 450 feet of elevation and a consistent view of the Golden Gate Bridge. This trail winds through shady areas that give runners a rest from the sun when the clouds lift, and more exposed areas that give runners time to warm up again. For runners looking to extend the trail beyond 2.2 miles, there are options to connect with running paths to the south towards Baker Beach or to the north towards Crissy Field.
Although short, this trail covers a variety of terrain and scenery appropriate for all running abilities. Runners are taken past multiple historic gun batteries and overlooks perfect for snapping a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Similar to Batteries to Bluffs, the Lands End Trail parallels the Sea Cliff neighborhood and features stunning Golden Gate Bridge views. This dirt-packed 3.4-mile loop is popular with both locals and tourists, and it features open grasses, wildflowers, and densely populated trees in some areas. Runners are taken past Point Lobos and the historical Sutro Bathhouses. The comparably higher elevation of this run is forgiven by views of the Pacific.
For a longer run, connecting the Lands End Trail with one of the numerous Ocean Beach trails to the south is highly recommended.
The Bernal Heights Park Trail is a one-mile loop in the Bernal Heights neighborhood that features a birds-eye view of the city like no other. Unlike Lands End and Batteries to Bluffs, Bernal Heights Park Trail is much more residential. The trail is paved and home to many different species of wildflowers, birds, and cacti. You’ll be sure to bump into local runners on their post-work runs.
At the top of the trail, runners are treated to 360-degree views of the Bay Area, including the skyscrapers of Downtown San Francisco, hills of Marin, and spectacular views of the East Bay in the distance. Both the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge can be seen from the top. After enjoying a run, athletes often stop at one of the many neighborhood coffee shops or restaurants to refuel.
Located adjacent to the Forest Knolls neighborhood, the Mount Sutro Loop is a two-mile, dirt-packed loop that weaves through dense wilderness. With eucalyptus trees and a native plant nursery, this loop is a scenic reprieve from the city. Runners can enter the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve from multiple trailheads, including the East Ridge trailhead and Edgewood Trail. The Mount Sutro Loop often surprises many runners by how wild a park in the middle of the city can be.
For those looking for a longer run, the Mount Sutro Loop can easily be connected with the Twin Peaks loop for a 4.1-mile run.
This 1.8-mile loop situated next to the Miraloma neighborhood is located on a 66-acre plot of land that serves as a getaway from the rest of the city. The trail features a natural creek that flows through the center of Glen Canyon Park in addition to a plant nursery and play areas for kids.
Options to extend this run include connecting onto trails in nearby Mount Davidson Park or connecting with the Twin Peaks trail for a 3.8-mile loop.
Located next to Funston Beach adjacent to the Lakeshore neighborhood, Fort Funston Trail is a two-mile paved loop that includes views of the beach in addition to meandering through the forest. Runners will encounter the remains of Fort Funston, including remnants of batteries and missiles. Many people enjoy watching hang gliders descend off of the 200-foot high bluffs and keeping a lookout for the whales that often feed in the area.
To make this loop longer, runners can easily connect with the trails located north at Ocean Beach.