Bay Area Local Life

Keep Your Resolution by Running These Bay Area Routes

If one of your resolutions for the New Year was to get in better shape by running more, the Bay Area is a great place to see it through. With challenging hills, gorgeous landscapes, and plenty of trails and paths to run on, San Francisco, the Peninsula, and the East Bay offer something for all levels of runners. Not to mention, the weather is generally mild year-round, so there’s no excuse but to get out there and reach your goals. The only question is, where to start? has outlined some of the area’s top running routes and the neighborhoods you’ll visit along the way, so you can find a location that works best for you. Happy trails!


Beginners and experienced runners alike looking for a flat path free from hills and traffic can’t do much better than the Embarcadero in San Francisco. The three-mile bike and pedestrian path runs from AT&T Park in South Park all the way to North Beach. Along the way, the Ferry Building and views of the Bay Bridge will distract you from the effort. The only downside is that this path can be crowded with tourists and walkers at times, so you might need to swerve around people along the way.

Crissy Field to Pier 39

Another relatively flat option is to run through is Crissy Field, which starts from the edge of the Golden Gate Bridge in the Presidio. Runners can take the pedestrian path through the Marina over to Fisherman’s Wharf and North Beach, where it connects back to the Embarcadero. On a clear day, views of the Golden Gate Bridge are gorgeous. You’ll also see Fort Mason, which has a farmers market on certain days of the week. The weather can change quickly here, though, with winds coming out of nowhere, so be sure to dress in layers.

Golden Gate Park

Photo by Daniel Ramirez / CC BY

There are a number of popular running routes that go through and around the perimeter of this well-known park. The park stretches across several neighborhoods, from Haight-Ashbury and Cole Valley to the Inner and Outer Sunset on one side, and the Inner and Outer Richmond on the other. The entire perimeter is 7.4 miles, but runners can also cut through the middle or do only part of the loop. There are also plenty of challenging, hilly routes to run in the park itself. Make for Strawberry Hill and the waterfall if you’re up for a challenge.


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

For a shorter park loop, many San Francisco runners prefer the Panhandle portion of Golden Gate Park. This flat, popular spot is just about a mile and a half total, so run it twice if you want to get in a full 5K. Along the way, you’ll pass through the historic Haight Ashbury on one side and NoPa (North of the Panhandle) on the other.

Lake Merced

Courtesy of San Francisco Recreation and Parks

If you’re looking for a quiet spot to get away from the San Francisco traffic and noise, head here. The circular loop around Lake Merced in the Lakeshore neighborhood is just about 4.5 miles, making it just the right length to squeeze in a quick workout. Stop by the nearby San Francisco Zoo for a fun way to cool down afterward.

Bay Trail

Photo by Lauraat / CC BY

Down on the Peninsula, the Bay Trail runs along the San Francisco Bay for about nine miles. Stretching from Millbrae to San Carlos, you’ll pass through several neighborhoods along here. However, you’ll be completely surrounded by nature and water the entire way. On a clear day, you’ll get San Francisco city skyline views passing through Foster City. There are also convenient water fountains along the way. Because there’s little shade, these can come in handy.

Lake Merritt

Across the Bay, East Bay runners flock to Lake Merritt to get in a lap or two around the just over three-mile lake loop in Oakland. Look out for runners, walkers, and tourists on beautiful, sunny days. Dogs are also allowed but must be kept on a leash at all times.

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