SCENIC TRAILS AND URBAN PATHS: SAN FRANCISCO’S BEST RUN ROUTES

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Cassandra Pisone

We all knew it already, but Runner’s World made it official — San Francisco is the number one running city in America.

For one thing, we have year-round running weather. That, and the views. Even in a “compact” city, there are so many running paths that need to be on your must-run list.

So whether you’re training for a marathon, catching up with your running buddies before brunch, or just want to capture that perfect Insta photo on your run, these are the spots you’re going to want to hit up.

If challenge if your middle name, slip on your running shoes and prepare yourself — you’re about to embark on a nearly six-mile trek uphill with an elevation gain of close to 1,000ft. Once you make it to the top, take a breather (you deserve it) and soak up awesome views of the city. When it’s time to cruise downhill, just let go and let gravity do its thing.

This beach might be windy and cold most days, but that doesn’t make it any less stunning. When it’s sunny, take a run along the Great Highway on the paved path. It’s usually not that crowded and you’ll have stellar ocean views the entire time. If it’s the weekend, stick your credit card in your pocket and hit up Outerlands for their famous brunch.

Fun fact: there are buffalo in Golden Gate Park! It’s also worth mentioning there’s a waterfall, a Japanese tea garden, and a view of Ocean Beach. If that doesn’t get your booty to Golden Gate Park for a run, we don’t know what will. Expect mostly paved trails (some are dirt paths) and a few rolling hills… because San Francisco. Though, this fun run will become an instant favorite.

If you want to run the iconic 1.7-mile-long suspension bridge, get there early; an early morning sunrise run is definitely worth dragging yourself out of bed. Plus, you’ll have the path to yourself before it’s overrun with visitors. Know that runners and walkers are only allowed on the Northbound side of the bridge. Thankfully, you’ll have the lane to yourself on Saturday and Sunday — the Southbound side is reserved for cyclists. Finish your run with a well-deserved coffee from the Warming Hut at the bottom of the bridge.

We’ll let you in our go-to running spot. You can do an easy six-mile flat out-and-back loop starting at the Safeway on Marina Boulevard. Just run to Hopper’s Hands underneath the Golden Gate Bridge and back to Safeway. You’ll have views of the Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and plenty of wildlife (especially herons!). And if it’s Sunday morning, pop across the street to the Fort Mason Farmers Market for a tasty treat.

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Across the Bay in Oakland, Lake Merritt is the East Bay’s classic running route. It’s centrally located just east of Downtown Oakland, and its (mostly) flat 3.4-mile paved path makes for a popular place to get in a 5k or 10k. Plus, every fourth Sunday you can lace up your racing flats and join the Lake Merritt Joggers and Striders for their monthly 5k or 10k race.

Whether you’re looking for a short recovery run, a challenging trail run, or a long run, head to The Presidio for all of your running needs. You can do a short jaunt around the Ecology Trail and Lover’s Lane (but be prepared for a quarter-mile hill!) or go for a longer loop on the Bay Ridge Trail.

You’ll feel like the king of the hill once you crest the infamous Lyon Street Steps. Your prize for making it up all 244 stairs? Breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Palace of Fine Arts, and even Alcatraz. A couple times up and down will have you ready for brunch in no time (and a water… definitely water). Just be sure you post a sweaty post-run selfie from the top!

Want a trail run without leaving the city? Put “Lands End” into your Google Maps and lace up your running shoes. This three-mile out-and-back trail shows off some of the best views of the city. You’ll be challenged by stairs, hills, and the desire to stop to Snapchat-brag your entire run. Oh, and if you want a little bit of extra credit, you can run down the short trail to the Sutro Baths ruins, destroyed by a fire in 1966.

If you’ve got an easy run on the calendar and are looking for somewhere that you can just zone out and run AND not worry about car traffic, Lake Merced should be on your radar. Bordering the Sunset and Parkmerced, you can expect cooler temps (perfect for running!) thanks to its proximity to Ocean Beach. The paved footpath is 4.5 miles but can be doubled if you’re looking for a longer distance.

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Stay up to date on what’s happening in San Francisco’s health and fitness scene.

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Stay up to date on what’s happening in San Francisco’s health and fitness scene.