Forget Boulder; San Francisco is the ideal city for outdoor enthusiasts. Runners and bikers navigate its tree-lined streets on a daily basis. And given the (mostly) warm and sunny weather, we need and love our outdoor time.
So to get your fix without battling bridge traffic (no joke), head to one of these parks and enjoy the great outdoors right in the heart of the city.
The go-to Fleet Week spot, Fort Mason has about as much wide-open sky as any city-goer can ask for. Head there to watch airshows, or host your next Saturday BBQ. Really anytime of any day is good; this park always has something going on.
Golden Gate Park
The city’s largest park is an obvious choice for some outdoor bliss. Home to the Japanese Tea Garden and the San Francisco Botanical Gardens, the park also hosts a portion of the city’s favorite bike trail, the Golden Gate Park Loop. Cut out of work a little early to see top museums or just get lost in the wild of a green space that spans nearly half the length of SF—coming in at over 1,ooo acres.
Mt Sutro Forest
A forest? In the city? Yeah, that exists. Mt Sutro is really a 900-foot hill in SF covered in 100 years worth of eucalyptus that once covered most of the western part of the city. We like heading here for an after-work hike, and you’re sure to see people walking their dogs, trail running, or just enjoying a quiet piece of nature away from the hustle of the city.
A canyon in the middle of the city? You heard right. Isn’t San Francisco is awesome? Hike through this hidden wonder or bring along a crash-pad for an epic bouldering session. Can’t find any rocks to get a hold on? Just search for the chalk marks and have at it.
Arguably the best hike in the city, follow the trails in Lands End for some Seacliff adventure. Wander through ferny-green paths to arrive at Instagram-worthy viewpoints of the Golden Gate Bridge. Then, meander back through some of the nicest (and swankiest) neighborhoods in the city.
This park is the treasure of North Beach and is the perfect spot to digest the pizza you undoubtedly just ate, all while people-watching the hordes of visitors looking for Ghirardelli Square (think famous chocolate factory). A beautiful church makes the otherwise bustling park feel a bit calmer, and visitors shouldn’t forget to visit the quirky hat shop bordering the square.
One of the oldest parks in the city, Crissy Field’s open grassy field is the perfect place to relax on a sunny afternoon. Bring your crew and spread out for a game of soccer (or pretty much anything that requires space) or rent bikes and rollerblades to cruise along the edges of this awesome park.
Climbers of all levels head to Beaver Street Wall in Corona Heights Park to attempt challenging routes on San Francisco’s only crag. This polished slab (like see-your-own-reflection polished) offers four climbs with top-rope anchors, allowing climbing enthusiasts to take their gym skills outdoors. There’s a sign next to the wall that tries to discourage climbers (but it’s been confirmed as complete BS). So unless you plan on bolting your own route (which is illegal), climbing here is completely kosher. Above the wall, visitors can find a dog park and rocky paths where urban hikers hang out and admire the views of downtown.
Also a dog park (#win), this famous square sits in front of the Full House houses, or as locals will know to call them, The Painted Ladies. Lush grass, great views, and full sun (until the fog, of course) make Alamo Square pretty cool. But even better, this park is just a short stroll from some of the city’s best brunch spots. So if you overdid it on the Huevos Rancheros, feel free to relax in this grassy paradise while strategically making room for Smitten Ice Cream down the hill.
Secret swings and sweeping city views? Yes, please. Named after a 17th-century rancher whose property made up roughly 20 percent of modern-day SF, this hillside became a desirable neighborhood shortly after the 1906 earthquake. Since then, it has steadily grown into a hugely popular residence. Today, the park on top of the hill offers panoramic views of the city and a secret swing that feels every bit as magical as it sounds.
The name of this lesser-known park says it all. Climb a short hill to the top for an amazing view (that’s basically what Buena Vista means) of the fog rolling in, and the sweet smell of eucalyptus trees. Grassy green knolls await at the top—perfect for picnics, catching rays, or a game of Frisbee.
For a grittier SF adventure, check out Dolores Park. Backyard to some of the city’s quirkiest characters, endless onesie parties, and people that will make every attempt to sell you — *ahem*, “brownies” — this park is the outdoor version of live theatre (at its finest). Plus, the top of the park offers beautiful views of downtown, and some of the happiest dogs in the city.
Alta Vista Park
We like Alta Vista Park for all it has to offer — tennis courts, the stairs that make a pretty good workout… oh, and most of all, the view. It’s that “grab a blanket, a cutie, and a couple of kombuchas” opportunity to watch the sunset go down over the city. Alternately, you can go in the morning and grab a couple of pastries from b. patisserie for breakfast with a view.
If you are looking for a park situation but don’t want to deal with the crowds at Dolores, may we suggest Lafayette Park? This Pac Heights park has it all — great views, a variety of different spaces, and lots of grassy areas for picnicking, napping, or reading a book. Since it is in Pac Heights, expect a number of families, which isn’t all bad — it’s clean and extra chill.
Who says you can’t climb a mountain in the city? Well at least you can say you summited Twin Peaks, the 900′ hill smack dab in the middle of the city. Hike to the top for lush green trails and spaces that give you 360-degree views of the entire metropolis. Just be sure to go before the fog, otherwise you’ll just be getting views almost exclusively of your hands and feet.
Possibly San Francisco’s tiniest park, this small strip of land between Hayes and Fell is a great place to spend a sunny day. Cleaner than many parks in SF, the space also has rotating art exhibits and the much-loved Smitten (nitrogen ice cream) and Ritual (bomb coffee) along its walkways.