Top outdoor activities in San Francisco

This vibrant city is full of beautiful things to see from stunning architecture to breathtaking natural landmarks, all you have to do is wander outside…

San Francisco offers more chances to get outside and enjoy nature than you might expect at first glance. There are outdoor activities and adventures to suit not only travelers of all ages, but also any fitness level, making this bustling city one of the best to visit if you prefer to have outdoor adventures. In fact, some of the most beautiful natural views of San Francisco are right within the city limits. How lucky are you?

Cruise along San Francisco Bay

A cruise on San Francisco Bay under the Golden Gate Bridge.

There’s no better way to experience San Francisco than from the bay. The geography, location and water surrounding the city have defined and shaped San Francisco since its humble beginnings. The strong winds from the bay, the chilly cold and the ever-present fog create an atmosphere that is completely different from the rest of California. As you cross the bay, you have beautiful views of two of the city’s most important landmarks: the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island.

Cruises on the bay run from slow ferry trips to Alcatraz, to high-speed motorboat tours and wind-whipped sailing cruises. No matter how you choose to travel, getting out on the water is one of the best outdoor activities in San Francisco.

Take a ferry ride out to Angel Island

View of Angel Island in San Francisco.

Angel Island is just a short ferry ride from San Francisco and offers exceptional views of the city, Marin County and Mt. Tamalpais. The island is a treasure trove of historical relics, mainly old forts and military outposts; however, the island’s main highlight is experiencing over 700 acres of natural beauty. Hiking and biking trails are plentiful and the island is lush with native flora and fauna sure to impress anyone and everyone who visits!

Take a walk through Golden Gate Park

If you want to get out of town without actually get out of town Golden Gate Park is the place to go. As the largest man-made urban park in the world, Golden Gate Park offers a haven of nature amidst the urban madness of San Francisco.

Covering an area of ​​1.5 square kilometers, the park is large enough to completely isolate you from the hustle and bustle of the city and surround yourself in a beautiful and diverse natural environment. Some fascinating sights in the park include the elegant, exotic beauty of the Japanese Tea Garden; the solemn National AIDS Memorial Grove; the family-friendly Strawberry Hill and Stowe Lake; the haze of Hippie Hill; and the randomness of the park’s buffalo herd.

For anyone looking to spend some relaxing time in Mother Nature, Golden Gate Park is a must-see and one of the best outdoor activities in San Francisco. It’s also one of the best places to watch the sunset in San Francisco, so that’s always a plus.

Go sea kayaking on the bay

Do you think taking a cruise out on the bay sounds like fun? Try paddling out there. This is a great activity for people who want to go on an adventure and be more involved in an activity. Kayaking on the bay is an exciting and beautiful way to get up close to the water around San Francisco.

Paddling out to see a big game is always a fun evening activity – it’s not unheard of for kayakers to occasionally catch home runs from their perch out on the water.

If you want to get a little further outside of the city than just the waters of San Francisco Bay, you can rent kayaks and paddle around Angel Island, Sausalito, Tamales Bay and tons of other places in the San Francisco area.

Enjoy the beauty of Muir Woods

A woman walking through Muir Forest in San Francisco.

Just a short drive north of San Francisco is an idyllic, beautiful grove of ancient coastal redwoods. The famous Sequoia trees are a popular stop for nature lovers and those who want to take pictures. Although the easily accessible parts of the park can get crowded, there are plenty of trails you can take that offer a chance to appreciate the beauty of Muir Woods with a little loneliness.

Visit Mt. There

The view from the top of Mt.  Tamalpais in San Francisco.

As the highest point in Marin County and a prominent feature of the skyline north of San Francisco, Mt. Tamalpais — or Mt. There for the locals – is a landmark for anyone with a penchant for outdoor recreation. Mt. Tamalpais State Park offers over 100 miles of trails and roads suitable for mountain biking and hiking and offers great views of the city.

Whether you want to challenge yourself by hiking to the top or enjoy a leisurely stroll and find a picturesque picnic spot, an afternoon spent enjoying one of the Bay Area’s most popular outdoor spots is sure to be a highlight of any trip to San Francisco.

Hike through Fort Funston

Fort Funston trails and surrounding beach at sunset.

Fort Funston is another popular walking destination with windswept views of the beach and a large network of trails around the fort popular for hiking and horse riding. The loop trails around the fort are generally quite mellow – perfect for people who want to enjoy some outdoor scenery without hiking up too many steep or difficult hills. Looking for a little more of a challenge? You can try hiking down some rather strenuous paths to the beach.

Bird watchers will appreciate the colony of barn swallows nesting in the towering sandstone cliffs nearby. These birds, once widespread in the area, are now endangered, and the rocks near Ft. Funston is one of only two known nesting sites on the coast. Ft. Funston is also a great insight into the history of San Francisco – not only because of the military history contained there, but also because the nearby dunes are the last remnant of a dune system that used to cover much of the bay. You can also see a pretty cool sunset from this spot, which many people actually say it is that best sunset in San Francisco. You honestly can’t beat it.

Rent a bike in the city

For all its hills, this city is a pretty popular city for biking, making it one of the best outdoor activities in San Francisco. If you want a cheap way to get around downtown while enjoying the weather, rent a bike—just be aware that you’ll be riding up and down a lot of San Francisco’s infamous hills (number about a good workout). Guided bike tours are also a great way to get to know the city – plus, the guides know the best routes to minimize the leg-burning hills.

For the more adventurous types, mountain biking is huge in Marin County. In fact, you’ll often hear Mt. Tam and its surrounding areas are referred to as the birthplace of mountain biking. Although people rode mountain trails before it became popular here, it was at Mt. Tamalpais that mountain bike enthusiasts pioneered modern materials and innovative ways to adapt bikes to the rigors of the mountain trails and made the sport what it is today.

Walk to the beach

The beach in San Francisco with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

San Francisco has a very different beach culture than Southern California – you won’t find too many people laying out in the sun. In fact, you’d be lucky to find sun on most of the beaches in the Bay Area. For the most part, cool temperatures and dangerous currents preclude swimming at the beaches.

Still, San Francisco’s beaches offer their own unique charm (not to mention easy accessibility from the city!) and are worth checking out. Baker Beach, Ocean Beach and Land’s End are all easy to get to from the city, have great scenery and offer a little respite from city life.


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