San Francisco often sits shrouded in a heavy fog bank — a clash of salty Pacific Ocean air and savory aromas wafting from food trucks. Like most cities, there’s a riot of noise: boat horns blasting in the harbor, buses screeching as they whip around corners, racked surfboards knocking atop cars, tourists talking in several languages. But don’t let it fool you. Despite its concrete-jungle appearance, there are plenty of outdoorsy things to do for the active first-time Bay Area visitor. Here are 4 ideas to get you started:
Bike Along the Embarcadero and Marina Boulevard
Bay Area Bike Share launched at the end of August to increase cycling in San Francisco. 700 bikes placed at docking stations around the peninsula and Bay Area are now available for both city dwellers and tourists to use. Grab one of the new mint green bikes (skip the rental stations that charge a fortune) and cruise west from the Ferry Building along The Embarcadero’s piers. From Marina Boulevard, you can jump on the paved path and bike toward the Golden Gate Bridge. When you’re done, simply return your bike to the nearest docking station. A 24-hour pass costs $9. Heads up, trips longer than 30-minutes incur small overtime fees.
Trail Run in Presidio National Park
The Presidio, located on the northwest tip of the peninsula, is actually a historic military post that was converted into a national park. It now offers quiet trails prime for running that weave through treed bluffs home to 130 bird species. You can climb up to several vista overlooks of the Bay and Golden Gate Bridge — my favorite is Inspiration Point, situated above the park’s largest watershed, Tennessee Hollow.
For up-close, postcard-like views of the Golden Gate, follow signs to Crissy Field Overlook. Tuck your phone in your shorts pocket. You won’t want to miss this photo op.
Hike Through Redwoods in Mt. Tamalpais State Park
Hikers looking for a workout as they experience California’s legendary Redwoods shouldn’t park at Muir Woods National Monument (what most guidebooks recommend, and what most tourists opt for). Instead, take Mill Valley’s Panoramic Highway a couple miles higher into Mount Tamalpais State Park. Park your car at the wide roadside access point. From here, take Ocean View Trail, which switchbacks down from redwood treetops to the Muir Woods’ forest floor. As you descend, you’ll notice wider trunks, and a pleasant charred, earthy smell. You can still hike around Muir Woods once you get down, but this 5-mile round-trip adds a challenging, less-traveled spin to the Muir boardwalk.
Stand Up Paddleboard in Sausalito
For paddlers not afraid to brave the Bay’s chilly water temps, the best stand-up bet lies in sheltered Sausalito — the oceanfront neighborhood on the north end of Golden Gate Bridge. With Sea Trek, located in Richardson Bay, you can paddle for $20 an hour through yacht harbors next to the seals, or sign up for a SUP fitness class. The group also offers guided tours under the Golden Gate. Time your visit right, and you can snag a spot on the full moon tour to catch the city’s night skyline from the water.
by Patty Hodapp
Patty Hodapp is a freelance writer and solo traveler reporting from the intersection of fitness and adventure. Her slew of expat addresses runs deep — most recently, a tropical Spanish island in the Mediterranean. She covers endurance sports, outdoor gear and adventure travel. Besides Travel Channel, she has written for Outside, Men’s Fitness, Shape and several other publications.