City Guide: San Francisco (Outdoor Edition)

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013 | City Guide


Erica is our special escapist with a knack for finding the best things to do outdoors. Besides America, she’s lived in India and Africa, traveled extensively in South East Asia as a solo-female traveler, and has explored dozens of other destinations. She is currently attending graduate school in nursing in San Francisco, and spends her weekends adventuring through parks, beaches, rivers and mountains.

One of her favorite travel experiences includes hiking to Gangotri, the glacier that feeds the Ganga river in India, with a group of her girlfriends.

Muir Woods

Whether I’m globetrotting or trying to decide what to do on a free weekend, I like to integrate the outdoors into my time. I’m someone who equally loves living amongst rivers and pine trees and bustling city streets. I’ve spent three fabulous summers living in nature near Yosemite national park, hiking and swimming in my free time. I’m equally happy waking up to the horn of the San Francisco lightrail outside my apartment, walking down the crowded city street to grab brunch and go shopping.

I’ve lived in San Francisco for three years while attending graduate school. I don’t have a lot of free time to leave the city to find nature, so I’ve made it my mission to find the great outdoors within San Francisco. Any city you visit provides entertainment in the great outdoors, some cities more blatantly than others. The greater San Francisco Bay Area is an obvious host to nature lovers. Within an hour drive of the city you can hike amongst towering Redwoods at Muir Woods, get fresh oysters on the water at Tomales Bay Oyster Co., or surf perfect waves in Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz. Alicia Thorpe.

Finding the great outdoors within the city of San Francisco has not been as challenging as it may seem. The city is surrounded by water, has a multitude of hills that provide for glut-pumping city hikes, and has a 3-mile park with hidden gardens and bike trails. Whether you’re in San Francisco for a week or a weekend, I recommend getting outdoors for a quest to discover the nature within the city! Remember to bring layers; San Francisco weather often doesn’t coincide with normal seasonal weather patterns.

Golden Gate Park

Quest 1: Golden Gate Park: Start your morning with brunch at Zazie in the adorable Cole Valley neighborhood. I recommend trying the La Mer poached eggs and sitting on the sunny back patio. Then, ditch the open-top bus and Segway tour for a truly genuine off—the—beaten—path San Francisco experience! Golden Gate Park is full of gems, but you really have to explore to find them! I often wander around the park for hours and never tire of it! Use this mapto do your exploring! My favorite experiences include 1. The botanical garden 2. AIDS memorial garden 3. Renting paddle boats at Stow Lake 4. The buffalo Paddock (Yes, there really are buffalo in the park!). 5. Walk along JFK between #34 and #20 to see San Francisco’s very own roller skating rink, most active on Sundays. I promise, you’ve never seen anything like it! 6. Bring a picnic and sit amongst the flowers at the Conservatory of flowers. Almost every afternoon a drum circle breaks out here! 7. Walk along one of the hidden bike paths in the trees (one lines the south side of the park all the way to the beach). If you go on a Sunday JFK drive is blocked off for pedestrians/bicyclists/roller skaters only! If you go on a Thursday check out the food trucks at Off the Grid on Stanyan and Waller from 5-8pm.

Ocean Beach

Quest 2: Ocean Beach: Start your walk at the Beach Chalet. Check out the beautiful murals here and try their great weekend brunch! I like to come to the beach to watch the surfers in the water and collect shells. On a clear day you can see the rolling hills of the Marin headlands. Walk south along the beach for about two miles. Oftentimes there’s a great collection of sand dollars so don’t forget to bring a bag!

View from Lands End Trail

Quest 3: Lands End: This hike really feels like you’ve transported to somewhere far far away from buildings, cars and hoards of people. The winding dirt trail skirts along the cliff and provides great views of the California coast and golden gate bridge! Start your hike at the Sutro baths at the north end of Ocean Beach. The hike goes all the way to the golden gate bridge if you’re up for it! Or, stop to admire the architecture at the Legion of Honor, or for a beach break at Baker Beach.

Now that you’ve completed one or many of these San Francisco quests, it’s time for some city fun! I like to head to Bissap Baobob in the Mission for Senegalese food, performances and dancing to West African music on Saturday nights! Or go to the Kabuki Springs and Spa in Japantown for a relaxing massage.

Bissap Baobab

Love & Travel,


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