Where to RUN? Best Trails and City Views in San Francisco Bay


I love to get out to explore my city by staying active, whether it is through hiking, running, or swimming. When I run, I forget about COVID-19 and all of the changes in our world right now, so I thought I would share my five favorite parks in San Francisco with great views and fun trails.

I first started running in high school, where I am on my school’s track and cross-country teams which have won at the state level. Running is a great way to explore new places and conquer challenges—I am always looking to switch up my regular running spots, and one of my favorite activities to do when I travel is to find local parks to explore. I am also an open water swimmer, and love the San Francisco Bay (the last swim I did was from the Golden Gate to the Bay Bridge), so many of my favorite spots have a great water view.

If you find yourself in San Francisco, check out these places (and remember to wear a mask)!!

McLaren Park
Clockwise: water tower, playground, hiking trails.

McLaren Park is located in the southeastern corner of San Francisco, next to Crocker-Amazon and Visitacion Valley. The third largest park in the city, it spans 312 acres and holds 7 miles of trails through forest, grasslands, and marsh areas. Most of the park was built by the Works Projects Administration as a result of the New Deal during the Great Depression.

  • Hikeability ★★★★☆ Loose dirt and many hills.
  • Trail Length ★★★★★ 7 miles of trails to wander.
  • Ambiance ★★★★☆ Secluded and vast, goes through many different habitats.
  • Amount of Other Visitors Seen ★★★★☆ Very empty, stay on open trails.
Brooks Park
Clockwise: park sign, street entrance, the view, garden.

A small neighborhood block park in Merced heights with a community garden and a really short trail. Good view at the top.

  • Hikeability ★★★★☆
  • Trail Length ★☆☆☆☆
  • Ambiance ★★★★★
  • Amount of Other Visitors Seen ★★★☆☆ I passed one or two other people, but it was mostly empty.
Aquatic Park
Clockwise: where to find the entrance to the trail from Aquatic Park, view from the pier, the pier, West-facing view

Marine access for open water swimmers. It is a hub for aquatic sports, seals and boats. This is one of my favorite spots in the city, so I am partial to this trail that goes up a hill next to the park.

  • Hikeability: ★★★★☆
  • Trail Length ★★★★☆
  • Ambiance ★★★★☆
  • Amount of Other Visitors Seen ★☆☆☆☆ quite crowded past 9am.
Holly Park
Clockwise: playground (currently closed), park sign, stairs, baseball diamond.

Holly Park has a baseball diamond and concentric paved trails to walk on in Bernal Heights. It is very dog friendly.

  • Hikeability ★★★★☆
  • Trail Length ★★★☆☆
  • Ambiance ★★★★☆
  • Amount of Other Visitors Seen ★★★☆☆
Lands’ End
Clockwise: view from end of trail, hill above Lands’ End Lookout, beach view, paved section

The Lands’ End trail is pretty long. It has an awesome water view and it also leads into other city trails around it. Check out the cross town trail. This is section 1 of the cross town trail which it takes you through different city neighborhoods.

  • Hikeability ★★★☆☆ It’s a little hilly and sometimes there is poison oak on the narrow trail but it is worth it.
  • Trail Length ★★★★★
  • Ambiance ★★★★★
  • Amount of Other Visitors Seen ★☆☆☆☆

Thanks for reading!

Learn about Sydney’s swim from Bridge to Bridge: Swimming in San Francisco to Change the World! and Will You to Swim Bridge to Bridge to Change the World?

Next swim: Bonifacio Strait from Sardinia to Corsica!

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