Outdoor Adventures in San Francisco, CA
San Francisco Activities
About San Francisco
San Francisco is one of the most outdoors-loving cities in the country, with as many options for adventures as there are types of enthusiasts who enjoy them, from casual recreationists to pro triathletes to trail-loving hippies. The city’s varied geography beckons adventure, with the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco Bay, and several mountain ranges combining for a world-class outdoor playground. And that’s not to mention the 47 hills of the city itself, as well as Golden Gate Park and the Presidio, a former Army base whose trails and towering redwoods provide a pristine oasis in the urban landscape.
Outdoor enthusiasts can take their pick of spectacular state and national parks, from Angel Island State Park, located smack in the middle of San Francisco Bay, all the way to to Yosemite National Park, the crown jewel of the national park system. Whatever your activity, it’s a cinch to find a like-minded group to share it with.
Craving some competition? San Francisco hosts several events by land and sea, from the fun-loving Bay to Breakers 12k to fiercely competitive races like the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon, which starts with a swim from the world’s most famous penitentiary.
Trail: With countless trails throughout the Bay Area, it’s no surprise that San Francisco boasts a robust trail running culture; hiking and mountain biking are equally beloved pursuits. Mt. Tamalpais State Park in Marin County, about a 30-minute drive from downtown, is a trail mecca, with nearly 40 miles of continuous open space and protected areas. The Marin Headlands also boasts a proud history as the birthplace of mountain biking, and the area teems with choices for the MTB set with miles of mostly intermediate trails, including plenty of technical single-track.
Water: On sunny weekend days, the waters in the bay teem with windsurfers, kayakers, stand-up paddle boarders, and kite surfers. Surfing also has strong roots in San Francisco and beyond. South of the city, Santa Cruz helped popularize the sport decades ago, and Half Moon Bay hosts the awe-inspiring Titans of Mavericks big-wave surf contest every winter.
Rock: While Yosemite’s iconic granite formations are just a few hours away, rock jocks can take their pick of climbing and bouldering options closer to home, such as Stinson Beach and Mt. Diablo in Marin County, and, farther north along the rugged Sonoma County coast, Goat Rock State Beach and Salt Point State Park. San Francisco also boasts a number of world-class climbing gyms where newbies can learn the basics and advanced climbers can hone their skills.
Resorts are great, but to really amp up your winter adventure, venture to the best northern backcountry huts this season.
With premier hiking, skiing, climbing, camping—and natural hot springs where you can soak sore muscles—the Eastern Sierra are worth a trip.
Food tastes better outside, and your coffee can too.
Plan your next hike in Northern California to a fire lookout for guaranteed views.
It’s hard to think of a more satisfying way to spend a beautiful weekend than camping on one of Northern California’s spectacular array of public lands—except, perhaps, camping there for free.
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