Golden Gate Park - Road Running

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About

Summary

The coastline and serene forest groves are par for the course for a run in San Francisco. But add to the mix a waterfall, windmills, and buffalo (yes, buffalo!), and you have the makings of a quintessentially SF outing. Slip on your sneakers for a run at the city’s favorite green space, Golden Gate Park, and you’ll be delighted by all these unexpected distractions.

Written by

Blane Bachelor

Distance

1.0 miles

The most popular routes are a one-mile loop and a five-mile loop.

Destination Distance From Downtown

3.7 miles

Difficulty

1 of 5 diamonds

With easy-on-the-knees dirt trails and mostly flat surfaces with a few very gentle rollers, Golden Gate Park is a welcoming environment for runners of all levels.

Time To Complete

1 hours

One of the best parts about running in Golden Gate Park is its variety: You can easily tack on miles or shorten a route as you need to.

Seasonality

All Seasons

Dog Friendly

Yes

Fees Permits

No

Land Website

Golden Gate Park

Review

Intro

The coastline and serene forest groves are par for the course for a run in San Francisco. But add to the mix a waterfall, windmills, and buffalo (yes, buffalo!), and you have the makings of a quintessentially San Francisco outing. Slip on your sneakers for a run at the city’s favorite green space, Golden Gate Park, and you’ll be delighted by all these unexpected distractions. This 1,017-acre park offers a pleasing mishmash of paved roads and trails that wind through serene groves of hundred-year-old oak trees, beautifully manicured gardens, and one of the city’s artistic gems, the De Young Museum of Art. All along the way, intriguing San Francisco history—like Hippie Hill, where musical icons like the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin held impromptu performances back during the Summer of Love—adds to the distinctly SF flavor.

What Makes It Great

With plenty of options for altering your route, you’ll never get bored with a run in Golden Gate Park. The main vehicle thoroughfares, John F. Kennedy to the north and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to the south, are both flanked with running paths as well as sidewalks, with myriad trails that branch off them. Routes are mostly flat, though there’s a steady incline along JFK Drive.

For an easy, five-mile, round-trip route that includes several of the park highlights, begin at the botanical gardens and run on the path parallel to Lincoln Way, passing past the polo fields and arriving at the Murphy windmill—one of two functioning windmills in the park, which date back to 1903—near the Great Highway. Head north, either along the Great Highway or the trails that wind through the park, to the Dutch windmill on the northeast corner of the park before returning along John F. Kennedy Drive, keeping an eye out for the bison paddock on your left.

If you’re focused on cranking out some quick miles instead of route finding, the mile-long loop around man-made Stow Lake is a scenic spot, with ducks and geese meandering around the lake, and boaters paddling along its waters. Cross the bridge over the lake and challenge your fitness with a lung-busting climb up Strawberry Hill.

Who is Going to Love It

Runners who love to add a little exploration along their routes will find plenty of inspiration at Golden Gate Park. It’s also a great spot for a group run, with ample spots for post-run refueling in nearby neighborhoods of Inner Sunset and Haight-Ashbury. In addition, the park sees its share of races, including Bay to Breakers, the San Francisco Half-Marathon, and the quirky, Halloween-themed Mad Dash. On Sundays, the park is closed to vehicular traffic, making it a perfect spot for a family outing.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Forgo finding a spot in nearby neighborhoods and take advantage of ample free parking inside the park, but keep in mind that things heat-up early-ish on weekends. In addition, the park is car-free on weekends, so parking can be even trickier. The park is free to enter, but there are entry fees for the de Young and the Botanical Gardens.

Location

Golden Gate Park - Road Running

37.769421, -122.486214

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