Located on the northwest corner of the San Francisco peninsula, Land's End is a popular and accessible outdoor destination that offers picturesque views, rugged beauty and an incredible opportunity to view marine wildlife. In addition, the area is saturated with historical relics and famous landmarks: rusted shipwrecks, the abandoned Sutro Baths, the famous Cliff House restaurant and the Palace of the Legion of Honor.
What Makes It Great
Land's End is where you can find the wildest nature within San Francisco city limits. A 1.75 mile section of the California Coastal Trail will guide you through a native coastal landscape with stunning views of the Marin Headlands and the Golden Gate Bridge. Before you begin, be sure to check out the Lands End Lookout (visitor center) for more information about the area’s significant historic landmarks and pick up a free map.
Head to the north-end of the Merrie Way parking lot to find a path leading gradually up a hillside through windblown and gnarled cypress trees, fragrant coastal sage, native yellow monkeyflower, coyote brush and yarrow. For an easy side trip, a path soon to your left will lead you down to the abandoned Sutro Baths. Once an astonishingly beautiful and progressive establishment, the remnants of these late 19th century baths can be explored as they erode away with each rise and fall of the tides. The lookout just north of the baths is Point Lobos. From here, at very low tides, it’s possible to view the rusted wreckage of Ohioan freighter that crashed into the rocky shoreline in 1937. For now, stay right on the Coastal Trail to converge with a wide, paved path that follows the cliffside below Camino Del Mar. Just feet from the walking path, rough hewn bluffs abruptly drop off into the tumultuous waves below.
As the path curves to the west and approaches the Eastern Coastal Trail Overlook to your left, be sure to take a moment and search for gray whale water spouts, pods of dolphins, rafts of seals, and the remains of two other shipwrecks: Frank Buck and Lyman Stewart. Don’t give up if at first you don’t see any of these; the views continue off and on until the end of the trail near El Camino Del Mar and 32nd Avenue. Soon the paved path will end. Around the 0.75 mile mark, several stairs to the left of the trail will lead down to Mile Rock Beach and the Eagle Point Labyrinth (constructed by local artist Eduardo Aguilera). Sights of dark, rough sided boulders cemented with mussel colonies, crashing surf, and the contrast of the famous cherry red bridge make an impression.
Continue straight on the main trail, past hidden pockets of elegant calla lilies, to a series of steep steps at about one mile. Ascend these steps and then down to find more romantic views of the Golden Gate Bridge juxtaposed against the jagged bluffs. Once the path has passed through several eucalyptus trees, it will emerge sandwiched between the Lincoln Park Golf Course and its final views of the San Francisco harbor. Here, at Eagles Point, it is common to see groups of pelicans and gulls riding the winds in search of a tasty meal below.
When you’re ready, retrace your steps or as an alternative, take the El Camino Del Mar Trail through the memorial parking lot where it soon intersects with the Coastal Trail/Lands End Trail.
Who is Going to Love It
A fantastic destination for trail runners, families with children, urban hikers, dog owners, and both residents and visitors to the city. Also, Lands End is a popular date spot.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The easiest way to access the park is to head westward on Geary Boulevard from downtown San Francisco. The road will veer right and become Point Lobos Avenue. After 0.4mi turn right into Merrie Way parking lot next to the Lands End Lookout Visitor Center (680 Point Lobos Avenue, 9AM-5PM M-F). Restrooms can be found at the visitor center. The closest restrooms on the eastern end of the trail are a ten minute walk to China Beach.