The California Coastal Trail is a a network of trails for walkers and bikers along the 1200 mile California coastline, which I’d heard about from a friend before we moved to San Francisco. I immediately added it to our SF bucket list and we headed there for a 4th July hike.
We actually started the hike 5 miles further south at Fort Funston, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend doing this. Most of the trail was actually next to a freeway and the views were really uninspiring. As I was the one who’d suggested the hike I was trying to remain optimistic but was beginning to panic that the entire thing was going to be a disappointment. Thankfully it got much better from Ocean Beach and the views from there on more than made up for the bad start!
The trail from Ocean Beach is well signposted and easy to follow. It hugs the coastline offering the most incredible views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin headlands which I’m sure never get tiring, however much you see them.
As we’re beginning to learn, the weather in SF is completely unpredictable. Our hike started in glorious sunshine but quickly became grey and foggy. After the initial start to the hike I was pretty disenchanted by the change in weather, but thankfully the fog started to lift after we passed Ocean Beach which let us to take in the views, and obviously take a million photos!
The hike initially takes you past Sutro Baths which was the world’s largest indoor swimming pool complex, built in 1896 by Adolph Sutro. To be honest, it sounded amazing; six saltwater pools, numerous sides, an amphitheatre, ice rink and museum, all with views of the sea! It closed in 1966 as apparently maintenance costs were too high, and while being demolished, the building was actually burned down in a fire. All that’s left now are the ruins. Even though the ruins are interesting to look at, it was hard to gain too much enthusiasm for ruins that are less than half a century old. I think us Europeans are spoiled with sites like Pompeii on our doorstep! Anyhow, it was fun to try and picture what the pools would have been like and wish they were still there.
The trail continues towards Lands End and the views get increasingly more impressive from this point. The waves were crashing against the cliffs and the scenery really reminded me of the Big Sur.
The trail winds in and out of woodland with numerous paths that lead off towards hidden beaches and vista points; it’s definitely worth taking the time to explore these or you’ll miss the best views. The trail is generally easy to walk and the section from Sutro Baths to Lands End is only around 1.5 miles so manageable for most fitness levels.
We decided to continue until we reached the Golden Gate Bridge. Initially we thought this was a mistake as the path takes you through some residential roads (or perhaps we just went wrong!) but the final 1.5miles were the best of the entire hike. The trail was slightly more challenging at this point and winded right down towards the sea before a long climb back up again. The views of the bridge were incredible, and it was definitely a ‘pinch me, I actually live here’ moment.
By the time we arrived at the bridge we’d walked almost eleven miles and despite the initial stretch, absolutely loved it.
I’ve been to SF twice before and never heard of this trail, so if you’re in the area, add it to your list of things to do! I’ll definitely be taking all of my visitors 🙂
Have you hiked this trail? Do you know any other good trails in the San Francisco Bay area?