Scenic Trails & Urban Paths: San Francisco’s Best Run Routes

by Fitt
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Scenic Trails & Urban Paths: San Francisco’s Best Run Routes

We all knew it already, but Runner’s World made it official this year — San Francisco is the number 1 running city in America.

For one thing, the city has year-round running weather. That, and the views. Even in a “compact” city, there are so many running paths that should be on your must-run list.

So whether you’re training for a marathon, catching up with your running buddies before brunch or just want to capture that perfect Insta photo on your run, you’re going to want to hit these spots.


Photo Credit: russellstreet | Flickr

This beach might be windy and cold most days, but that doesn’t make it any less stunning. When it’s sunny, take a run along the Great Highway on the paved path. It’s usually not that crowded and you’ll have stellar ocean views the entire time. If it’s the weekend, stick your credit card in your pocket and hit up Outerlands for its famous brunch.


Photo Credit: Doug Kerr | Flickr

Fun fact: There are buffalo in Golden Gate Park. We’d also like to mention there’s a waterfall, a Japanese tea garden and a view of Ocean Beach. If that doesn’t get you to Golden Gate Park for a run, we don’t know what will. Expect mostly paved trails (some are dirt paths) and a few rolling hills … because San Francisco. Though, this fun run will become an instant favorite.


Photo Credit: Richard Masoner | Flickr

If you want to run the iconic 1.7-mile long suspension bridge, get there early — a sunrise run is definitely best. That way you’ll have the path to yourself before it’s overrun with visitors. Know that runners and walkers are only allowed on the northbound side of the bridge. Thankfully, you’ll have the lane to yourself on Saturday and Sunday — the southbound side is reserved for cyclists. You can finish your run with a well-deserved coffee from the Warming Hut at the bottom of the bridge.


Photo Credit: Kevin Wong | Flickr

We’ll let you in our go-to running spot. You can do an easy six-mile flat out-and-back loop starting at the Safeway on Marina Boulevard. Just run to Hopper’s Hands underneath the Golden Gate Bridge and back to Safeway. You’ll have views of the Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge and plenty of wildlife (especially herons!). And if it’s Sunday morning, pop across the street to the Fort Mason Center Farmers’ Market for a tasty treat.


Photo Credit: Nan Palmero | Flickr

We could go on and on about the views on pretty much any run in San Francisco. And the Embarcadero is no exception. You’ll have views of the Bay, the skyline and art installations like Cupid’s Arrow on this flat, paved path from AT&T Park to Fisherman’s Wharf. Extend your run past Fort Mason by connecting to the Bay Trail and onward to Crissy Field. Looking to go long? It’s almost 20 miles from AT&T Park to the end of the Golden Gate Bridge and back.



Photo Credit: Vince Viloria | Flickr

Whether you’re looking for a short recovery run, a challenging trail run or a long run, head to the Presidio for all of your running needs. You can do a short jaunt around the Ecology Trail and Lover’s Lane (but be prepared for a quarter-mile hill) or go for a longer loop on the Bay Ridge Trail.


Photo Credit: Becky Snyder | Flickr

You’ll feel like the king of the hill once you crest the infamous Lyon Street steps. Your prize for making it up all 244 stairs? Breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Palace of Fine Arts and even Alcatraz. A couple times up and down will have you ready for brunch in no time (and a water … definitely water). Just be sure you post a sweaty post-run selfie from the top.


Photo Credit: Jennifer Balaco | Flickr

Want a trail run without leaving the city? Put “Lands End” into Google Maps (or try this route on MapMyRun) and lace up your running shoes. This three-mile out-and-back trail shows off some of the best views of the city. You’ll be challenged by stairs, hills and the desire to stop to Snapchat-brag your entire run. Oh, and if you want a little bit of extra credit, you can run down the short trail to the Sutro Baths ruins, destroyed by a fire in 1966.


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About the Author

Fitt is the go-to resource for connecting with your local fitness community. Fitt’s contributor network is on the ground in cities across the country to help you discover the best workout spots, healthy eats, outdoor adventures and upcoming events near you. Head to to see if we’re live in your city. Be sure to follow along on Facebook and Instagram for the latest updates.


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