Urban Exploring – SF’s City Parks

HikeSnobs rate this: 4thumb

Location: All over San Francisco

Description: Our guide to San Francisco’s best local parks.

Length: 7×7 square miles

Difficulty: Easy

Parking: Street

Best time to go: Anytime

Bring: Water, sunscreen, camera, snacks/lunch, shoes with good grip


If you have been following us for a while, you’ll know that HikeSnobs have no problem traveling far and wide for a fun escapade. Truth is, you don’t have to go very far to find great adventure. Sometimes the best trips are right in front of you, just hidden in the midst of your local city.

Both Hikesnobs were born and raised in San Francisco. We are very fortunate to experience all the beauty tucked into this 7×7 square foot wonderland. Famous for its cool summers, rolling fog, steep hills, and local culture – San Francisco is the perfect city to explore.

When we’re not hiking, we are urban exploring (our version of hiking in the city). Here is our ever-growing comprehensive guide to our favorite local parks in the city. Enjoy!


Alamo Square (Western Addition)
(Currently undergoing renovations until Spring 2017)
Hours: 5AM – Midnight
Located in a residential neighborhood, this park is a very popular tourist destination. Most well-known for the famous “Painted Ladies” you see in 90’s show Full House! This four square block park, complete with a playground, tennis courts and a large grassy areas, is the perfect day trip for  adults, children and dogs alike.

Alta Plaza Park (Pacific Heights)
Hours: 5AM – Midnight
After a steep climb up a wide-tiered staircase, you’ll reach the top of the park. Here you can catch views of the city. A playground, basketball, tennis court and a off-leash dog play area are the highlights of this park.

Bernal Heights Park (Bernal Heights)
Hours: 5AM – Midnight
Most prominent hill that overlooks the beautiful San Francisco skyline. Home to a microwave transmission tower at the top. This dog-friendly park has tons of steep trails for a short stroll and quick workout.

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Billy Goat Hill (Diamond Heights)
Hours: 5AM – midnight
If you’re lucky, there will be a swing for you to play on when you visit this park. If not, bring materials to make your own swing!

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Even without a swing, it is worth checking out just for the view. You can catch breathtaking views of the San Francisco skyline. If you look straight ahead you can see Bernal Hill not too far away!

Cayuga Playground (Outer Mission)
Hours: 6AM – 10PM
A hidden gem located in a residential neighborhood underneath the BART tracks that run along I-280 freeway. Most well-known for its sculpture gardens, playground, basketball & tennis courts and of course the roaring sound of the BART passing by from above. It’s a great little park to get your workout on!

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Corona Heights Park (Castro)
Hours: 5AM – Midnight
One of our absolute favoritest (this is a word) parks in SF! Located in the Castro/Corona Heights district, this gorgeous park has stunning 360° views. There is a one mile trail that winds up around the hill that leads to the submit of the hill.

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P.S. Parking is available at Randall Museum, a museum that focuses on science nature and arts!

Dolores Park (Mission)
Hours: 6AM – 10PM
The most popular park in San Francisco. You’ll be lucky to find this park empty on any given day of the week. The recently renovated park is a favorite by both locals and tourists; it’s the perfect place to spend a weekend afternoon. Whether you are sunbathing on “gay beach,” eating burritos, smoking and drinking with your friends, it’s a good time all around.

… also kid-friendly too (we promise) 😉

Esmerelda Slide Park (Bernal Heights)
A hidden gem in Bernal Heights, you can find this park just a few minutes from Bernal Hill. This narrow 35ft long metal slides is fun for kids and adults alike. To increase speed, slide down with a nylon jacket/material.

Golden Gate Park
Hours: 5AM – Midnight.
The largest park in San Francisco. Here you’ll find waterfalls, museums, casting pools, playgrounds, tea gardens, lakes, bike paths, windmills, bison, etc. What ISN’T here?!

Here are a few of the most popular areas (and our personal faves) in Golden Gate Park:

Grandview Park aka Turtle Hill (Sunset)
Hours: 5AM – Midnight
After walking up a long flight of stairs you’ll realize why this place is also known as Turtle Hill. Don’t forget to visit the Mosaic Steps.

Jack Early Park
If you can find the hidden stairs that lead you to this secluded little park you’ll catch beautiful views of the bay. On a clear day you’ll be able to spot the Bay Bridge and Alcatraz.

Lake Merced
A large fresh water lake near SF State University. Popular location for bikers and runners. The 4.5 mile perimeter makes it a perfect outdoor workout. Beware of the disgusting stench that lingers in the air due to the near by sewage treatment plant.

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John McLaren Park
Hours: 5AM – Midnight
San Francisco’s second largest park. A great park for dogs to roam around with a lake they can swim in! In addition, there are picnic areas, playgrounds, a golf course and the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater.

Mount Davidson Park
At 938 feet, Mount Davidson is the highest natural point in San Francisco. The most iconic feature of this park is the 103 foot tall, concrete white cross at the peak of the hill. This cross can be seen in various points in the city and is a tribute to the victims of the Armenian Genocide in 1915.

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Palace of Fine Arts (Marina District)
Constructed in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific Exhibition, this urban temple has become an iconic park for tourist to visit. Most SF natives have only ventured out here for school field trips back when the Exploratorium was located right behind the structure.

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Seward Mini Park (Noe Valley District)
Hours: 10AM – 5PM (Tuesday – Sunday)
Tucked away in Noe Valley, this tiny unusual park is home to two steep and long concrete slides. Don’t be fooled, this slide is way faster than its looks! Bring your own cardboard so you can slide down without tearing a hole in your a$$ 😜

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Tank Hill
Hours: 5AM – Midnight
Name after the water tank that once stood there, this 650ft high mini park is so small that it’s usually left off maps because it’s that tiny. At the top you’ll catch great views of downtown SF.

Twin Peaks
The natural boobs of San Francisco… Not only are they real, but they offer a real amazing view of the city. A very popular place for tourist who come to take in the sights and for teenagers to make out in their cars. Twin Peaks is one of the more romantic spots in the city at night… just watch out for those massive raccoons.

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Woodline (Presidio)
Hidden in the eucalyptus grove in the Presidio, you’ll find the Woodline. Here, nature meets art. Created by Andy Goldsworthy in 2010, Goldsworthy took the fallen trees and eucalyptus trunks to carefully piece together a continuous curved line.

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You’ll find plenty of locals here balancing on the lines. We even managed to hang some hammocks…

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Also… just a 3 minute drive or 20 minute walk away, you’ll find Goldsworthy other piece, The Spire.


While some people complain about San Francisco’s famous hills and how difficult it is to get from point A to point B in such a small city, the benefit definitely outweighs its drawbacks. Yes, these hills are enormous! I’m sure you have wondered at one time or another why you are going 2 blocks uphill just to go back 2 blocks downhill! Or why you are dripping in sweat from just a half mile walk. These hills are what makes San Francisco… well San Francisco. You can almost expect all of theses parks we listed to be on top of a hill. It only makes sense though… at the top you can catch scenic, panoramic views scatter throughout the city. Each park is unique and provides a different perspective! As we see our small, big city changing and getting more expensive every day, we take comfort in the fact that all these parks we’ve listed are completely 100% free.


@HikeSnobs Tips:

  • Please treat each park with respect. Keep our parks clean and free of graffiti.

Comments? Questions? Suggestions? Leave us a message below!

 

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