15 Best Running Trails In San Francisco You Can Visit Today

15 Best Running Trails In San Francisco You Can Visit Today

San Francisco is also extremely popular with runners. Ranking highly in America’s best running cities, San Francisco has miles of paved running trails, multiple running groups, and a wide range of running events.

Perfect for locals trying to keep fit or tourists wanting a more unique way to explore the city, these endless running trails can be enjoyed by everyone.

However, where do you begin with so many trails to choose from?

That’s where we come in! In this article, we will show you 15 of the best running trails in San Francisco. We’ll tell you what each trail has to offer and who it suits best. Stick around if you want to learn more!

15 Best Running Trails In San Francisco

1. Golden Gate Bridge View

The first running spot in San Francisco we have for you is the Golden Gate Bridge View trail. This route consists of 11.2 miles of paved roads and epic views.

As you can probably tell by its name, this route features amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Despite being an expert trail, runners of any skill level can run along it. Simply run as long as you like before turning around and heading back.

This out-and-back running trail starts and ends at Gashouse Cove. You’ll also cross the bridge during your run and pass Golden Gate Vista Point.

2. San Francisco Waterfront

Whilst good fitness levels are required, most runners will find the San Francisco Waterfront trail relatively easy. A looped trail from Union Square, this is a 9-mile route that consists mostly of paved surfaces.

Again, this trail can be run by runners of most skill levels. Intermediate runners will find that it takes approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete. The total elevation for the trail is just 75 ft. 

This is a great trail to run if you want to see more of the city’s waterfront and a handful of iconic landmarks.

3. The Presidio Bay Area Ridge Trail

One of the most popular places to run in San Francisco is the Presidio. A historic military base, this part of San Francisco is now a 1,500-acre national park packed with some of the city’s most entertaining running trails.

One of the best is the Bay Area Ridge Trail. This is a simple 2.5 miles one-way trail that suits beginners. You’ll run on asphalt and compact soil that feels soft underfoot and pass through secluded and often fog-covered trees.

If you want to escape the city somewhat, this is one of the best trails for you.

4. The Presidio California Coastal Trail

The next San Francisco running trail on this list can also be found at the Presidio. This is a scenic national park running trail that sees runners run through the park and towards the Golden Gate Bridge. 

Relatively straightforward, this trail runs for 2.4 miles. You can either start at the Golden Gate Bridge or at 1750 Lincoln Boulevard.

We recommend starting at 1750 Lincoln Boulevard as this will let you finish your run with the most amazing views of the bridge. For those interested, this is also a trail you can walk and run along.

5. Mount Sutro Loop

Mount Sutro is a great place to visit if you want to explore some of the city’s wilderness. At Mount Sutro, you’ll find the Mount Sutro Loop.

This is a circular, 1.9-mile running trail that’s considered to be a moderately difficult trail to complete. 

You can access this route from multiple locations but it’s probably best to start at the intersection of Stanyan and 17th. You’ll make your way to the top of Mount Sutro before descending back down through a charming wooded area.

This is another solid choice for running in San Francisco for those who prefer a more natural and peaceful setting when they run.

6. Golden Gate Park Loop

If you’re looking for a longer trail to run in San Francisco, try the Golden Gate Park Loop.

This is an easy 6.2-mile-long circular trail that takes you around Golden Gate Park. Interestingly, this park is the third most visited park in the United States.

This large urban park features a wide range of popular attractions including the Conservatory of Flowers and the Botanical Gardens. This makes it a great trail for tourists that want to explore more of the city too. 

7. The Embarcadero

The Embarcadero is a popular San Francisco street that’s a big hit with runners. It has plenty of space to run along and runs along the waterfront.

One of the most popular running trails here starts at AT&T Park and runs until the end of Fisherman’s Wharf.

The whole route is 3.4 miles long. If you seek an easy-running trail, this trail is perfect. It consists of flat, paved roads. Some of the sights you’ll pass on the trail include Pier 41, Bay Bridge, Market St, and Alcatraz Ferry.

8. Lake Merced

This next running trail is more popular with local athletes as it isn’t as well known as other running trails in the city. Therefore, it’s perfect for those of you looking for a quieter running location in San Francisco. 

The main running trail here is a 4.5-mile paved loop trail that takes runners around Lake Merced.

Encircling the freshwater lake that makes up most of the 614-acre park, this trail also plays host to a number of running events throughout the year. 

9. Fort Mason Loop Trail

More experienced runners might prefer to take on the Fort Mason loop trail. This challenging 10.7-mile loop trail takes approximately 1 hour and 47 minutes to complete.

You will require good fitness levels to complete the trail but less experienced athletes could tackle a smaller section of the trail.

You’ll start and end your run at Folsom train station. You’ll pass Oracle Park, Bay Bridge, Rincon Park, the Maritime National Historical Park, and Aquatic Beach on this trail. 

10. Pier One Loop

The Pier One Loop is an easier trail you can take when in SF. This is an out-and-back, looped running trail best suited to intermediate-level runners.

Consisting of mostly paved surfaces and little to no incline, this is a trail you can easily complete in less than an hour.

Starting at Montgomery Street before taking you all the way to Pier One and back, the entire route is 5.9 miles long. You can access either end of this trail via public transport.

11. Fairy Gates Trail

Those of you looking for short-distance speed training in San Francisco might want to consider visiting the Fairy Gates trail. The Fairy Gates trail can be found near Mount Sutro. It’s a fairly straightforward trail that’s less than a mile long.

However, the terrain is more challenging than other trails on this list so far. You’ll experience short climbs and muddy paths. You can extend the trail by joining one of the other trails in the area.

12. Twin Peaks Trail

One of the most picturesque running trails in SF is the Twin Peaks trail. This spot is popular with hill runners and athletes that prefer a more scenic route.

Despite being less than a mile in length, this trail is one of the toughest on our list.

That’s because the trail has an elevation of 922 feet. After reaching the top, you’ll be treated to 360-degree views of the city. This is a great place to visit at sunset. If you want a longer trail, add miles through Mount Sutro or Glen Canyon.

13. The Crosstown Trail

One of the newest running trails in San Francisco is the Crosstown Trail. Opened in 2019, this is a running, walking, and biking trail connecting trails along the city. The full trail is a whopping 17 miles long.

Consisting of flat, paved paths, you can run as much or as little as you like on the trail. This makes it a great option for any level of runner. You can start at Candlestick Point and end at Land’s End.

14. Marina Yacht Harbor Trail

The Marina Yacht Harbor trail is another running trail that starts on Montgomery Street. This trail is perfect for any long-distance runner with plenty of running experience.

A loop trail, runners are faced with almost 19 miles of flat paved paths.

If you’re looking for a challenging run that passes some of the city’s best sights, this trail is absolutely perfect. You’ll pass Golden Gate Vista Point, Golden Gate Bridge, Marina Yacht Harbor, Fort Mason, and more.

15. San Francisco Waterfront And Golden Gate Bridge View Loop

Our final running spot in San Francisco is again better suited to long-distance runners.

This waterfront and Golden Gate Bridge running trail features 15 miles of paved roads and paths. Very good fitness is required to complete the trail.

This looped trail starts and ends at UCSF/Chase Center. Some of the attractions you’ll see along the way include Bay Bridge, San Francisco Waterfront. Fort Mason, and Golden Gate Bridge.

Final Thoughts

There you have it, 15 of the best running trails in San Francisco. As you can see from our list, the city has a wide range of excellent running spots.

Golden Gate City has much more to offer besides the popular running routes. They have one of the most laidback and entertaining races. The Bay to Breakers route brings participants from San Francisco Bay to its picturesque endpoint down by Ocean Beach.

Another major coastal city in California with beautiful landscapes is San Diego. Check out our article on the best running trails in San Diego.

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