Parks & Recreation
San Francisco’s temperate climate makes outdoor recreation possible year round. With more than 220 City parks and many more in the surrounding area, there is always a close location for running, biking or swimming—as well as hundreds of playgrounds for children. The City park system features 25 large recreation centers, nine swimming pools, six public golf courses, and Kezar Stadium, former home of the 49ers and Raiders. It has been estimated that anywhere in San Francisco is within half a mile of a park, making San Francisco the first U.S. city to achieve almost total recreation saturation.
Recently, San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks have undergone numerous capital projects, renovations, and improvements. In the last six years, the City has dedicated $380 million of parks bonds to improve parks citywide, making them more environmentally friendly and accessible to residents. The passing of the 2012 San Francisco Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond gave an additional $195 million in funding for 15 neighborhood parks, and improvements in Golden Gate Park, John McLaren Park, and Lake Merced.
Currently, six parks are slated for improvements: Bayview Park, Bernal Heights Park, Golden Gate Park Oak Woodlands, McLaren Park, Mt. Davidson Park and Twin Peaks. As of June 2017, the completed trail construction projects are Billy Goat Hill, Corona Heights, Grand View Park and Glen Canyon Park. Nearly 100 projects are currently in progress to improve neighborhoods and regional parks. For more information, visit San Francisco Recreation & Park Improvements.
In the Summer of 2017, the historic Alamo Square Park reopened after a $5.3 million renovation that upgraded the park to a water efficient irrigation system and repaved the pathways to the park. Mt. Lake Park Playground also reopened after $3.15 million renovations consisting of new picnic areas as well as irrigation and landscape upgrades. Additionally, Twin Peaks Trails reopened with replacement of deteriorated steps, news signs, and habitat protection.
Major San Francisco Parks
Golden Gate Park is the largest in San Francisco, spanning nearly a third of the way across the City and sitting on 1,017 acres. Some of the Golden Gate Park amenities include walking and biking paths, the De Young Museum, the Conservatory of Flowers, the Japanese Tea Garden, the Music Concourse Area, the San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum, AIDS Memorial Grove, Stow Lake, Spreckels Lake and the California Academy of Sciences—one of the largest natural history museums in the world. The park also offers recreational activities such as archery, basketball, biking, skating, dog runs, fly-fishing, golf, handball, horseback-riding, lawn bowling and tennis.
San Francisco’s urban national park, the Presidio, is located at the Golden Gate and has museums, cafes, gift shops and bike and pedestrian lanes. It is a great place for picnics and barbecues and offers views of the City, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. Explore centuries of architecture. Reflect in a national cemetery. Walk along an historic airfield, through forests or to beaches, and admire spectacular vistas.
Crissy Field is located in between the Marina Green and Fort Point. There are beaches, picnic tables, tidal marsh overlooks, and renowned windsurfing. Enjoy tasty treats at the Beach Hut Café, located on the east end next to the Crissy Field Center, a multicultural urban environmental education center for youth. At the west end of Crissy Field, the Warming Hut also offers delicious snacks, sandwiches, and drinks—as well as a wide selection of park gear and eco-friendly merchandise.
Yerba Buena Gardens is constituted of two blocks of public parks in downtown San Francisco. One block is enclosed by Howard and Mission Streets and the second is between Howard and Folsom streets. Part of the park sits on top of the Moscone Convention Center. It features the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts—a contemporary arts center—and Zeum—a children’s media and technology museum. Recreational activities also include an ice-skating rink, a bowling alley and a restored carousel.
Lake Merced is a freshwater lake in the south-end of San Francisco. The Lake is surrounded by golf courses—the private Olympic Club and San Francisco Golf Club, as well as the public TPC Harding Park Golf Club. Recreational activities include bird watching and fishing.
Buena Vista Park is the oldest in San Francisco and is nestled between the Haight-Ashbury and Buena Vista Districts. The notable view from the lower area is called “The Window” and spans the Golden Gate Bridge, the Pacific Ocean and the cliffs of Drake’s Beach.
Major San Francisco Beaches
Baker Beach extends a half-mile just south of Golden Gate Point, with beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands. Located in the Presidio, it connects to the sea cliff near the Palace of the Legion of Honor and the Sutros Baths. It’s a great place for picnicking, sunning, walking or swimming—a refreshing spot to relax and unwind.
Ocean Beach is located in the Sunset District and is the largest and longest San Francisco beach, stretching over four miles. Ocean Beach is a wonderful place for joggers, runners and surfers—it is notorious for its strong waves and fierce currents. It’s also a perfect place to watch the sunrise or sunset or to have a bonfire.
Land’s End Beach,located near the Legion of Honor, is known for its views and is great for hikes. The Coast Trail extends through sharp cliffs and offers incomparable views of the Pacific coastline just above the Cliff House.
China Beach, located in the Richmond District near the Presidio, is ideal for anyone who wants a less crowded beach.
Crissy Field Beach is located in the upscale Marina District and offers panoramic views of San Francisco’s skyline. It is a popular beach for families, dog owners, windsurfers and kite surfers.
Major San Francisco Trails
Billy Goat Hill is a hilltop park located in the Diamond Heights neighborhood. Although it is only a short, 0.2 miles of trail network, it is made up of challenging and steep switchbacks up the hillside. However, the amazing views of the city and the bay from the hill makes the hike worth it.
Twin Peaks, at 922 feet in elevation, is a world-famous tourist attraction. While most visitors drive up to the peak, the best way to see this landscape is to hike the 0.7 mile trail network that ascend the two peaks. Once at the top, you will be greeted with a 360-degree view of the city.
Corona Heights Park, has a one-mile trail network that also offers hikers a 360-degree views of the San Francisco Bay Area. Trails leading up the hilltop consist of fairly stable and sometimes steep, dirt paths. Along the hike, wildflowers carpet the grasslands each spring. However, be mindful that there are a lot of poison oak so be sure to learn to recognize this plant before going on this hike.
Glen Canyon Park, offers one of the most diverse ecosystem in the city. This extensive 3.7 mile trail leads through a variety of habitats, from creeks to grassland to rock formations. It is also home to a wide array of wildlife of willow trees, horsetails, insects, reptiles, and amphibians.
The Bay Area Ridge Trail is a 550 mile route that follows the ridgelines surrounding San Francisco Bay, linking trails in nine Bay Area counties. Over two-thirds of the Ridge Trail is now open for people to connect with parks and nature.
The San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department has a variety of Recreation Programs by season every year. Thanks to capital improvement projects, many residents in San Francisco utilize these recreation facilities to enjoy being in their own communities. For local recreation centers, search here.
Program details and sign up here.