The Best Running Routes in San Francisco
The best running routes in San Francisco with ideas on how to get in long runs with minimal hills, the most scenic routes and my daily run.
While I was going through photos from my iPhone photo stream for this post, I was actually surprised by how many photos from the same places I seem to have. When I first moved here, I stopped basically every run to take a photo. I mean, how many people run to the bottom of the Golden Gate bridge ever, let alone on an almost daily basis?
One struggle I had was finding flat-ish routes. I find my knees and Achilles tendon start acting up with a lot of hills, which is ironic because I have been running on hills for the past 12 years. The only place I have lived that is vaguely flat was Hong Kong (but Hong Kong is not flat – it’s actually over 80% green land and lots of mountains).
When I tell people I live in The Marina I get a lot of “of course you do” (more on that for another post). One of the main reasons I love living in this part of the city is that it is flat and perfect for running. It’s flat because it’s built on reclaimed land after the rubble from the 1906 earthquake was pushed from Pacific Heights into an old cow pasture (i.e. why the streets south of Lombard are considered “Cow Hollow” NOT the Marina). Also if there is an earthquake while I’m home my building is probably going to fall into the ocean because it’s built on a landfill. You win some, you lose some.
Even though I’ve lived here just a tad under six months, all of these runs feel really personal to me and hold a lot of memories for some reason or another.
The Best Running Routes in San Francisco
- Crissy Field and the Marina (6-8 miles round trip)
I start from my building and run up to Marina Boulevard. From there I run to Fort Mason then back to Fort Point. That’s 6 miles. You can add on another two miles by running past Fort Mason to Polk Street on Bay.
- Golden Gate Bridge to AT&T Park (10 miles one way, 20 miles roundtrip)
If you’re going to do this run, do it early. I start out by going down Marina Blvd, through Crissy Field, up the hill to the San Francisco vista point for the bridge, across the bridge, around the Sausalito vista point, back down and to Fort Point (moremilage), down Powell to theEmbarcadero and then to AT&T Park and back to my place. I love this because it’s mainly flat (two major hills, minus he bridge), scenic and there are lots of chances for me to refill my water. Just know there are a bazillion tourists that will be in your way, especially on theEmbarcadero.
- Lands End (3 miles)
If you’re looking for a city trail run, this is a great option. You can add on some milage by running past the Cliff House to Ocean Beach. There’s actually really cool ruins here from Sutro Baths, which were public swimming pools and a bath house that burned in the 1906 earthquake. So many fun SF facts in this post!
- Ocean Beach
San Fransisco isn’t all Bay – you can also get to the Pacific. Ocean Beach is one of my favorite places in the city because I love the ocean. Plus it’s a great excuse to get coffee at Trouble Coffee or brunch at Outerlands afterwards.
- The Marina to Ocean Beach (7 miles one way, 14 miles roundtrip)
I do this as an alternate long run. The route below is from Fleet Feet, the running store on Chestnut. I go up the Lyon St stairs even though it’s super intense, it’s also kind of fun because I’m a masochist when it comes to running. I run both main roads through Golden Gate Park – usually JFK on the way out and Martin Luther King Blvd on the way back. If you’re trying to see part of the city, this is a great route to do.
- Golden Gate Park
There are lots of trails here, dirt paths around the park and plenty of bathrooms and water fountains. It’s bigger than Central Park in NYC and you can easily do 6 miles around the park and then tell all your friends you ran past bison in the city. Bonus points if you see a coyote.
- Kezar Stadium
I do my track workouts here (yes, I actually am doing speed workouts this training session). It’s a really iconic running spot – Runner’s World had a whole article on Kezar last year. It just reopened in March 2015 after a lot of renovations. Plus, it’s cool to run in a place where the Giants and 49ers used to play.
- The Embarcadero
I kind of hate running here because there are so many tourists who are not paying any attention. I do my tempo runs here which is dumb on my part but it’s also good people watching and scenic because you get to see the Bay Bridge.
Chat with me:
Where do you love to run in your city? Have you ever ran in San Francisco before? Do you run when you’re traveling?