Whether you’re an experienced runner or someone who likes to keep things ticking over with a light jog, San Francisco has it all. One of the world’s most beautiful cities, San Francisco is a runner’s haven and a place we could never get bored.
We are treated to challenging hills, rugged trails, sweeping ocean views, great weather, and of course some amazing city views with the famous Golden Gate Bridge.
With so many options, if anything, deciding where to run is the hardest decision you have to make. To make things easier, we’ve compiled a list of the best running trails in San Francisco, looking at varying difficulties and what you’ll see along the way.
If you want to try a new trail out or simply learn more about what San Francisco has to offer, make sure you keep reading!
Golden Gate Promenade
The first running trail on our list is perfect for anybody looking for a scenic jog that isn’t too difficult. This route is a big hit with tourists and locals alike as it offers wonderful views of the Golden Gate Bridge and salt marshes.
Part of the regional Bay Trail, this route can be quite busy with tourists, but the path is wide enough to accommodate everyone. 4.3 miles long, the path is also flat and graveled, making it extremely easy to stay fit while enjoying the city.
San Francisco has some breathtaking neighborhoods perfect for getting your daily dose of exercise while exploring something new. Perfect for tourists, Pacific Heights is one of these neighborhoods.
Start at the famous Lyon Street Steps, Lovers’ Lane, before running up and down each street, doing as much or as little running as you please. Running in this area will give you spectacular views of some of San Francisco’s most incredible homes.
Amongst these are a collection of surviving Victorian houses. You will also be greeted with sweeping views of the bridge and Alcatraz. This trail can be made a little tougher by venturing up to Nob Hill.
Golden Gate Park
The Golden Gate Park running trail gives you a great opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy a more natural landscape.
Though it can get busy during certain times of the year, on a cool fresh morning you can easily have the park to yourself.
Here you will find a 5-mile relatively easy loop trail with mostly flat, paved paths and the occasional moderate hill. Along the trail, you’ll have the chance to observe the shoreline and find a waterfall. You may even come across some buffalo.
By San Francisco standards, the Ocean Beach running trail is pretty flat, only featuring small declines and inclines. On a hot summer’s day, there aren’t many running trails that beat this 3-mile run along the famous Great Highway.
You can expect to see other people on the trail , but it is nowhere near as overwhelming as other locations.
The ocean views are great, the path is smooth, and you finish the trail at the beach where you can stretch off and cool down. What more could we ask for?
Bay Bridge Trail
Those of you looking for a more moderate run that will get your pulse raising should consider this 8-mile end and back running trail that takes you along Bay Bridge.
Due to its unappealing start, this trail is still a hidden gem in San Francisco so stick with it.
Technically starting in Oakland, you start this trail under the freeway before running past some quite ugly buildings. However, when you get on the bridge things change. Running along the bridge is a fantastic feeling.
Aside from being super quiet, fairly flat, and smooth, this paved trail offers unparalleled views of the city for the duration of the bridge run. The bridge rises at a slight incline making your journey back nice and easy.
Lands End Coastal Trail
Runners who like to take things off-road and onto rougher terrain will love the Lands End Coastal Trail. Only a 3-mile out and back trail, you’ll need good strength and stamina to easily defeat this route.
The trail starts out flat, taking you through lush forest on a smooth paved path. However, things get more difficult when the path starts to get rockier.
Along with a rockier path, you’re greeted with a few staircases. These staircases are sure to take your breath away, but the views at the end are well worth the fight.
At the top of the trail, you’ll see impressive views over the Golden Gate Bridge. Most able-bodied runners will complete this route with little to no struggle.
Juan Bautista De Anza National Historic Trail
This historic 2.7-mile running trail takes you along a paved path with plenty of tough inclines and declines.
Suitable for runners who want a more intense workout and one that puts pressure on their knees, this trail takes you through dense forest away from the busyness of the city.
We love the lookouts dotted along this route as they give you a great opportunity to take in some of the surrounding city views and landscape.
The Twin Peaks running trail is loved by locals who have hill training on the agenda. Only 0.7 miles long, this trail is surprisingly difficult because of how steep it is.
For a serious stair workout, hill training, or an extreme cardio boost, running up and down this trail should do the trick.
Once you reach the top of this paved trail, you’ll be greeted with arguably the best view of San Francisco. Overlooking the city, we recommend heading to this location for sunset or sunrise.
Mount Sutro Loop
Found right in the heart of San Francisco, this 2-mile loop trail is considered one of the more moderately challenging trails in the city.
Frequently used by runners, hikers, and mountain bikers, you’ll likely encounter others on this trail, but generally speaking, it is a lot quieter than other running trails in the city.
Located near the UCSF campus, this trail gives locals and visitors the chance to explore a small nook of wilderness and escape hectic urban life. Along the route, you’ll find native gardens and brilliant views of the city.
Batteries To Bluffs Trail
Taking approximately 1 hour 11 minutes to complete when walking at a slow pace, this 2.2-mile loop trail gives runners the chance to tackle a rugged trail leading to the Western shoreline cliffs.
The views from this trail are hard to beat, with the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin easily visible.
Also visible along this route are the historic gun batteries, coastal plants, and a variety of wildlife. You can make the trail longer by taking the rocky steps down to Marshall Beach.
This will make your run a lot more challenging, but also a lot more interesting. We recommend running here at night as the sunset view of the bridge is second to none.
The Golden Gate Bridge Trail
Is there any running location in San Francisco more iconic than making your way across the Golden Gate Bridge? We don’t think there is.
The bridge is 1.7 miles long, but by incorporating a number of viewpoints from the bridge to the Welcome Center and Vista Point, you can make it a more challenging 4-mile jaunt.
Due to the bridge’s popularity, this trail will be a lot busier but in all honesty, it doesn’t matter as you’ll also find yourself stopping to admire the views. Combine your run with Crissy Field if you want to rack up some extra mileage.
There you have it, that concludes our list of running trails found in San Francisco. As you can see, there is a huge variety of amazing running trails suitable for all types of people.
Some trails take you away from city life, giving you the chance to explore wilder terrains. Others incorporate the city to let you see everything the city has to offer.
There are so many interesting trails in San Francisco, each offering something different, making it almost impossible for runners to get bored.
Now you’ve read our list, we hope we have given you the inspiration you need to try a new trail out. All you need to do now is get your running trainers on and hit the trails. Enjoy!