San Francisco’s Green Spaces: Land’s End

Flowers along the beginning of the trail at Land's End.


On my final day in San Francisco, I had a choice to make–I could spend the day driving down the coast to points south or I could stay in town and check out some places I still had on my must-visit list.  I chose the latter and headed out to Land’s End.  That was a good decision. You see, there’s no real reason to leave San Francisco proper, because all the rugged coastline you could possibly want is a short three mile drive from downtown.  Have I mentioned that I love San Francisco?

Land’s End is a park that could–or should–be called a wilderness reserve.  Or an urban hiking oasis.  Or, well, something more than ‘park’.  A park implies grassy mowed expanses and old men reading the newspaper on benches.  Land’s End is not a park.  It is much, much better.

Fog is Fine

The day I visited was a bright, sunny day in San Francisco.  That is, until I got about three blocks from Land’s End.  I mean, I’ve heard about the strange weather in this city by the sea, but this was my first real glimpse at how changeable it can be.  It seemed more like smoke than fog, it was that localized.  But that’s ok, because the foggy day did not ruin my Land’s End experience; if anything it made it more fun and mysterious.  Sure, I couldn’t see the bridge, but I could hear the eerie fog horns coming off of the water, which was a lovely sensory touch to my morning’s hike.  So even if you are planning a visit on a less-than-ideal weather day (as all San Francisco days are at some point) fear not–and go anyway.

The New Visitor’s Center Rocks

A new visitor’s center just recently opened, which is right off of the parking lot above the Sutro Baths.  Here you will find all kinds of information about the park, detailed maps, clean restrooms and, best of all, a perfectly passable little shop to purchase something to eat to sustain you for your explorations.  I spent something like $4.00 on a container of orzo salad and I have to say–it was really good orzo salad.  And it came with the view above.  That’s more than I could possibly ask for out of lunch on a Tuesday afternoon.

Prepare for a Hike

I saw lots of people walking the trails at Lands End in flip flops or even heels.  This is a stupid idea.  Equally stupid were my knee high leather boots.  But there was nothing to be done by that point, so I continued on, scuffing the black leather with each step.  The trails are rocky and dusty and best suited for sneakers or hiking boots (or, if the weather is cooperating, hiking sandals like my beloved Tevas).  Consider taking a snack and some water, because you, like me, may set out thinking of going for a short walk but become intrigued by the various trails and pathways and spent a bit more time than you planned.  Trust me, the views (and the solitude) are worth your time.  Even in the fog.

It should be noted that I visited Land’s End solo.  If you have a friend or even a group of friends, plan to spend even more time.  Bring a picnic lunch and a blanket and hang out for a while.

However, it should also be noted that while I was solo, at no point did I feel unsafe.  Sure, I was in this strange, foggy, improbable wilderness at the edge of a city I’d never visited before.  But there were just enough people around–on a mid-week morning–to make me feel secure.

A Car May Be Necessary

I’m sure you can get to Land’s End by public transportation–and I’d advise trying if that’s your only option.  But having a car made it super easy to visit–I stayed on the same street for something like 2.5 miles and there was the (free) parking lot.  It could not have been easier.  I’m confident that a bus ride would have taken three times as long–if not more–so do consider visiting via rental or borrowed car.

I wanted to spend the day near crashing waves and jagged coast, and I thought I had to drive to Monterey to do that; happily, I was wrong.  This is not to say that I’m bummed that I missed out on my coastal drive–I absolutely am.  But that’s all the more reason to return.  And I will.  As soon as humanly possible.

Again, I’d like to extend many thanks to San Francisco Travel for helping me to plan and organize this trip.  They are a fantastic resource for anyone visiting the Bay Area–so check them out! 

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