Lands End Loop
This walk begins at the Lands End trailhead in Lincoln Park, near the intersection of 32nd Avenue and El Camino del Mar in the Sea Cliff neighborhood. To get oriented, locate your starting point on this map.
Take a 1-California MUNI bus going to 33rd Avenue. Get off on 32nd Avenue, just after the bus turns left on 32nd. When you exit the bus, walk north along 32nd Avenue until you come to El Camino del Mar, cross the street and turn left. You can't miss the trailhead as you enter Lincoln Park. Alternatively, climb the steps at the end of California Street, turn right at the top, and follow the trail until you come to El Camino. Be aware that players on the golf course are shooting towards you. Cross the street and you'll be in front of the trailhead. Allow at least 45 minutes to get from downtown to 32nd Avenue on the 1-California line.
The intersection of 32nd Avenue and El Camino del Mar is our starting point. The trailhead is easily accessible by car. Parking is usually easy to find in Lincoln Park or the neighborhood near the starting point. There is a 4-hour time limit in Lincoln Park, and in the neighborhood beware of posted street-cleaning restrictions. There is no permit parking in this neighborhood.
There is no prohibition on bicycles and you see them on portions of the trail, but there are so many stairs that we don’t recommend riding from end to end. That said, there is an off-road trail along Ocean Beach from the Cliff House to the Zoo and lot's of opportunity to ride in Golden Gate Park.
Distance: 5 miles round trip.
Note: The Legion of Honor is closed on Mondays.
This loop will take you from the eastern edge of Lincoln Park to the Cliff House and back. It is one of the most beautiful walks in San Francisco, skirting the cliffs above the bay beyond the Golden Gate and providing views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands.
The trail is part of the Coastal and El Camino del Mar Trails and has been within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) for many years. Today it is quite popular and is used year round by runners, walkers and dog owners. The track is mostly graded earth, with pavement near the western trailhead. It is largely flat or gently sloping, punctuated here and there by sections that are quite steep. Most steep portions have steps and handrails. In Sutro Park the trails are paved or well-compacted gravel.
GGNRA rules require that dogs be on leash or under voice control. If you choose the latter, see below about coyotes.
You'll see signs warning you not to feed or approach coyotes, which have become numerous and quite bold in recent years – some going so far as to trot through the Sea Cliff neighborhood in broad daylight. They have little interest in you and they're beautiful animals to watch if you're lucky enough to see one. Your dog may want chase them, so be aware of that possibility if you’re walking your dog off leash.
There have been falls and drownings in this area, so it is prudent to stay on the trail. The Park Service has erected signs, railings and barriers in a number of places; please follow their guidelines.
The first part of the trail was once the site of the Ferries & Cliff House Railway, built in 1888 to take people to the Cliff House and the Sutro Baths. In 1905, the train was replaced by a streetcar line, the 1-California. The tracks were closed in 1925.
Your first stop is Eagles Point, a popular spot adorned by a wooden viewing platform with sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge - when the surrounding vegetation is trimmed. The Park service is planning some restoration in this area in the fall of 2013.
A few hundred yards beyond Eagles Point you will come to a railing erected by the Park Service, from which you can see China Beach behind you and Baker Beach further in the distance. Below you is a favorite surfing spot, and if conditions are favorable you may see surfers in the water
After negotiating the first hill, you will come to steps on your right. Descend steeply to Mile Rock Beach, which is the only accessible beach on this walk until you reach the Cliff House. At the bottom of the first set of steps, turn left and descend the remaining steps to the beach. You will return the same way.
This small beach will make you forget you're anywhere near a major city. As you leave the beach you will see a small trail to your left, which leads to a labyrinth built by Eduardo Aguilera in 2004. Both the beach and the labyrinth offer fantastic views of the bay, the Marin Headlands and the Bridge.
Return and continue on the main trail. Most junctions on the trail have good signage posted by the Park Service; follow the signs towards Cliff House. After a while you'll come to the first of two viewing areas looking towards the Marin Headlands. There are informative signs in both areas, but the weather here is harsh and they may be hard to read. The signs at the first area describe several significant shipwrecks off Land's End, including the City of Rio de Janeiro in 1901, the Lyman A. Stewart in 1922 and the Frank H. Buck in 1937. At the second area you can find information about navigation around the Bay, which is the responsibility of the Coast Guard. Here you can see the remnant of Mile Rocks Lighthouse with a helicopter pad on top.
Continue on and shortly you will see signs to your right directing you to the ruins of the former Sutro Baths. You can descend to a promontory overlooking the shore, the baths, and Seal Rocks, which got their name from a population of California Sea Lions that used to reside there, until they found a more comfortable venue at Pier 39. From the promontory you'll get your last view of the Bridge. Nearby, you're likely to see people scrambling over the ruins of Sutro Baths. When you're ready, follow the path designated by the Park Service that ends on the sidewalk next to Louis's Restaurant. Stop at Louis's if you wish, or continue to your right to the current version of the Cliff House, which offers two restaurants with views, a bar, and a gift shop. Restrooms are available inside. Take a moment before you leave to gaze southward down Ocean Beach, marking the western boundary of San Francisco.
You have now completed the outbound leg of this walk! To return to your starting point, exit the Cliff House, turn left, and follow the sidewalk up the hill to the Land's End Lookout, a cafe and gift shop operated by the National Parks Conservancy. If you haven't already eaten your fill at Cliff House or Louis's, you can stop here for a quick meal and, if the weather is nice, take it outside to eat. You'll also find some interpretive material to tell you about the area. When you're ready, go through parking lot and up the stairs to El Camino del Mar, turn right and cross Point Lobos Avenue. Spend some time in Sutro Heights Park, formerly the home site of Adolph Sutro, the mayor of San Francisco from 1894 -1896. It's a quiet, nostalgic park. The house and conservatory are gone, but remnants of the gardens remain. Walk towards the ocean and climb the parapet at the edge of the bluff; the ocean views are fantastic.
When you are done, return across Point Lobos Avenue and walk along El Camino del Mar towards the parking area. Along the way you will see the Fort Miley Ropes Course on the hill to your right. It's open to the public on the first Sunday of each month from 1:00 to 4:00 pm. Pre-registration is required and the cost is $30 for youths and $40 for adults. Just before the parking area, you can follow a path on your right leading to Fort Miley, which offers wonderful views of the ocean, some old fortifications and an entrance to the San Francisco VA Medical Center.
When you reach the parking lot, look to your left to find the the memorial to the USS San Francisco which you may want to visit. When you're done, walk to the east end of the parking lot and follow the paved road, which turns into the El Camino del Mar Trail. El Camino del Mar was a through road until 1957, when this section was abandoned because of maintenance issues. Following the trail, you will see the Land's End Trail below you, as well as views of the ocean. You will come to some steps on your left leading down to this trail, but don't take them. As you continue on the El Camino del Mar Trail, above you on your right is the San Francisco VA Medical Center, in a spectacular location overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Soon you will come to a stairway; at the top you'll rejoin the old El Camino del Mar roadbed, now used as a parking area for the Palace of the Legion of Honor. As you enter the parking lot, you will see stairs on your right that will take you up to the VA Medical Center grounds, which are open to the public. On the way up the stairs, notice the memorial to the Battle of the Bulge. There is a cafeteria in one of the medical center buildings with nice views, as well as picnic tables if the weather is good.
Leave the medical center by descending the stairs back the way you came and turn right at the bottom. At the far end of the parking lot, you will come to stairs leading to the Legion. If you haven't already visited this art museum, it's worth your time. It's open every day except Monday and special exhibits are posted in front. From its entrance there are views of the City and the Lincoln Park Golf Course. Inside there is a cafe with a pleasant garden setting. (Unfortunately, the cafe is only accessible after entrance to the Museum.) Saturday and Sunday at 4:00 pm there are free organ concerts in the Rodin Gallery on the main floor. Check the schedule for the Florence Gould Hall downstairs, which hosts other musical events and lectures.
As you exit the Legion, cross 34th Avenue to the parking lot and notice the sculpture in the center, by Mark Rothko. You are standing at the terminus of the historic Lincoln Highway - the country's first paved transcontinental road - that stretched from New York to San Francisco. 2013 marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of this highway. Look for a commemorative post adorned with a painted "L" next to the Muni bus stop. Now turn left and walk towards the Holocaust Memorial; before you enter the path around it, notice the plaque to your right, commemorating Frances E. Willard.
When you are ready, cross El Camino and walk down hill. You'll see two monuments. The first is a gift to San Francisco by its Japanese sister city Osaka, commemorating the Kanrin Maru, the first Japanese ship to enter the Bay, in 1860. The second is a monument dedicated to world peace. As you continue, you'll pass the signature 17th hole of the Lincoln Park Golf Course, with beautiful bridge views from the tee box. Continue down the hill to the trailhead where you began.
This trail links to the midpoint of the Beach Trail. From the starting point walk through the Seacliff neighborhood, stopping at China Beach if you wish. Go east on El Camino del Mar until it jogs to the right, then go left on Sea Cliff Avenue. Robin Williams is rumored to live in the large pink house at this intersection. Go left down the hill to China Beach. When you are ready to leave China Beach, proceed up Sea Cliff Avenue and continue east until you reach 25 Avenue North. Turn left and almost immediately right to a small cul de sac, where you will find steps leading down to Baker Beach. These steps are closed in the evening. From here you can follow either leg of the Baker Beach Trail trail back to the bridge.
In the Area
You can reach the western end of Golden Gate Park from the Cliff House. On weekends and some holidays there is a shuttle service through the park, with a stop at Ocean Beach. In Golden Gate Park you will find the Japanese Tea Garden, the California Academy of Sciences, the de Young Museum, the San Francisco Botanical Garden and the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers. The tea garden, which serves tea and snacks, is very relaxing. The academy is open daily and has a nice restaurant, The Moss Room. Children prefer the cafe upstairs because it has outside seating and large aquariums. The end of the day (when school children and day trippers have departed) is a wonderful time to see the exhibits without standing in line. The de Young has a nice cafe that can be accessed without paying to enter the museum. The museum is closed on Mondays, but on Friday evenings it has an open bar and entertainment in the lobby, and the cafe offers a fixed-price meal. This is a great time to see the collection because most people are there to socialize and the galleries are not as crowded. The botanical garden has a wonderful library to the left as you go in the main entrance. Stow Lake is undergoing renovation, but you can rent boats during the project. Bicycles can be rented behind the bandshell from Parkwide and from other vendors outside the park.
The San Francisco Zoo is to the south, at the other end of the Great Highway which follows Ocean Beach.
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