The Best Places to Hike in San Francisco

At times you feel that the days have been dragging you down or that you need some fresh air to breathe in San Francisco, you might just need an urban hike to perk you up. The best hike spots in San Francisco brings in the fresh eucalyptus-scented air, stunning views of the endless ocean, the huge redwood forests, impressive cliffs, and a whole lot natural beauty on the background. All these, plus a free workout, and many other health benefits are what you will get when you let your feet show you the way. Just don’t forget to bring one of the best water bottles for hiking to keep you hydrated along the way.

If you need to escape the rush and hustle that the city usually requires, but just don’t have the time to roam around the busy streets of San Francisco, just walk your way to a more placid place. Step out and explore the great outdoors and you’ll have more ways to thank the day for.

It could be intimidating if it will be your first time to go out of the city, but once you have planned everything that you will need for a stress-free day out with nature, you won’t have anything to worry about.

Your first task is to find the best places to hike in San Francisco.

There are just so many stunning spots and trail hikes to visit and the day will already be over just by the time you are just starting to enjoy the scenic background that may bring a lot of memories for you and whoever has decided to come along with you.

To help you find the right hiking trail, we have listed a few that’s been touted as the best places to hike in San Francisco.

Marin Headlands

This is a place rich in history and variety of wildlife inhabiting a unique geological area. A quick walk across the Golden Gate will lead you to the 2,000-acre stretch of the Marin Headlands. This is truly a nature lover’s playground.

In it, you will find diverse cultures that have been part of The Headlands history — from the Miwok Indians to the American Military, and everything else in between. You will also find a string of trails posing varied challenges and sights. You can embrace the cliffside along the Jurassic rock formations. If you’d rather trek through the tranquil woodland, you’ve got a whole lot of space to cover as well. You may also hike through the coastal chapparal around Gerbode Valley.

Wherever you’d like to check out first, these two hike trails should always be in your bucket list: Point Bonita Trail and the Rodeo Lagoon Trail. The Point Bonita ends with the enchanting Point Bonita Lighthouse that stood centuries and still remains immovable. This lighthouse, which was built in 1855, was once accessible only via a dangerous and narrow path around a huge outcrop of pillow basalt (formed by hot lava eruptions underwater) and a suspension bridge that can hold only two hikers at a time. Today, hikers can use a tunnel burrowed in the rock, and the suspension bridge can now hold more than two at a time.

The Rodeo Lagoon trail,  on the other hand, starts from the Marin Headlands Visitor Center and gently loops around the scenic lagoon. If you head clockwise, you the dirt track underneath your feet turn into sand and you may be captivated by the surf around the corner as you near the lagoon’s western edge. A long stretch of pebble-covered beach, the Rodeo Beach, is set in a cove between striking basalt cliffs and sea arches.

A few hundred feet more, you’ll find several picnic tables anchored in a serene spot by the lagoon. This could just be a perfect spot for selfies and groupies to capture that enchanting moment with views of the ocean in the background. You can also use some time off your hike to eat a packed lunch here as there are no cafes or restaurants near the area.

Muir Woods

Muir Woods

If you are in the Bay Area, the Muir Woods is a must-see. This ancient coast redwood forest is just a few miles north of San Francisco and is hidden in an isolated canyon.

It is said to be the only remaining old-growth redwood forests in the Bay Area.

Other parts of the Marin Headlands, which used to be filled with soaring sequoia sempervirens were logged for construction years ago saved for what is now known as Muir Woods. It was named after conservationist and wilderness advocate John Muir, but it was through the efforts of local conservationists William and Elizabeth Kent that saved this once track of land in Mount Tamalpais.

Step into this thousand-year-old forest with a canopy that covers you overhead and be totally captivated. You’ll find all kinds of fungi, ferns and wood sorrel sprouting on the expansive forest floor.

There’s also the Redwood Creek alongside three loops of varying lengths– ½-hour, 1-hour and 1 ½-hours. Dirt trails also run along the canyon and branch off into Mount Tamalpais State Park near it. Though the loops are paved (or on boardwalks), the steeper dirt trails can get muddy, so need to anticipate the unexpected. Note, however, that these loops are also accessible by wheelchair and a stroller.  But if you have pets, you might just have to leave it behind as pets are not allowed in these areas.

Golden Gate Bridge

The mesmerizing elegant engineering that bridges the Golden Gate Strait can be enjoyed at several points. Don’t just admire it from a distance, step out to get close and personal with this towering Golden Gate Bridge. These locations are as follows, the Baker Beach, the Fort Point National Historic Site, Fort Baker, Crissy Field, Battery East Vista, the Lands End, and the Golden Gate Overlook. You’ll find spectacular views while in any of these landmarks.

Conclusion

There are more that you can’t just cover in a day when you head out and decide to let your feet lead you away. Once you have decided which place to explore first, you’ll have to know when will be the best time to go for a hike at the location. You can check with their hike office for related information and other precautionary measures that you need to consider in preparing for the hike.

Again, don’t forget to bring the essential items that will make your hike both safe and worthwhile. Always bring one of the best water bottles for hiking to keep you on the go and hydrated while on the road.

Things To Pack For A Trip To Hiking San Francisco

San Francisco is an enticing place where people from all over the world gather throughout the year to experience the fun, the food, the folks, and everything else the place has to offer. It’s one beautiful city perched on top of strings of hills and remains one of the most enticing places for tourists and city dwellers alike. This melting pot of cultures remains bustling with businesses sprawling and providing more interesting activities and sceneries for everyone to enjoy year in and year out.

Many do not know, however, that there is another resident within the locality that is present all year round. Karl, the fog, envelops most of the city, bringing with it chilly winds even on summers. So, if you are planning to visit the place, it would be a smart thing to know the things that you need to pack for a trip to San Francisco.

As for the weather, San Francisco sometimes confuses travelers for the weather there is not like most places. You can not expect to have sunny summers and windy and cold winters all the time. It’s actually the other way around. Thus, you won’t see many people on the streets wearing shorts during summers as there could be unexpected rain showers during this season. September and October are usually warmer, while it can be rainy in January and February. There are also several temperature changes happening within the day, so you should be ready when an unexpected shower starts to fall on a seemingly warm day.

It’s one huge travel destination that you cannot explore for just a few days. It is necessary that you plan ahead to have an enjoyable and memorable experience, whether you are visiting the place alone, with your family, or with travel buddies. While exploring the city, it will be easy to pinpoint who are there for the first time or otherwise, nonetheless. If you don’t want to be mistaken as one, you should consider packing these items for your visit to SF.

Rain jacket

Average rainfall within the city may be quite deceiving as any changes in the Pacific Ocean will affect the temperature and there may be rain showers any time of the day. To enjoy your visit throughout the day or your trip it is a must that you bring with you a rain jacket. It will also help if you will list things that you can enjoy why it’s pouring or drizzling on the streets.

Sweater

Did I mention that it can be drastically cold during summer time in the SF area? Many get disappointed with the sudden change or when they find out that the temperature is not what they expected. So, it is a smart decision to pack a sweater if you plan to visit the place during this period. Although there are many in the city’s attraction that offer merchandise that you can wear while on a visit if ever you fail to include this to your baggage, it will still be wise to bring a more personal and custom-fit item than wear one that you just bought from within the vicinity.

Scarf

This is an accessory that has many other uses. It is also light to pack and will not need a lot of space. You can just actually wrap it around your neck and it will make the walk or the travel cozier.

Tights and leggings. Unless you visit SF area during the warm months, having or wearing tights or leggings will prove to be more suitable during the cold months when visiting San Francisco. Females can even wear it under the skirts or minis and look more fashion forward at the same time move about more effortlessly than having to wear a thick clothing while walking around the area.

Swimwear

It’s something that you would not want to leave out from your list. There so many inviting waters within the area, whether natural or man-made, and you would not want to miss out on all the fun. Bring a swimsuit with you and enjoy the waters as much as you can.

Sandals. There will be a lot of opportunities for you to walk around and explore the beach or walk around the hotel. Wearing sandals will be more comfortable when roaming around these places, especially if you come around those months when the sun is all up and the climate is warmer.

Comfortable shoes

A pair of sneakers that you can wear while walking, riding, or hiking within the area will make each moment more manageable. There are so many hills and plains that you can explore the area and go around with tight-fitting or uncomfortable heels will be hard on your feet and your body as well.

Hat

Wearing one will make the chilly days more acceptable and will allow you to enjoy the sceneries without having to worry about your hair getting messed up by the frequent winds.

Sarong. This piece of clothing can actually be turned into a picnic blanket, a shawl, towel, and more. Style-wise and functionality it is versatile. It is also lightweight and won’t take up much space on your luggage.

Umbrella

Unpredictable rain showers are common within the area. Unless you want to get soaked while roaming around, it is best to bring a two or three-fold umbrella.

Sunscreen

You would never want to expose your skin to the harmful rays of the sun without any protection. You will need much of this, so make sure you bring a bottle of a full-protection sunscreen product. Just make sure that you choose one that has safe ingredients in it.

Water bottle

When you’re spending most of your time wandering around outdoors, carrying a water bottle for hiking is essential. Again, using an eco-friendly bottle instead of a disposable plastic one is par for the course in San Francisco, so pick up a stainless steel version before your trip.

Portable phone charger

Once you stepped into this beautiful city, you would want to keep mementos and keep track of all the things that you do while exploring its beauty. Keep a portable phone charger with you. You don’t want to have a drained phone battery when you are still halfway through the day.

Travel camera

You will be happy to snap a photo of every interesting places or activity that you do while in the SF area. It’s worth the time and effort. You can always go back in time through those memories that you have captured through the lens.

Binoculars

It’s good to have these, especially if you plan to hike up the steep hills within the area. You’ll see things clearer at different angles.

Energy bars

This keeps you powered up while on the go and want to have a more convenient and economical travel.

Reusable bags

I’m pretty sure you will find a lot of interesting souvenirs to keep or to bring for friends and relatives. Tuck them all up inside these bags.

When it comes to the dress to wear, casual is best suited most of the time. However, if you plan to visit high-end restaurants, you may want to call in first to verify if they do have a dress code.

In January, you may experience more than usual rain showers than any other months. It is also the chilliest month of the year. The place gets wet throughout the month up to near the end of February. March welcomes a lot of festivities. It is the time when the rainy season ends. April is the sunniest. For for sunny days and a lot of sunshine, visit the place in August. However, the coldest average times in the city would be from June to August. September is the warmest month and the driest in the year. November is the wettest month in SF area. December is in the rainy season and the place experiences lots of winter storms. It is also one of the coldest time of the year.

With all these said, we hope that you will have one of the most enjoyable trips to San Francisco

5 SF Hot Spots for Hot Chocolate

5 SF Hot Spots for Hot Chocolate

Cold, howling winds, sheets of rain turning the streets into rivers…must be winter in San Francisco. With all this cold and wetness, my body craves warm drinks like hot chocolate. So where in San Francisco can you get a nice, rich cup of chocolaty goodness?

Based on research and some personal experience, I compiled the following list of 5 establishments known for their hot chocolate. My main qualification for a worthy cup requires that it not involve a powder mix, but a velvety blend of chocolate melted into a viscous gloop.

  • Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolates in Hayes Valley offers a customizable hot chocolate  like peppermint dark chocolate and Venezuelan spice.
  • CocoaBella has two locations, one on Union Street and the other in the Westfield Center, where they let you create your own cup starting with a base of white, milk, dark, or extra dark chocolates.
  • TCHO at Pier 17 serves a tasty dark chocolate melted from their chocolates made on-site. They also offer a mocha made with Blue Bottle coffee.
  • Emporio Rulli in Union Square boasts a thick European-style chocolate that you can stand a spoon in.
  • Tartine Bakery at Guerrero and 18th streets offers a French version made with a ganache base. They also offer a mouth-watering                                                                                                                 selection of pastries to dip in your hot chocolate.

These are just a few of many places that serve hot chocolate in this city. Where’s your favorite place for a cup?

Hayes Valley — From Under the Shadow

In the not too distant past, the intersection of Hayes and Octavia was darkened by the monstrosity that was the Central Freeway—a raised freeway that cut the Hayes Valley neighborhood in half, keeping its development at bay.  The section that extended past Fell, to Turk, was removed after the ’89 earthquake.  But the expanse up to Fell Street remained in use until 2001, when it was torn down and replaced by the much more attractive multi-way boulevard—Octavia.

Now, Hayes and Octavia is a bright, airy intersection in the heart of Hayes Valley.  Some friends and I took a stroll over to that neighborhood this past Saturday for lunch.  The original intent was to go to Suppenküche for wiener schnitzel and steins of beer, but they’re only open for brunch on Sundays.  Fortunate for us Hayes Street, the main artery of Hayes Valley, is now lined with many fine eateries, from crepes and fries at Frjtz to higher-end fare at Absinthe.  We ended up at Patxi’s.  Not a bad place to have to end up.

Patxi’s (pronounced pah-cheese) is a Chicago-style pizzeria near Hayes and Octavia.  They have a high-ceilinged dining room filled with the echoing voices of their patrons and the savory essence of pizza sauce and melting cheese.  I would recommend this place to anyone in the mood for a great Chicago-style deep dish pizza.  The crust was excellent—the perfect amount of flakiness and crispiness.  The toppings were perfectly balanced: not too much meat or too many veggies.  We ordered their classic which comes with sausage, mushrooms, green peppers, black olives—and had them add pepperoni.

Feeling sluggish from our full stomachs, we thought it would be a good idea to walk over to Blue Bottle Coffee kiosk on Linden Street, a little side street between Octavia and Gough streets, for a cup o’ java.

When we turned the corner, onto Octavia, I was immediately reminded of how amazing Hayes Valley is without the Central Freeway towering over it.  Groups of people played in the sunny park at the end of Octavia.  Bright patches of green grass.  Trees and flower beds lined the roadway.  A tall metal sculpture, Ecstasy, basked in the warm sun.  It is now such a treat to walk along Octavia Boulevard.

Hiking San Francisco

San Francisco is one of few U.S. cities that offers such a variety of hiking options within its city limits. With its myriad hills and valleys, sea cliffs and beaches, and city and state parks, all within roughly 49 square miles, you don’t have to go far from your front door to embark on an   urban hike.

But if hiking alone isn’t your thing, the folks over at HikingSanFrancisco.com are here to help. Their website provides an online venue for local hikers to organize group outings within San Francisco and throughout the greater Bay Area. The organizer of each group selects the route and meeting time and place, all you have to do is go online and sign up.

They have a few notable hikes coming up. A hike of Golden Gate Park is set for Dec. 18, and organizer, Alex Genadinik, is trying his hardest to get a local brewery, like Beach Chalet, to sponsor the event. On Sunday, Jan. 2, a hike into Land’s End is up for grabs. This hike is planned at the lowest to afford views of the various shipwrecks along the coast.

Amasia Hide’s Sushi Bar

I hope that every dining experience will be a delectable treat. That I will leave the restaurant and immediately text/Facebook message/Tweet all my friends to tell them where they absolutely must go for their next meal out. However, I can not say this of Amasia Hide’s Sushi Bar.

Amasia Hide’s Sushi Bar is nestled in a narrow corner space at Henry and Noe in the quaint Duboce Triangle. The interior is much larger than the facade suggests, with ample seating, including two-tops, four-tops, and seating on benches along the wall in the back of the dining area.

There is a quaint feel to the place, like you’re hanging out in someone’s dining room. Strings of paper cranes dangle from the walls. Stuffed animals and other knick-knacks fill the nooks and crannies of the restaurant. Square origami papers fill little boxes at each table, with a tiny instruction pamphlet for folding various creations. I tried the butterfly, but couldn’t get past Step 9.

The servers greeted us exuberantly and were attentive to our needs, eagerly answering questions, pointing out the specials on the board, including the half-off sake specials. There’s always some deal on the sake at Amasia Hide’s Sushi Bar. Some of the specials are a little quirky. If it’s raining, they offer large hot sake for $2 ($1 for a small). If you’re lucky and happen to be the ninth customer on say, the ninth of the month, you might just get half off your sake. Perhaps if the wind is blowing from the west, they offer half-off sake.

Once the food came out, I began to understand why Amasia Hide’s Sushi Bar needs all the gimmicks. I don’t pretend to be a connoisseur of sushi, or of any cuisine for that matter, but I’ve had enough elsewhere to know good cuts of nigiri and well-made maki rolls when I see them.

The aji, which was on the specials board, was over-powered by a big glob of wasabi, possibly a ruse to mask its poor quality. In the height of crab season, the spider roll–not something I typically order, but usually a safe bet at even the worst sushi bars–came out dry and stale. The highlight of the meal was the seaweed salad, clearly made fresh in-house and not served from a bag.

Maybe they were just having an off night. Every place does. Maybe my opinion is jaded from years of going to my regular sushi joint, where I know I’ll get good cuts of fish. Maybe I just didn’t have enough of their half-off sake. Whatever the case, I don’t think I’ll be back to figure it out.

But if you’d like to give it a try, here’s the contact information:

Location: 149 Noe St., San Francisco, CA
Hours: Mon through Sun, 5:30pm through 10:00pm
Phone: 415-861-7000

Vintage Paper Fair–San Francisco

The Vintage Paper Fair returns to San Francisco this weekend, and if you’ve never been, let me fill you in on what you can expect: boxes and boxes and boxes filled with vintage postcards, greeting cards, advertisements, posters, and photographs. It’s like a museum of pieces of nostalgia, glimpses of history, remnants of days long gone. The vendors are proud of their collections and will gladly share their knowledge with you.

The Vintage Paper Fair will be held in the Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, just inside the 9th Avenue entrance at Lincoln Blvd. The fair runs Sat, Jan 8 from 10am to 6pm and Sun, Jan 9 from 10am to 4pm. Admission is free.

Friday Nights at de Young–Feb 25 thru Mar 18

The Friday Nights at the de Young series runs through November, offering a variety of programs, including live music, tours, talks and more. In conjunction with the Olmec exhibit, the next three Friday Nights at the de Young are put on with a bit of Latin flare.

Feb 25: A Night Featuring Chocolate and Other Culinary Gems of the Americas. There will be live Marimba music in the Wilsey Court and cacao presentations in the Piazzoni Murals Room among other events.

Mar 4: A Carnaval celebration takes place, with the dancers from Fogo Na Roupa energizing the Wilsey Court and other Carnaval-themed events for the whole family.

Mar 18: Olmecs Singing in the Flowers. Live music by Cascada de Flores will be performed in Wilsey Court, while a special presentation of flor y canto, a centuries-old literary tradition, takes place in the Koret Auditorium.

Admission is free for Friday Nights at the de Young events, but you must purchase a ticket if you want to enter the galleries or special exhibits. Events run from 6:30pm to 9:00pm.

Sunday Streets–Penguins to Penguins

Sunday Streets kicked off last month, along the Embarcadero, to a slightly soggy start. However, this month’s event, Penguins to Penguins–the route of roads blocked to car traffic stretches from the penguins at the California Academy of Sciences, along JFK Drive to the Great Highway and over to Sloat Drive and the zoo, where the other penguins live–is anticipated to be nice and dry.

A remnant of Gavin Newsom’s mayoral legacy, Sunday Streets started in 2008 with two events, connecting Chinatown to the Bayview for a scattering of participants. Now, there are 10 Sunday Streets held throughout San Francisco.

The prototype for San Francisco’s Sunday Streets started in Bogota, Colombia over 30 years ago. Ciclovia started primarily as an event for bicyclists, but as it grew in popularity, events for non-cyclists were added, attracting new people to the Ciclovia, resulting in a world record being set, with 37,000 people performing aerobics on one stage at once.

While the number of Sunday Streets attendants doesn’t quite reach Bogota levels–fewer than five percent of San Franciscans get involved—members of the California Outdoor Rollersports Association will attempt to set their own world record by organizing the Guiness Book’s longest chain of roller skaters with a chain of 300 skaters, shuffling hand to hip down JFK Drive.

Beyond the outdoor activity, Sunday Streets is the perfect opportunity to explore a new neighborhood or reconnect with a part of the city you haven’t seen for months or years.
Future events include routes through the Mission, Bayview, and Western Addition, and a route through Chinatown and North Beach was added this year.

Golden Gate Park Dahlia Garden—In Full Bloom

Taking advantage of the warm weather we had in San Francisco this weekend, I went for a stroll through the Botanical Gardens and around Stow Lake out in Golden Gate Park. The slow and steady beats of reggae music from the Power to the Peaceful event—a truly San Francisco experience—echoed under the canopy of trees. In search of something more peaceful, I made my way, against the stream of revelers, to the Dahlia Garden, hoping the plants would still be in bloom.

The Dahlia Garden is a tear-drop shaped flower bed just east of the Conservatory of Flowers. Each year, a group of dedicated volunteers spend their precious free time pinching, snipping, and watering around 500 clumps of dahlia plants.

If you’ve never seen a dahlia, you’re possibly missing out on one of the natural wonders of the world. These blooms come in myriad sizes, from 1 inch across to as large as a foot across, and their colors span the spectrum, from bright pink and yellow to dark burgundy and purple. But it’s their shapes that are most amazing, clusters of complex petals; some explode from the stem like a starburst, others form tight geometric patterns like honeycombs. No matter their size, shape, or color, they all create a dramatic presence, demanding your attention.

The first time I visited the Dahlia Garden, the plants were nothing more than green clumps of weeds in a bed of dirt. Uninspiring to say the least. A few seasons later, I made it by the garden when a few plants were in bloom. Just enough to whet my appetite.

So as I approached the garden this time, I had no idea what to expect. I wasn’t even sure they’d still be in bloom. As I crossed the front of the Conservatory of Flowers, my pace quickened. I looked for signs of disappointment on the faces of people coming from the direction of the flower bed. And when I rounded the east end of the building, my heart skipped a couple beats. I had found the end of the rainbow; the dahlia garden my pot of gold. All 500 or so plants were in full bloom. I nearly tripped over my own feet to get closer. The hairs on my arms stood on end. I finally saw them in all their splendor.

If you haven’t already, you really should set aside some time in the next few weeks to swing by the Dahlia Garden. I don’t know how much longer the blooms will last, but I certainly plan to make it by at least once more. So maybe I’ll see you there.