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Top 13 Outdoor Activities in the SF Bay

The San Francisco Bay Area offers a nearly endless list of attractions – even while outdoors, you’re sure to find some good options. Whether you want to explore the area’s scenic landscapes, sip wine, or just take in a spectacular view, there’s enough on this list to keep you busy for quite a while. These are just some of the top outdoor things to do in this Northern California region.

Enjoy the View from Baker Beach San Francisco
Credit: San Francisco by bigstock.com

Enjoy the View from Baker Beach

What Is It? Baker Beach is a mile-long stretch of sand at the foot of rugged cliffs west of the Golden Gate.

Why Do It? It’s one of the best spots for views and photos of the Golden Gate Bridge and the longest, sandiest stretch of shoreline in the city. It’s also one of the top budget-friendly activities in San Francisco.

Good to Know: Bikes are available to rent throughout the city.

Walk or Bike Across the Golden Gate Bridge The Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
Credit: The Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco by bigstock.com

Walk or Bike Across the Golden Gate Bridge

What Is It? One of the most iconic landmarks in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge opened in 1937.

Why Do It? While it’s fun to take in the view from afar, visitors should also walk or bike the 1.7-mile span that stretches from San Francisco to the Marine headlands. From there, you’ll be able to see the Pacific and Alcatraz Island too.

Good to Know: Access to the bridge sidewalks is available for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Take a Walk Through the Woods Hiking trails through giant redwoods in Muir forest
Credit: Hiking trails through giant redwoods in Muir forest by bigstock.com

Take a Walk Through the Woods

What Is It? Muir Woods is a national monument just north of San Francisco known for its towering old-growth redwood trees.

Why Do It? Scenic walking trails will bring you to some of the oldest and tallest trees in the country here, including giants that are more than a thousand years old. It’s one of the city’s best spots for nature lovers.

Good to Know: Cathedral Grove features a 1.5-mile paved trail with educational exhibits along the way. Signs lead to longer trails where you can watch for black-tailed deer, butterflies, bats, jays and Northern spotted owls.

Watch the Surfers in Half Moon Bay Half Moon Bay
Credit: Half Moon Bay by Lynn Yeh/shutterstock.com

Watch the Surfers in Half Moon Bay

What Is It? Just 40 minutes south of San Francisco along the coast, Half Moon Bay is a popular day trip from the city with beautiful beaches and famously powerful waves.

Why Do It? Watch surfers from the bluffs who challenge themselves to ride some of the biggest waves on the planet, particularly at Mavericks where there are huge rocks known as the “graveyard.”

Good to Know: You can also fish from the pier and enjoy fresh seafood at the marina.

Hike and Enjoy the Amazing Views at Tilden Park Hiking along the Vollmer Peak Trail in Tilden Park and the Oakland Hills.
Credit: Hiking along the Vollmer Peak Trail in Tilden Park and the Oakland Hills. by © Chris Labasco | Dreamstime.com

Hike and Enjoy the Amazing Views at Tilden Park

What Is It? Tilden Regional Park us a 2,079-acre regional park in the East Bay between the Berkeley Hills and San Pablo Ridge.

Why Do It? From Grizzly Peak, you’ll get one of the best views of the Bay Area. After dark, you’ll be mesmerized by the dazzling lights that seem to stretch forever.

Good to Know: The park’s attractions include a merry-go-round, picnic and swimming areas are closed, as well as walking trails.

Oakland Zoo Oakland Zoo, Oakland, California
Credit: Oakland Zoo, Oakland, California by Oakland Zoo

Oakland Zoo

What Is It? Located in the Oakland Hills, the Oakland Zoo showcases around 440 animals and is nationally renowned for its elephant exhibit.

Why Do It? It offers a great time for all ages, with many interactive displays and educational programs for visitors to learn about the zoo’s inhabitants.

Good to Know: It also hosts the popular Valley Children’s Zoo with interactive play structures for the kids along with animals like ring-tailed lemurs, over 100-year-old Aldabra tortoises, pot-bellied pigs, and bats.

Wine Tasting in Sonoma Wine Country Vines in Napa Valley
Credit: Vines in Napa Valley by bigstock.com

Wine Tasting in Sonoma Wine Country

What is It: Sonoma Wine Country is just 45 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge, home to over 425 wineries for touring and tasting.

Why Do It: Crowded tasting rooms with bar service are now a thing of the past, but you can enjoy sipping while keeping a safe distance from others. There’s also plenty of other exciting things to do while you’re in Sonoma.

Good to Know: There’s also plenty of other exciting things to do while you’re in Sonoma.

Picnic in Golden Gate Park Springtime in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park with the Conservatory of Flowers building.
Credit: Springtime in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park with the Conservatory of Flowers building. by © Michael Warwick | Dreamstime.com

Picnic in Golden Gate Park

What Is It? One of San Francisco’s top attractions, Golden Gate Park offers miles of vast green lawns, walking paths, lakes, and 7,000 kinds of plants right in the heart of the city.

Why Do It? The park is a picturesque oasis that provides the perfect setting for a picnic

Good to Know: This attraction has a prime location, and many of the city’s top attractions are within walking distance.

Walk the Lands End Trail Lands End Labyrinth
Credit: Lands End Labyrinth by bigstock.com

Walk the Lands End Trail

What Is It? The Lands End Trail will bring you to San Francisco artist Eduardo Aguilera’s labyrinth which lies along a rocky a windswept shoreline.

Why Do It? The walk offers spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands, and the coast along with the labyrinth that makes for an outstanding photo-op.

Good to Know: The trail leading to the promontory is unmaintained, so you’ll need to be extra careful in this frequently windy and slippery location.

Enjoy Drinks Overlooking the Pacific at Moss Beach Distillery Moss Beach Distillery
Credit: Moss Beach Distillery by mossbeachdistillery.com

Enjoy Drinks Overlooking the Pacific at Moss Beach Distillery

What Is It? The Moss Beach Distillery is a restaurant with an outdoor patio along the coast a Moss Beach, about a half-hour’s drive south of San Francisco.

Why Do It? The outdoor patio is open for dining and drinking.

Good to Know: If it’s chilly out, you can snuggle up to a natural gas fire pit or get cozy under warm blankets on wooden benches while enjoying the jaw-dropping view.

Take a Scenic Drive Down the Coast to Big Sur Highway One near Big Sur
Credit: Highway One near Big Sur by bigstock.com

Take a Scenic Drive Down the Coast to Big Sur

What Is It? Enjoy a scenic drive from San Francisco to Big Sur following the Pacific Coast Highway.

Why Do It? This stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway, is one of the most spectacular in the country, covering approximately 150 miles. Enjoy endless photo-ops along the way, with opportunities for strolls on the beach too.

Good to Know: It’s worth waking up early for a more enjoyable, leisurely drive as it will take about three hours each way.

Explore the Sutro Bath Ruins Sutro Baths Ruins
Credit: Sutro Baths Ruins by © Chon Kit Leong | Dreamstime.com

Explore the Sutro Bath Ruins

What Is It? The Sutro Baths were designed by self-made millionaire Adolph Sutro in 1894 as the world’s largest indoor swimming pool. During the high tide, the Pacific Ocean would fill the pools with 1.7 million gallons of saltwater in just an hour. They were part of a lavish swimming facility that had over 500 private dressing rooms, restaurants and arcades that were enclosed by 100,000 square feet of glass. After Sutro died, his family maintained the baths for several decades, but it was closed down during the Great Depression.

Why Do It? The remaining structure still exists as interesting architectural ruins in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area at the north end of Ocean Beach near the Cliff House restaurant.

Good to Know: You can walk around the fascinating and somewhat eerie ruins – they’re rumored to be haunted.

Hike Mount Sutro Hiking in Mount Sutro Forest in the Clouds
Credit: Hiking in Mount Sutro Forest in the Clouds by breki74 via Flickr

Hike Mount Sutro

What Is It? Mount Sutro is a century-old temperature cloud forest of eucalyptus trees, some as high as 200 feet that grow on an 80-acre mountainside.

Why Do It? Hiking, especially on a foggy day, with the mist surrounding the treetops that tower overhead, is absolutely magical.

Good to Know: If you’re here on a weekday, there’s a good chance that you’ll be one of just a few walking the peaceful trails.

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