Ready, Set, Run: 4 Excellent Long-Distance Running Routes in San Francisco


Jefferson Airplane's Paul Kanter, himself an SF native, said, "San Francisco is 49 miles surrounded by reality.” Why not take in some of those culturally steeped miles at a comfortable jog? Here are four great routes for running in paradise. 

The Golden Run (6 miles)

Strap on your favorite sneaks and hit the pavement—you'll soon see why we like to call this route the Golden Run: It's easily accessible, serene, and scenic beyond belief—think skyscrapers of age-old bark, oceanfronts, and man made marvels. Consider taking out your earbuds to take in the sounds as well as the sites (which include the free-of-charge museum at Fort Point, once used as a masonry to protect the bay from incoming warships).

 The Details:

  • Start at Julius Kahn Park, just off W. Pacific Ave. You can parallel park across the street.
  • Running along W. Pacific Ave., you’ll find a pathway onto Ecology Trail, just before Arguello Blvd. Stay your course about one-half-mile until you come to Moraga Ave.
  • Take Moraga Ave. to Infantry Terrace, which merges into Sheridan Ave. after a quarter-mile. Keep on Sheridan until it becomes Patten Rd.
  • Take a left at the intersection of Patten and McDowell Ave. toward Old Mason St. (You’ll hit a bit of construction as you approach the 101, so hug the sidewalks.)
  • Keep on Old Mason St. until it becomes the San Francisco Bay Trail / Marine Drive. You will soon find yourself at the foots of Fort Point.
  • Take a breath and enjoy the views of the bay. Now, turn it back around to complete your nearly 6-mile loop.

Editor's tips:

  • Due to the mildly hilly nature of this route, do some calf and quad stretches prior to setting off. You'll thank yourself later.
  • Get an early morning start to beat the traffic in and out of Presidio, and even take advantage of the seaside sunrise at Fort Point. To extend your mileage, try exploring the outer stretches of the Ecology Trail.

(Photo courtesy of Etsy Ketsy)

Molehills to Mountains (2 miles)

Oh, the high-incline workout—mentally and physically trying, and essential to any runner’s regimen. That feeling of having charged up a hill like a leaves one breathless! Cruise over to Twin Peaks and conquer the mountain. It'll be brutal on your glutes, but a picturesque panorama at the summit is an Instagram-worthy reward. 

The Details:

  • Park your car near the public restrooms. Lace up, and take a gargantuan gulp of Gatorade.
  • This is a there-and-back circuit, so you’d be hard-pressed to get lost. Just hug the far shoulder of Twin Peaks Blvd. for roughly three-quarters of a mile.
  • Stop at the intersection of Midcrest Way and Panorma Drive, also known as Creek to Peak. Turn around, and head back up the paved rollercoaster.
  • If you’re looking to get off the beaten path, you can run down—or up, if you’re heading back—the unmarketed dirt trails that cut off of Twin Peaks Blvd.

Editor's tips:

  • Focus on calf and inner-thigh stretches prior to taking off to avoid too much strain on your quads and calf muscles.
  • Bring plenty of water or sports drink—this is an incredibly testing run.
  • Look out for uneven ground where the pavement meets the dirt.
  • Go early morning or just around sunset for prime hilltop views.
  • Enjoy your well-deserved Odwalla bar from one of the free viewing stations. 

Skyline Meets Coastline (2+ miles)

A simple and lovely city run, this two-plus-mile loop is both low in elevation and conveniently located near some great after-run treat shops. Plus, there's ample parking. Be sure to stop for a hot minute to catch your breath at China Basin Park, and bring your pup for playtime at Mission Bay Dog Park.

The Details:

  • Beginning at Mission Creek Garden, take the trail leading out of the recreational area and follow it until you hit Fouth St.
  • Veer left back onto Channel St.
  • Turn left onto Third St. and cross the awesome drawbridge.
  • Turn right onto the wide, paved trail where; follow this for the better part of a mile.
  • Snake through the trail at The Mission Bay Dog Park (on your lefthand side on Berry St.).
  • Keep on the trail, passing under Highway 280, and find yourself back at Mission Creek Garden.

Editor's Tips: 

  • Practice being conscious of your breathing patterns while on this run. No headphones. 
  • At 2.25 miles, this is a great route for doing looping/time-trial paces. 
  • Take this route in the evening hours to ensure easy parking and sunset sky over the waterfront.

(Courtesy of Miguel Vaca)

The Green Three (3 miles)

A treadmill has nothing on a path charted through the trees and flowers of Golden Gate Park. The Green Three, as we call it, is a breathtaking run for both the novice and well-seasoned athlete. Combing through what is arguably some of SF's most luscious landscape, runners will be treated to a kaleidoscope of scents and scenery. Look out for yellow warblers and well-meaning garter snakes basking in the sun.

The Details:

  • Starting at the Conservatory of Flowers, you’ll veer onto the sidewalk toward Stow Lake.
  • Cross the pedestrian strip, and follow the lake’s shore till you find yourself at Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. 
  • Take a sharp left just before MLK hits Lincoln Way, and keep along the trail you see out of your periphery.
  • Follow the crunch of leaves beneath your deliberate feet toward Nancy Pelosi Dr., eventually passing the National Aids Memorial Grove.
  • Cross the street to your four-wheeled salvation. It’s a breeze, really.

Editor's Tips:

  • Try some core strengthening exercises after your run to improve stamina and the integrity of your running posture.
  • At  3 miles and change, this is a fantastic route to see how well you’d fair running a 5K. 
  • Run this route on the weekend when you can fully take advantage of the area. Afterward, stop in and breathe the moist air at the Conservatory of Flowers.
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