Tourists and natives alike are drawn to the Golden Gate and its namesake bridge. Lands End offers premium views of the span and a surprisingly wild hike to boot.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 2.9 mile out and back hike is easy. The first section is flat and wheelchair/stroller
accessible. The second section has steps and short rolling stretches over dirt.
Mixture of sun and shade.
Dirt and paved trails.
1 1/2 hours.
Nice any time. No views when foggy, but lovely just the same
Lands End is in the northwest section of San Francisco. Drive west on Geary Boulevard (past 39th Avenue westbound Geary becomes Point Lobos Avenue). Continue west on Point Lobos Avenue, cross 48th Avenue, and turn right into the parking lot on the right side of the street. If you get to the Cliff House you've gone too far.
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, pay phones, stores, and restaurants in surrounding neighborhoods. No
Paved parking lot. Designated handicapped spots. Restrooms and drinking water at the Lands End Lookout. No parking or entrance fees. The trail
is suitable to wheelchairs. Paper maps are offered at the Lands End Lookout, but the hike is well-signed and you can probably skip it. This trailhead is within walking distance of
public transit -- SF Muni bus lines run down Geary Boulevard. Read
some cautions about urban hikes.
Dogs are permitted, leashed or under voice control (note additional dog regulations posted along the trails).
The Official Story:
Parks Conservancy Lands End page one and two
Map Choices/More Information:
This hike is described and mapped in 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: San
Francisco, by Jane Huber (yup, that's me, the creator of this website). Order
this book from Amazon.com.
Parks Conservancy Lands End page
The Walker's Map of San Francisco, by Pease
Press is perfect for this hike.
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
Lands End is a rugged bit of coastline in the northwest corner of San Francisco, around the bend from the historic Cliff House and the flat expanse of Ocean Beach. Locals come here to jog or walk the trails, while tourists enjoy the views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Coastal Trail is the "main street" at Lands End, and is popular with local runners, dog walkers, parents pushing strollers, and folks from out of town. Camino del Mar Trail runs on the bluff above Coastal Trail, departing from the War Memorial parking lot and ending near the Palace of the Legion of Honor. You can make a loop of both trails, but I don't recommend it, since this loop entails walking down the middle of a street dedicated to museum parking as well as a sidewalk past the museum and golf course.
In addition to trekking out and back on Coastal Trail hikers can explore spur paths leading to the Sutro Bath ruins and Lands End proper. Veteran hikers will likely find Coastal Trail lovely but tame. The round trip to Eagle's Point is under 3 miles and the elevation change (albeit for two sets of steps) is slight. It is a good choice for beginners since it's an out and back hike -- simply head back to the trailhead when you've had enough.
If you are new to San Francisco or hiking, do use caution at Lands End. Stay back from the steep unprotected drop-offs along some stretches of the trail, stay on the trails, and learn to recognize and avoid poison oak. I would not normally issue these cautions, but it's not uncommon for folks to get lost or stranded at Lands End, particularly on the rocks at the coastline. Do not wreck your day with a helicopter rescue!
Begin from the parking lot at Merrie Way. GGNRA continues to make extensive improvements here. A big pleasant parking lot and an information display greet you. In 2012 a visitor center (the Lands End Lookout) opened, and it's worth a visit to see the interpretive displays, use the sparkling restrooms, and buy a coffee at the cafe. Ascend a few stairs to a kiosk with a map and information about Lands End, then begin hiking on Coastal Trail. Tall monterey pines tower over a restored area with a lovely assortment of native plants, including buckwheat, bush lupines, coyote brush, monkeyflower, lizardtail and yarrow. Just before the wide paved trail sweeps back to the right, a signed trail descends left to the Sutro Bath area. Continue straight on Coastal Trail.
A second gentle curve swings the trail north again, climbing slightly.
Where a second paved trail enters from the right at 0.17 mile, bear left. Soon you'll reach the first interpretive panel -- although Lands End appears relatively untouched by civilization, a railroad ran along the coast here in the 1880's and in the 1900's ships wrecked on the rocks (some sharp-eyed hikers can spot the wrecks during low tide). Visit on a foggy day and get an earful of the foghorns described on one panel -- each foghorn has a different tone to assist ships navigating through our local pea soup. At 0.26 mile, Coastal Trail reaches a signed junction and overlook. On a clear day there are sweeping views north across the water to the Marin Headlands and the Golden Gate Bridge. A set of steps leads up the War Memorial area, but our route continues on Coastal Trail, straight.
A retaining wall on the right holds up a hillside dotted with Monterey pines. At a second overlook, the trail shifts to dirt but remains nearly flat. Beware a massive hedge of poison oak on the left shortly before Coastal Trail passes an unmarked path heading uphill on the right. Continue straight. The trail rolls up and down a bit over loose sandy soil -- if you're visiting with a stroller or in a wheelchair you most likely will want to turn around here. Another trail, this one signed, breaks off to the right. Again, continue straight on Coastal Trail.
Thickets of willow and cypress crowd the trail. Cheerful orange-colored nasturtiums drape over the trailside shrubs and you might see poison hemlock, with white lacey flowers and purple-blotched stems here. At 0.75 mile, a paved trail enters from the right, leading up through the Lincoln Park golf course to the Palace of the Legion of Honor. Continue to the left on Coastal Trail.
Shortly past the junction a signed trail (near the emergency call box) heads downhill to the left, leading to Lands End -- a nice sidetrip to a rocky beach (not described here), but note that the climb back up is rough!
A set of ascending steps at 0.90 mile brings the easy section of this hike to an end. Look for native strawberry and yerba buena plants on the grassy hill to the right. The trail crests and almost immediately begins to drop, again on steps. Eucalyptus and cypress trees shade the trail and screen most of the view, but as the trail sweeps downhill a dramatic vista north across the Golden Gate opens up. The trail hugs the coast then turns slightly inland near Deadman's Point, passing through more eucalyptus before emerging with sweet coastal views, now including the posh Seacliff neighborhood slightly to the northeast. You may see or hear some common bay area birds here, including chickadees and a variety of sparrows. At 1.45 miles, the golf course is visible on the right and Coastal Trail reaches Eagle's Point on the left. The trail ends here, at 32nd Avenue and Camino del Mar. After soaking in the views, retrace your steps back to the trailhead.
Total distance: 2.9 miles
: Tuesday, January 8, 2013