Trails and Ales: San Francisco

We’ve rounded up five of our favorite Bay Area hikes and the best bars to grab a cold one afterward
December 11, 2018Words by Brooke VaughanPhotos by Brooke Vaughan

San Francisco: home to Karl the fog, Huckberry HQ, and one of the most famous bridges in the world. In a place where waves crash against the redwood-dotted coast as harbor seals bob atop the water, you don’t have to go far before you’ve forgotten about the urban jungle downtown. Long and short hikes alike provide sprawling urban views and nature-filled vistas (sometimes all in one trek). Call it hometown pride, but we’re pretty sure Bay Area trails can’t be beat. Cap it off with a local brew, and you just might want to move here too.   
 



Land's End
 

Lands End
 

Distance from SF: In northwestern San Francisco (start at Eagles Point)

How to get there from downtown: 38 bus to Geary and 39th; 45-minute bike ride; 23-minute drive

Hike: 3.4 miles (loop), easy

Beer: Simple Pleasures Cafe

Lands End boasts quintessential San Francisco—distant views of the Golden Gate Bridge, rocky coastlines, and a race to beat the city’s fog (affectionately nicknamed Karl). Because it’s a relatively easy stroll, the main route is heavily trafficked, but don’t skimp on those small detours along the trail. They’ll show you some of the best coastal and Golden Gate Bridge views that you won’t catch from the main stretch. The loop trail starts from either side of Lands End Lookout, but beginning on the eastern end allows you a quicker jaunt to Simple Pleasures Cafe.

Opened in 1978, the cafe is a Richmond neighborhood staple known for taking it easy on your wallet. The cafe roasts its beans just a couple doors down, so you know the coffee is fresh, but they also have five rotating beers on tap for those looking for a frosty beverage post-hike. Sometimes you’ll find local brews on tap, such as Karl Strauss Brewing Company’s Red Trolley Ale, but those come and go; there are always local finds available in a can or a bottle, though. Time your arrival just right and you could stumble in during “happier hour” on Wednesdays from 6 to 10 pm ($4 drafts beers) or catch some live music while sipping on your brew.
 



Twin Peaks
 

Twin Peaks

 

Distance from SF: In Midtown Terrace (start at the intersection of Portola and Twin Peaks Blvd.)

How to get there from downtown: L MUNI to 37 bus to Forest Hill Station Outbound; 40-minute bike ride; 18-minute drive

Hike: About 2 miles (out and back), easy

Beer: Valley Tavern

Twin Peaks sits smack dab in the center of the city and is only five feet shy of the tallest peak in San Francisco (Mount Davidson). The 360-degree panoramic view from the top features the city’s most prized landmarks: the Golden Gate and Bay bridges, the downtown skyline, and Alcatraz. The hike up Twin Peaks is simple and about as urban as it gets, a humble dirt path along Twin Peaks Blvd. Although there is no shortage of lookouts, our favorite stop is at Christmas Tree Point for a northeasterly view of the Financial District skyscrapers. The north side of the hill houses the Twin Peaks Reservoir, one of two reservoirs installed in the city after the 1906 earthquake to supply water for fighting fires.

Later, find your own watering hole just a little over a mile away. Amber ales, hefeweizens, IPAs, and ciders flow from the taps at Valley Tavern, a Noe Valley neighborhood sports bar. The pool table and TVs inside make for some nice entertainment, but you’ll want to snag a seat in the spacious beer garden out back. Pro tip: The food menu is limited, but luckily Valley Tavern allows you to bring food in, so pack a snack or pick something up on the way.
 



Slacker Hill
Photo: Miranda Smith
 

Slacker Hill

 

Distance from SF: Marin County, just across the Golden Gate Bridge (start at North Tower Golden Gate Parking)

How to get there from downtown: 30 bus to US101 Offramp/Sausalito Lateral Road; 46-minute bike ride; 19-minute drive

Hike: 3.2 miles (out and back), easy to moderate

Beer: Travis Marina Bar at Presidio Yacht Club

With rolling hills of the Marin Headlands and the Golden Gate Bridge against a San Francisco skyline backdrop all in one hike, you’ll be amazed at how little-known this trail is, even amongst locals. The hike starts in the North Tower Golden Gate Parking area, following the signs for the SCA Trail. Once you pass Conzelman Road, head straight for Slacker Hill. The best part? Most others frequent the Golden Gate View Point or Hawk Hill for a similar but lower view, so you might just have Slacker Hill to yourself. There’s not a bad time to do this hike, but if you find yourself at the summit at sunset, you definitely won’t be sorry.

After you’ve gotten the aerial view of the Golden Gate Bridge, wander down to one of the best views from the water’s edge at Travis Marina Bar—or “Mike’s Place,” as locals have fondly nicknamed it. The bar is part of the Presidio Yacht Club, a Bay-area favorite with a rich military history due to the US Army’s establishment of Fort Baker in 1850. Servicepeople used the marina for their own private boats after the area was no longer needed for military reasons, paving the way for the official establishment of the club. The Presidio Yacht Club opened to the public after Fort Baker closed in 1994, but it remains an organization for boating enthusiasts and servicepeople from the US and abroad. Opt for a local brew on tap, courtesy of Fort Point Beer Company or Anchor Brewing. Plan your hike for a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday afternoon, and you’ll make it to Mike’s Place just in time for some live music.  
 



Tomales Point


Tomales Point

 

Distance from SF: 53 miles

Ways to get there: 1.5-hour drive

Hike: 9.4 miles (out and back), moderate

Beer: Tap Room

The farthest hike on this list is just a scenic drive up the coast on US-101. The Tomales Point trail traverses the northern peninsula of Point Reyes National Seashore, offering occasional up-close-and-personal views of the park’s tule elk population, panoramas of Tomales Bay to the east and the Pacific to the west, and a grand finale of rocky bluffs spilling into the deep blue. The hike is lengthy, but the trail, though a little hilly and sandy in some parts, is well-maintained and easy to navigate. If you start early enough in the day, you’ll make it to the point at the prime time—after the fog has burned off but before groups of hikers start showing up. Hang around long enough and you might spot some harbor seals just off the coast.

Following the long hike, you’ll be ready for some grub and a cold one to wash it down. Fewer than 30-minutes from the trailhead, make a pitstop at The Tap Room, a cafe attached to the Inverness Park Market with locally sourced ingredients and friendly service. Grab a table on the patio or belly up to the bar for a pint of one of their six rotating beers on tap. If you’re lucky, you might catch something brewed by Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma or 21st Amendment Brewery located in the city. Indulge in a Reuben made with house-brined, smoked pastrami and sauerkraut sourced from Wild West Ferments just up the road. The jury is still out, but many say it’s the best they’ve ever had.
 

 



Muir Beach to Bonita Lighthouse


Muir Beach to Point Bonita Lighthouse

 

Distance from SF: 17 miles

Ways to get there: 45-minute drive (or if you do the hike in reverse, you can take the 76X bus to Field Rd. and Lighthouse)

Hike: 14.3 miles (out and back), moderate to difficult

Beer: Pelican Inn

Stretch your legs and lace up your boots real tight because this one’s a doozy. At a whopping 14.3 miles roundtrip, the Muir Beach to Point Bonita Lighthouse hike offers exceptional views of the Marin Headlands, Pirates Cove, and Rodeo and Muir beaches. The hike takes you through a nearly barren, dry landscape straight into the lush flora of the Tennessee Valley, the diversity of terrain and topography proving you’ve completely left the city behind. If you don’t have access to a car to get you to Muir Beach, you don’t have to rule this hike out. Take the Marin Headlands Express 76X bus from the city to the lighthouse and hike the trail in reverse.

If you can tear yourself away from the picturesque beauty and beachy bustle of the Muir shore, stop in at the Pelican Inn. The name of the establishment comes from Sir Francis Drake’s ship “the Pelican,” later that arrived on the Marin coast to claim California for Queen Elizabeth I in 1579. You don’t need to get too fancy with your order here—a Smithwick’s and beef stew or fish and chips will do, as you pay homage to the inn’s imperial roots.
 



>>Next: Trails and Ales: New York
 


 

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