Best Things To Do Outdoors In San Francisco

By Myles Fenwick
With a mild climate, acres of national parks, and boundless activities – it is no wonder that active travelers from across the world love exploring the great, wide outdoors of San Francisco. For the competitive athletes we’ve got shark dodging triathlons, and world-class golf courses. For the hikers we have over 3,000 acres of state parks with mind-blowing views. For everyone in-between we have boundless, sometimes unconquerable, hills dotted with historic landmarks. Some of the most amazing views, and adventures, are right within the city limits, so you don't even have to travel far if you are looking for fun and exciting outdoor activities San Francisco. As a local San Franciscan, there are a couple of places to go and things to do in the wide open spaces of my city that are definitely worth checking out. Here are some of my personal favourites to kickstart your fun.

Hike the Mosaic Steps

When the stress of daily life gets too much I like to get out of my mind and to the outdoors. My favourite thing to do is to venture to the Inner Sunset district and hike up the 16th Ave Mosaic Steps. Here you will get a truly grand view from the Inner Sunset’s Grandview Park. From the peak, you’ll be able to take in a panoramic view of San Francisco that rivals the famous Twin Peaks. If it's not too foggy, you can see Ocean Beach, Golden Gate Bridge, The Salesforce Tower, and everything in-between! As you mount the stairs, you can take in the colourful artwork of the tiled mosaics, which are a great way to distract your mind from your burning muscles. What is so special about this spot is that it is a community driven initiative. A group of local residents decided to band together to cover the 163 steps at 16th Ave with the beautiful mosaic. Just stopping to appreciate their efforts while exploring the outdoors in San Francisco is worth it.

Get lost in a rainforest

Every outdoor adventure in San Francisco should include getting lost in the Mount Sutro Forest, ‘The Rainforest of San Francisco’. Tucked behind the UCSF Medical Center are 19 acres of densely packed Eucalyptus trees, which were planted in the late 19th century. Hiking here is not like your other typical hikes in the great outdoors of San Francisco. It will feel as if you have stepped into a whole other, enchanted world as you wander through this opulent place. On a foggy day, the mist enshrouding the trees will transport you to the forests of the Amazon. It is truly an ethereal experience. And be sure to look out for the birds in these woods! There are over forty-five species that call this place home! Just remember to bring a hoodie – Mt. Sutro is a bit cooler than the jungles of Brazil.

Frisbee Golf

Don't just get outdoors in San Francisco, get active - with a frisbee! Monday through Sunday the Frisbee Golf Course in Golden Gate Park is constantly teaming with pro and novice ‘Frolfers’ alike. If you are looking for fun outdoor things to do in San Francisco, this is something a little different to try. Feed your competitive side and rent a set of Frisbees from Golden Gate Park Skate & Bike, grab a six-pack of brews from the corner store, jump on the 5 MUNI Line and head West towards 25th and Fulton. You will get to appreciate the natural beauty in the city. A tightly wooded haven with an 18-hole course, this is the ultimate outdoor adventure in San Francisco. My friends and I often come here for a spot of fun. And we are definitely not pros! So, if you’re worried that your skill level might not be up to par with the locals – don’t worry! There’s always a friendly group of resident ‘pros’ that will show you the ropes and the do’s and don’ts.

Lands End Trail

Escape the busy city and head outdoors to San Francisco's stunning Lands End Trail. Just head to the ruins of the historic Sutro Baths on the West side of San Francisco and you will find this magical spot. On the hike, you’ll be able to take in an alternate view of the Golden Gate Bridge. You can also try your hand at the locally famous – but hidden - Land’s End Labyrinth perched on the edge of a cliff, just off the beaten path. Literally - you’ll have to jump a small rope, but it’s nothing serious and no-one will stop you.  As an added benefit, not too many mega tour buses head to Land’s End, so tourists are few and far between. Bliss. If you have the kids with you, this is a great way for them to burn off that extra energy! You’ll also be able to snag some awesome Instagrams of the bridge and your outdoor adventures in San Francisco that are guaranteed to get your ‘like’ count into the triple digits.

Roller Disco

Your list of fun outdoor things to do in San Francisco is not complete without roller skating! If you’re lucky enough to be in The City on a Sunday, head to The Golden Gate Park Roller Rink for a Roller Disco Party. This weekly event is hosted by - none other than - David Miles Jr. The Godfather of Skate and leader of The Church of 8 Wheels. Interestingly, skating at the Golden Gate Park dates back to the late 1800s, when the Parks and Rec department created the rink and offered residents skate rentals. It was obviously a good idea because roller skating has thrived ever since! The rink is located right between the 8th Ave. park entrance and the Conservatory of Flowers. Don’t worry about not being able to find the rink. Just listen for a boom box blaring Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ and look for a man in a gold top hat and purple furry skates. If your legs haven’t turned into Jell-o from all your other outdoor activities San Francisco then grab some skates from Golden Gate Park Skate & Bike. If you’re like me and you’re perplexed by the idea of having wheels on your feet – breathe deep and relax. The members of The Church of 8 Wheels will welcome you into their choreographed roller dance sessions with open arms!

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