The trails winding up Mount Sutro are one of San Francisco’s best-kept secrets. Most of this land is owned by UCSF, and many don’t know the trails are open to the public. A 2-mile (round-trip) hike here passes through a forest of sky-high, ivy-wrapped eucalyptus that opens up to a meadow of native wildflowers that’s perfect for a picnic. From the Edgewood trailhead, trace your way through the eucalyptus on the Woodland Canyon Trail where on sunny days shafts of sunlight break through the canopy (and even on foggy days there’s a sublime beauty). You’ll come out at Medical Center Way. Pick up the trail marked “Historic/Summit” to head up the West Ridge. Through the trees, you’ll catch peeks of the Pacific and across the Golden Gate to Marin. At the summit, a meadow of yarrow, poppy, artemisia, and California lilac is ringed by forest. That means no view from up here, but it does give the space an intimate feel. This is a great spot to enjoy lunch or a snack. To wind back down the mountain, on the far end of the meadow, pick up East Ridge Trail before descending on Johnstone. At the driveway of 66 Johnstone Drive, take the Fairy Gates Trail back to the Edgewood Trailhead, where you’ll leave the enchanted forest.
We like to start at Edgewood trailhead because, unlike near the hospital, parking here is pretty easy and it’s also accessible by MUNI. By car, take Parnassus Ave. to Willard St., then turn onto Belmont Ave. At Edgewood Ave., turn left and park at the dead-end. Here’s a map of Mount Sutro trails. There’s also a new 17th & Stanyon trailhead, providing access from Cole Valley. Dog-friendly!