America's Best Urban Hike

Hike San Franciscos Grand Walk Sutro Baths to Crissy Field

Ten years ago we dubbed it the “Grand Walk” and said it was one of the most scenic and stunning trails in the West. We were wrong. This is the most scenic urban hike in America! San Francisco’s 6-mile Coastal Trail from Sutro Baths to Crissy Field is a tour de force of views and iconic highlights from start to finish, and plenty of stairs to boot!

Start at the ghostly Sutro Baths, with postcard vistas of the Cliff House, sea stacks, and rollicking Pacific. Head up the stairs and continue on the trail through Lands End as the Golden Gate Bridge quickly comes into view, your North Star for the journey as it’s visible nearly the entire hike.

Detours are a must on this walk, like the one leading to Mile Rock Beach and the popular large labyrinth dramatically perched at the edge of a cliff, overlooking the Golden Gate. The trail features several wooden and natural steps undulating along the coast.

You’ll pass through swanky Sea Cliff, following the residential sidewalks to a less-known backdoor route to popular Baker Beach. Walk the strand the full distance (where you may also see some full moons—nudists sometimes roam these parts) before ascending the 243-step Sand Ladder, a total thigh-burner, with—ironically—more breathtaking views!

Gallery image 1 of 8
Gallery image 2 of 8
Gallery image 3 of 8
Gallery image 4 of 8
Gallery image 5 of 8
Gallery image 6 of 8
Gallery image 7 of 8
Gallery image 8 of 8

Next up: the Batteries to Bluffs Trail and spectacular Battery Crosby, perhaps the best stretch of this hike, with wooden stairs leading up and down to classic coastal scenery. Definitely detour to secluded Marshall’s Beach (practically empty on a late afternoon) and take a seat on some driftwood—the Golden Gate seems close enough to touch. You’ll have to climb back up again and follow the batteries to that big orange bridge. Go under it, through a fun tiny tunnel, to sidestep the tourists and bicycles, and continue on to Fort Point. Now you’re east of the bridge and things get busier. But ditch the people and walk the final stretch along Crissy Field’s beach. Waves gently lapping, Alcatraz’s lighthouse blinking, and the Golden Gate Bridge looming.

FORT MASON BONUS: The Museo Italo Americano Museum in nearby Fort Mason has an excellent free exhibit right now, “NewRealismo: The New Image in Italy, 1932-1960”. It features photography documenting life in Italy before, during, and after World War II. It runs until September 15, 2019. Afterwards, grab an outdoor patio table and a Schneider “Tap 4” Edel-Weisse beer or a glass of Riesling at Radhaus. Their dumpling soup is delicious as a snack.

For a less crowded experience, do this hike late day, and time it so you finish at sunset. This is a point-to-point hike. There’s parking at Sutro Baths or Crissy Field. We recommend walking it west to east. It’s straightforward, with the only navigation being through Sea Cliff. When exiting Lands End, you’ll be on El Camino Del Mar. Follow it east, and veer left onto Sea Cliff Ave. when it forks. Turn left on 25th Ave. north, which leads to an entrance to Baker Beach. Walk on Baker Beach all the way to the Sand Ladder at the eastern end. Take this up to the Batteries to Bluffs Trail. When you cross under the bridge, follow the signs to Fort Point and Crissy Field. Dog-friendly!

Trending Stories Northern CA

View all Stories
  1. Image that represents the story

    Tam Slam!

    This 8-mile (round-trip) hike is a pure classic, with redwoods, water-flows, and soaring views of the coastline. Oh yeah, and that ladder!

    View
  2. Image that represents the story

    Easiest Best Hike in the World

    Choose the easiest and most view-rewarding hike in Yosemite. Okay, we’ll go first: the combination of hiking to Sentinel Dome and Taft Point. Both of these lookouts are within a couple miles of each other on Glacier Point Road

    View
  3. Image that represents the story
    Sponsored

    Road Trip Ahead: Oregon Outback

    Remote open spaces, camping under true Dark Skies, hiking and biking trails galore, wildlife refuges, and hot springs! Plan your road trip to the Oregon Outback this summer.

    View
  4. Image that represents the story

    Nice Ring to It

    This tiny but mighty open space preserve on the Tiburon Peninsula can often exhibit a wide range of wildflowers late into the season, not to mention one of the most jaw-dropping views of the bay.

    View

Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Image that represents the story

    Bouquet of Waterfalls

    Like a good love letter, some of the best hiking trails are short and sweet. Cue the hike to Bouquet Falls in Santa Clarita Valley’s Bouquet Canyon.

    View
  2. Image that represents the story

    New Rules of the Trail

    As some parks around California begin to re-open, we came up with tips for being responsible on your outdoor adventures. Let’s do our part so we can all keep enjoying the parks.

    View
  3. Image that represents the story

    Big Time Hike

    This is the largest grove of giant sequoias in Yosemite. We recommend this grand tour hike at 7.5 miles which includes a spectacular overlook.

    View
  4. Image that represents the story
    Sponsored

    All Roads Lead to Rogue

    Idea for your next road trip: Go Rogue! The Rogue Valley in beautiful Southern Oregon has some of the state’s best hiking, swim holes, and wineries, and the charming historic towns of Ashland, Medford, and Jacksonville.

    View