If you're trying to carry a 30-rack home from Safeway, SF's hills kinda suck. But if you're trying to exercise and set the mood, SF's hills are kinda the best thing ever. Especially if you know which ones to climb.
So get your Insta ready: here are 10 date-friendly hikes offering up the best views in SF.
In a city of more than 40 hills, Mount Davidson is the tallest of them all. The 0.44-mile hike to the top is easy, and you can choose an exposed or eucalyptus-covered route to take you there. Once at the summit, soak in the Downtown views, or REALLY impress your date by standing at the foot of the 103ft cross featured in the ransom scene of Dirty Harry. Two popular entrances for the park are on Dalewood and Juanita Way.
Twin Peaks may be 5ft shorter than Mount Davidson, but it still somehow manages to avoid an inferiority complex. This is probably the best-known and most-loved view of the city for both tourists and locals. Leave the Christmas Tree Point tour buses behind, and climb up Noe or Eureka Peak (yes, they have names) for 360-degree views. You can access the official stairway to Twin Peaks on Crestline Drive.
Philosopher's Way in McLaren Park
The city’s second largest park may be out of the way (!!!), but it’s still worth a trip. McLaren Park’s Philosopher’s Way is a 2.7-mile loop with impossible-to-get-lost trail markers and a number of “musing stations” with quotations, history factlets, and other park information (which you will definitely be reading). An 80ft blue water tower marks the top of the park, where you’ll get views that span Downtown SF all the way to San Bruno.
With 25 miles of trails, the Presidio has enough hiking routes to make up its own top 10 list (hmmm). There’s no one best trail in this historic ‘hood, but if there was, it'd be Presidio Promenade, which stands out for its views of the Bay, Marin, and Crissy Field. The 2.2-mile paved trail starts at the Lombard Gate and visits the Presidio Main Post and San Francisco National Cemetery (told you these were sexy!) before reaching the Golden Gate Bridge.
Lands End may be San Francisco’s most perfect hike. At 3.5 miles round-trip, it’s a legitimate workout, and whenever you get tired, you can just pretend you’re stopping to stare at the Golden Gate Bridge... not thinking that maybe you need to use that gym membership more. To get a harder workout, follow signs for Mile Rock Beach to visit the super-awesome Eagle Point Labyrinth. A trip all the way down to the beach and back will cost the two of you 224 steps, but who’s counting?
Located in the Southwestern corner of the city, Fort Funston is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA). The park’s sandy trails offer expansive views of the ocean, and serve as arguably the largest unintentional dog park in the city. A nice two-mile hike at Fort Funston starts in the main parking lot. Take the Sunset Trail past Battery Davis and then take the Horse Trail back to your start (actual horse, optional... unless your date's super into horses, in which case, not-optional).
Stow Lake and Strawberry Hill
Golden Gate Park
Hidden in Golden Gate Park, Strawberry Hill occupies an entire island in the center of Stow Lake. The top of Strawberry Hill is 430ft tall, and is the highest point in the entire park. For a 2+ mile hike, first circle the island, then start climbing up. From the summit, you can get views of Downtown San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Marin, all while pondering how awesome it would be if the hill was actually made of strawberries.
Batteries to Bluffs
This Bayside trail is short (0.7 miles each way), but still manages to pack a punch due to its large number of stairs. Er, did we say stairs? Don't worry about how many there are -- there's plenty to distract you. When you’re not gazing at views of the Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, or the Marin Headlands, you can learn the history of the gun batteries you're gonna pass on the cliffs. History = Sexy. True story.
Bernal Hill is a highlight of the (kinda?) sunny neighborhood of Bernal Heights. Start your walk on the one-mile paved path surrounding the hill, then take any of the park’s dirt trails to reach the top of the hill, where you’ll find Sutro Tower’s smaller cousin, Sutrito Tower (awww, so widdle!). From here, get 360-degree views of the city, including Downtown, Twin Peaks, Mount Davidson, the East Bay, and the peninsula. Oh! And on your way back down, don’t miss the slides. Dates love slides.
Golden Gate Heights Park
The Inner Sunset’s Golden Gate Heights Park offers some seriously unique views of SF -- not only can you see Sutro Tower and Downtown, but you can also see the entire length of GGP, from the Panhandle to the ocean. Chicks dig the long park. Quick note, though: this park isn’t a hike in and of itself, so combine a visit here with a trip to Grandview Park and its two nearby mosaic stairways (here and here).
Alexandra Kenin is the founder of Urban Hiker SF. She left the tech scene two years ago to explore the stairways, hills, and hiking trails of the City by the Bay. You can find her her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.