Climbing a Portion of the SF Crosstown Trail
Updated: Jan 22
By Charlie McCabe
On a recent trip to California, my wife and I stayed with our good friends in the Bay Area and took in some of the sights. I had heard about the creation of the San Francisco Crosstown Trail and wanted to check out a portion of it. For those of you who don't know about it, the trail is a 17-mile route from southeast SF to northwest SF, covering a number of parks and neighborhoods and a remarkable amount of elevation! Our friends agreed to join in, and I choose section 3, the stair section.
We did the bulk of the 2.1-mile section as an out-and-back hike. It was nonstop climbing (and descending), and the views of the Sunset District, Golden Gate Park, glimpses of downtown, and beyond were stunning.
Above: Golden Gate Park is the broad swath of green in the foreground, the Presidio is
in the background, and you can see the Golden Gate Bridge peeking up in the middle of the photo.
The highlights of this segment are the mosaic staircases with tile designs embedded into the risers. These were funded a number of years ago by the San Francisco Parks Alliance, and many of the tiles feature the names of the donors who made them possible. The designs are integrated and very clever, forming a cohesive design that covers the full length of each staircase.
The designs also help you occasionally forget that you're climbing 10-plus stories between the two main staircases.
There's always some amazing planting that seems to be doing well. Often the sunset is shrouded in fog, but in the fall, San Francisco often gets more clear and sunny days, and it was ideal when we visited—sunny and in the low 70s.
The remaining portion of this section (#3) of the Crosstown Trail is along the streets and sidewalks of the Sunset, meeting up with neighborhood parks along the way, including one hilltop park that has seen some recent investment from the city and the SF Parks Alliance, namely for the playscape and a cool rain garden to drain a portion of the park and its paths.
Overall, I'd love to explore more of the Crosstown Trail when I have more time in San Francisco. Closer to (my) home, there's now a Boston-area version, called the Walking City Trail, which is being promoted by a local journalist, Miles Howard. When I lived in NYC, I walked the Giraffe Path (aka Hike the Heights), which runs from Highbridge Park to Morningside Park in Manhattan. It has since been extended to Fort Tyron in the north.
View of Golden Gate Park, Marin County in the background, downtown on the right
and Twin Peaks (partial) at the far right My friend Mark is taking it all in.
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