San Francisco Crosstown Trail
By Felix Arntz December 10, 2020
The San Francisco Crosstown Trail stretches 17 miles (>27 km) from southeast to northwest. On December 5th, my girlfriend and I took on the challenge to complete it.
We started at 7am to watch the sunrise over the Bay, at the southeast end of San Francisco.
Arriving for the sunrise was the perfect start of the trip. And also for other reasons perfectly timed, as it would turn out later.
Both of us had never been to these very southern parts of San Francisco before, so there was a lot to discover - worth exploring!
After only a few minutes we arrived in the first residential area, right in front of Bayview Park. The trail didn't actually lead us to enjoy the views from there, but we added it to our list.
COFFEE BREAK #1
We stopped at Mission Blue for a quick coffee to go. A super-cute spot. Definitely felt like outside of San Francisco. The staff was incredibly friendly - also they were wondering whether we were Brazilian.
The beautiful coffee spot was even selling Crosstown Trail shirts!
This was our first time in this district. We wandered through the beautiful gardens with its winding paths - almost like a little Lombard Street for pedestrians.
JOHN McLAREN PARK
This wonderful spot offered some great views of almost 360 degrees. By now, the sun was already shining high above the horizon.
My girlfriend thought it would be fun to climb this tree close by.
We were soon able to spot our first familiar views from afar: Bernal Heights (left) and Downtown (right).
THE PHILOSOPHER'S WAY
The trail didn't lead us to Bernal Heights Park (one of my favorite spots), but we still walked the neighborhood after crossing FWY 280 via the St. Mary's Park Footbridge.
Glen Park made a great first impression as cute neighborhood - including these small houses on Bosworth Street which reminded us of the Painted Ladies.
What a perfect coincidence, La Corneta Taqueria which I had bookmarked months ago was right on our path. So we stopped there for a late breakfast - or early lunch. Also: first third of the trip completed!
One of the longest plain nature trail segments as part of the Crosstown Trail was Glen Canyon Park, which felt like we were not in a city.
GLEN CANYON PARK
Score! Reaching the Midtown Terrace area and Panorama Drive meant reaching the first area that one of us had been to before. Easy to justify, with all the views.
From Panorama Drive we got a good view on Sutro Tower looming over Twin Peaks (which has nothing to do with the TV show of the same name).
GOLDEN GATE HEIGHTS
Overall the second third of the trip was much more challenging than the first - lots of elevation changes. Golden Gate Heights was the tip of the iceberg (literally).
The stairs were brutal.
Of course we didn't walk those - would have been too easy.
First view of the ocean!
But this time they were leading up to the highlight of the trip.
While the day had become cloudy, the views from Grandview Park ended up being the highlight of the walk, covering everything from downtown over Golden Gate Park to Ocean Beach.
While enjoying the incredible views, we decided to take another selfie. After those exhausting stairs and hills, Grandview Park was all worth it. Now, we were getting close to completing two thirds of the trip.
COFFEE BREAK #2
Right before reaching Golden Gate Park, we stopped for another coffee break at a place called The Game Parlour, a hip cafe that would usually offer boardgames. We'll come back after the pandemic.
GOLDEN GATE PARK
Both of us regularly walk or run through different areas of Golden Gate Park (which, if you didn't know, is bigger than Central Park in New York).
We were now really reaching more familiar areas of the city.
The Presidio has always been one of my favorite and most visited areas - whether for a run or on my way to Baker Beach. The Crosstown Trail led us through the south end with Lobos Valley Overlook.
Our favorite beach in San Francisco was also part of the route. By now we had realized that our timing had been perfect - we'd arrive at the end of the trail just in time for the sunset!
The Lands End Trail would be the very last segment of the walk. It's fair to say we were quite exhausted at this point, waiting to reach Lands End Lookout, our final destination.
WE MADE IT!
Around 4:45pm we arrived. It took us about 9.5 hours, with 7.5 hours of that actually walking. Wow, did that feel satisfying to arrive at this (admittedly rather boring) building.
It was perfect timing: Starting the Crosstown Trail with the sunrise and finishing it with the sunset (yes, with clouds).
My mask is hiding whether I'm incredibly happy or incredibly exhausted - it was certainly both.
To every San Franciscan or visitor who likes to explore places in less convential ways, try the Crosstown Trail.