Chasing Sails – Urban Hike Around the Bay

Urban Hike SF | Smiling in Sonoma

An urban hike you say? Exploring the city at 3 miles per hour and no traffic?? This hadn’t been something we had really thought about prior to our conversation with a native Sonoman a few weeks ago. As we were clearing out blackberry bushes from the trails during a trail work day at Helen Putnam we chatted about favorite hikes and he mentioned this crazy wonderful urban hike from Sausalito to Pier 39 in San Francisco…and the lights went off and of course we had to put this at the top of our new adventures list!

The next Saturday just happened to be a fog free, wind free, non-holiday, sunny day so we packed up our backpack and headed down to the Sausalito Ferry parking lot. You can choose to pay for different levels of parking here which we did since we knew we would be tired after the hike, the only problem is having to guesstimate how long you will be gone since it is prepaid parking. Sausalito is an adorable little town to explore any day but we had a schedule to keep so we couldn’t get too sidetracked! From the ferry parking, walk along the shore (look for little crabs in the rocks!) and enjoy the views of Angel Island and the bay.

Follow the road around and through the cute neighborhood and watch out for cyclists here!

Once you get past the congestion you will find yourself on East Road heading toward Fort Baker and the lovely Golden Gate Bridge starts to peak around the corners!

Head on down into Horseshoe Cove passing by the Bay Area Discovery Museum to where the fisherman are fishing from the dock or kayak. The size of the GGB is mesmerizing from this point. When you drive over the bridge or see it from afar it is lovely but this is an amazing structure that has stood the test of time and is so huge!

From here you will walk under the bridge and up on the west side. They now have only bikes on the west side of the bridge during the day and pedestrians on the east side so once you reach the top walk under the walkway and to the other side. This is a great pit stop and vista point!

Time to hop on the bridge! I really don’t do well with heights or bridges (love the architecture) so this was a little nerve-wracking for me. Normally I try to get across bridges as fast as possible but I took a deep breath and the hubs and I began the trek across the 8,980 foot long bridge (1.7 mi). The first part was just amazing. Traffic whizzing by on one side and calm seas on the other. The views of the bay were a bit hazy without the wind but being up on the bridge we were thankful for no wind. You could see Alcatraz in the distance, Angel Island, the city oh and if you look down a pod of dolphins! Then the sailboats started getting out on the water. Love, love boats and sailboats just have that romantic look to them…just hop on one and head out on the big blue.

The last half mile was a bit dizzy for me but we made it safely across without me having a panic attack, being picked up for not walking straight or losing my camera over the edge. Whew! Note to self, use the motion sickness medicine next time!

Apparently there’s a little cafe at this end and another great little pit stop. I think I like these urban hikes! Flushing toilets everywhere, snacks along the way, and cell/gps signals that don’t cut out! Follow the walkway to the left and head inland toward the city and away from the traffic on the GGB. Some more great views of the GGB and a little picnic spot. We chose to hop off the trail a little and walk along the water to the Warming Hut Cafe (hot coffee!) and follow the bay from here around to Crissy Field. It was great seeing all the dogs getting to play on the beach!

From here enjoy your stroll along the bay, through the yacht club, past the Palace of Fine Arts and to Fort Mason. There happened to be a great craft show going on with food trucks while we were walking through. We didn’t know that Fort Mason was turned into a little artist village. We will definitely need to go back to check it out in better attire than hiking shoes and yoga pants!

This is also where I first saw the sailboat with 3 sails up close. They were sailing around the bay all day and I kept trying to get up close to them to take a picture. I could just imagine being out on the ocean on this boat, camera in one hand ship’s wheel in the other wind in the hair and sun on the horizon. Pause for a sigh.

From Fort Mason, head on up the stairs and keep along the bay trail. Once you round the corner and go start heading back down you will be in the San Francisco Maritime National Historic park and below Ghirardelli square! Here you will also know you are almost to Pier 39…toes are starting to feel tired right about now…we are used to miles of dirt trails not concrete ones.

Stay on the sidewalks and you will be walking through the famous Fisherman’s Wharf straight to Pier 39. Take in all the sights! The transit cars are great old-fashioned ones. There’s street performers everywhere! The smell of all the food is amazing! Stop in and buy your ferry ticket and note the times they depart, it is first come first serve when it comes to getting on the ferry so get in line if it’s crowded. We didn’t have many passengers going back to Sausalito but there were tons getting off the ferry from Sausalito.

We had some time to kill since we missed the first ferry we wanted so we had lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf and walked around Pier 39. We saw the silver robot guys performing, break dancers putting on a great show and oh ya, Forbes Landing an interesting structure.

The ferry ride back was so rewarding! We went up to the top deck so we could see everything and were not disappointed. Pulling out of the dock you are immediately greeted with views of the new Bay Bridge, wave good-bye to the hustle and bustle of the city, and sit back and enjoy. We passed Alcatraz up close and the sun setting behind the GGB was an amazing sight! And then it happened…the sailboat I had been chasing around the bay was lit up by the setting sun sailing under the GGB. A beautiful sight…no words can explain and neither can the photo but it was a beautiful end to an amazing urban hike around the bay with my favorite hiking partner.

Enjoy the views from the ferry below:

The hubs and I loved this hike and we found several other places we need to spend more time exploring. There’s so much to see and do in the city it would take years to explore all of it! This urban hike gave us a wonderful view of places we wouldn’t otherwise be able to see or experience in a car. Highly recommend getting out of the car and exploring your area by foot! We will be doing a couple more of these!

It was difficult finding a route for this so I mapped it using different points of interest so we would stick to the bay and where it was safe to be walking. Check out the 10.9 mile route here.



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