SF: Golden Gate Park, Corona Heights etc.

This entry doesn’t so much describe a flat walk in San Francisco as to tell you there are some walks near where we went last weekend.

The Jagged Top of Corona Heights

Coming into town last Saturday, out intent was to climb Corona Heights, an unusual hill even for San Francisco. It was once quarried by the reputedly unscrupulous Gray brothers, who made shoddy materials from the Franciscan chert.

Below this hill on the Bayside is the Randall Museum. A small place full of things to see, do and learn from.

In the museum the Golden Gate Model Railroad Club was open, showing off their extensive layout. We walked by a woodworking shop. (An active ceramics studio was on the other wing of the U-shaped museum.) On the first level is a good sized room with cages and tanks holding rescued animals. Containing mostly local animals, there was a visitor, a watchful Harris Hawk above us. The white Barn Owl preening itself, stole our hearts and minds.

Heading out the backdoor was a large man with a cane. I asked him if that was one of the ways up the hill. When he said yes, I said I’d see him at the top. It was many steps up on unevenly spaced rail ties imbedded in the soil. I stopped a few times to look at the Bay and to catch my breath. I could hardly see the East Bay hills, but made out 4 tankers heading south.

While working my way up a more crumbly part of the trail, the man with the cane was coming down. He said he couldn’t wait for me any longer.

Near the top (I didn’t make it all the way up), I could see more of the Bay and the city. Unfortunately, it was all fog towards the ocean. The hill is barren and the folded layers of rock clearly show in places. Still broom, dandelions, coyote bush and monkey flower struggle in the lower area at the elevation I could attained.

We came down the other side of the hill past a dog park. This hill neighborhood (between Haight-Ashbury and the Castro) has flat areas of dog park, playgrounds and tennis courts. Only the houses cling to steep slopes.

We had a picnic lunch on the Randall Museum’s small grounds and discussed where to go next. After climbing the hill, we weren’t in the mood for a long walk. We decided to go to the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. There’s plenty of flat paved walking and it’s an easy 3-mile walk at this end of the park. (See below for access to some maps of the area.)

Conservatory of Flowers San Francisco

The last time we were at the Conservatory was just after an extensive restoration in 2003. The building still looks good. Inside is absolutely amazing; one plant after another dazzled us with flower, leaf or size. The building is divided into several rooms of different tropical climates. In one room is usually a special exhibit. This time it was carnivorous plants.

Driving through Golden Gate Park to the ocean we came to another possible walk along Ocean Beach. It’s 2.5 miles of paved walk above the wide flat beach. We continued up the hill by the Cliff House to a remodeled parking lot at Lands End. The view over the ocean was gray sparkles. Again this area connects to more paths to Pt Lobos. The immediate area has changed and the restoration of native plants is ongoing.

Land's End San Francisco

We stayed at the Youth Hostel in Ft Mason, midway between a flat walk from AT&T Park to Ft. Point of 7 miles. Well, actually there’s an uphill portion at Ft. Mason, but not too bad.

Our room had a view of Alcatraz and the Bay. More importantly, there was a theater room where we could see the Giants beat the Phillies. At 5AM, I awoke to SF Women’s Marathoners cheering each other on. They came from Union Square, to Embarcadero, to Ft. Point to the ocean to Golden Gate Park where the half marathon ended. Most of their route is quite flat and suitable for walking. The marathoners continued south around Lake Merced and back for another pretty flat 11 miles.

We did not run, but let the car go up and over some hills to approach Golden Gate Park from the southside to reach the DeYoung Museum for a Post-Impressionist show. Van Gogh and Gauguin still shine after all these years.

While we had lunch at the museum, it started to rain. We headed back home and it rained harder. We cancelled a walk at China Beach or anywhere else.

San Francisco has many flat walking opportunities (around the water’s edge and in GG Park), we just didn’t actually get to any this weekend. Catch you next time. And click here for maps of Golden Gate Recreation Area. And here for more information on Golden Gate Park.

Check out Run.com where people enter their favorite runs. “Runs” come with description, maps and elevations. While the starting points are odd (someone’s house?) and they don’t mind running along a busy road, they give you an idea of where flattest places are. Or the steepest routes.

See you on the trail!

Lynn Millar

Photos by Mike Millar

Mini info: AT&T Park to Embarcadero 1 ½ mi., AT&T Park to Ft Point is 7 miles (only elevation change is at Ft. Mason) Ft. Mason to Ft. Pt is 3 miles. Do the math.

Not a Flat Walk Corona Heights

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