A salty breeze enlivens me as I make my way along the fabled San Francisco Bay, taking in some of the city’s most iconic sights.
Pier 39 with its barking sea lions gives way to Fisherman’s Wharf, the briny aroma of fresh Dungeness crab wafting through the air. Beyond Fish Alley, where the fishing boats are parked for the day, I head into Aquatic Park and its view of historic ships, including the 1886 square-rigged Balclutha.
Entering shady Fort Mason, a former Army post built on a headland jutting into the bay, I’m surrounded by visiting Chinese students laughing on bikes as they struggle up the hill. Beyond the crest, an opening in the cypress trees gives a picture-perfect vantage of the Golden Gate Bridgesparkling over the sailboat-dotted waters.
Back in the sunlight on Marina Green, I’m tempted to continue on and on, past Crissy Field, across the famous bridge, through the Marin Headlands, and down to Rodeo Beach. Instead, I join sunbathers on the grass and watch a frisbee game, enjoying the pure essence of relaxation on a Saturday morning, before heading back through the City by the Bay.
Mileage: 3.5-mile loop (with lots of add-on possibilities)
Best time: On a sunny, non-foggy day
Start: Pier 39 at the Embarcadero
End: Pier 39
- Start at Pier 39 at the Embarcadero
- Go right on the Embarcadero
- Turn right on Powell Street to continue on the Embarcadero
- At Fisherman’s Wharf, go left on Taylor Street
- Go right on Jefferson Street
- Take the trail that enters Aquatic Park and curve around the cove
- At Van Ness Avenue, go right
- Where Van Ness meets a pier jutting into the bay, you will be forced left onto the San Francisco Bicycle Route 2 into Fort Mason; follow this up and over the hill
- From Fort Mason Green, make your way to the San Francisco Bay Trail, which runs parallel to Marina Boulevard and the bay
- Go as far as you wish—the Golden Gate Bridge is 2.7 miles farther; the really ambitious can go as far as Rodeo Beach in the Marin Headlands, 7 miles beyond the bridge