Sunday, March 3, 2013

Hidden Treasures of San Francisco

When we used to live on Telegraph Hill, I loved taking visitors and friends on walking tours, always ending on the Filbert steps.  This was one of those places that I thought of as my own hidden secret, although I know many others felt the same way.

Over the past few weeks, I've had the opportunity to do a lot of "urban hiking", and I wanted to share three special places that I have found and enjoyed on those explorations.

I made a trip out to Ocean Beach to see the new Land's End Visitor Center by EHDD Architects, that John King had written up recently in the Chronicle.  It's a beautiful new building, that sits just above the Cliff House, with huge windows looking out to Seal Rock and the old Sutro Baths.

From there, I started out on the coastal trail to Eagle Point, at the west end of the Seacliff neighborhood, and found what has to be one of the most beautiful trails I've ever hiked on.  I just can't believe it's taken me so many years to find it.

The trail itself is mostly very level, with just one stretch of up and down stairs.  But the lack of challenge doesn't equal a lack of amazement.  The trail is highlighted by incredible views of the Golden Gate Bridge from the western side, all of which are framed by beautiful cliffs and trees.

At about the half-way point, there is a stair that leads down to Mile Rock Beach.  Along the way, there's a landing with beautiful views across to Marin, and then the beach itself is amazing, with huge rocks and crashing waves.  A great place to sit and just listen to the ocean.  The attached video will work, and give you a sense of the sights and sounds from this past week's visit, but it only works if you're at a computer, not on an i-phone.


As I started back up the stairs, I took a trail leading off to the left, and it led me to a beautiful stone labyrinth that looks out to the east to the bridge, and west back out over the beach.  Wow.

If you're driving or walking through the Sunset District, it's often easy to think it's just one boring row of attached houses after another, but there are finds to be made here as well.  I happened to drive uphill on Moraga Street from 19th Avenue, and found the road winding its way up to a daunting looking staircase.

Climbing to the top, I arrived at the aptly named Grand View Park, one of a series of three linked hilltop parks heading up to the Forest Hill neighborhood.  The views, as you'd expect, are just amazing, with a panorama from downtown all the way out to the ocean.

I first discovered another Sunset district treasure many years ago, when exploring the city by bicycle one day.  It has remained one of my favorite streets in all of San Francisco.  Heading uphill from Parnassus Ave near UCSF on Willard, there's a turn off to the right, that dead ends into the beautiful, tree lined Edgewood Place.  Right now, the brick lined street is lined with clouds of pink blossoms, and it ends to the north with a great view over the park to the bay, and to the south, in a mystical forest.

I have read a lot about the controversy about tearing out some of these trees, but I hope more people can appreciate the incredible beauty of this site before that happens.  I know they're not native species, but they sure do create a unique and special oasis within the city.

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