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Best Outdoor Activities in San Francisco

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Rocky terrain and rich cultural heritage are what await you at San Francisco's Lands End. The park forms a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs alike. The park boasts a number of lookout points that offer stunning views of the shoreline, city and shipwrecks, historic sites like the ruins of the Sutro Baths and the USS San Francisco memorial, trails, and even a visitor's center. Rife with man-made and natural attractions, Lands End is a great place to spend the day exploring the city's history, cultural roots and natural heritage. The visitor center at Lands End Lookout is the best place to begin if this is your first visit.

Just north of the Golden Gate Bridge is Mount Tamalpais State Park, a popular hiking area and home of some of the best views of the Bay Area. There are many hikes over varied terrain, including oak and Douglas fir forest, vast grasslands and the distinctive redwood trees. The views of the Pacific are jaw-dropping - once the fog has cleared, that is. Visitors can drive into the park and enjoy the sights, including the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed, the Mountain Theater (a stone amphitheater which can accommodate over 3000 people) or they can park in the many parking lots throughout the park and hike down to Stinson Beach. For a less strenuous hike, venture a little down a winding trail high above the ocean, with incredible views of San Francisco.

This out-of-the-way rock-wall on the northeast side of Corona Heights Park is a popular destination for climbers looking for an urban adventure. The wall, which is about seven stories tall and has a smooth surface of slick red, pink, and grey rock, is maintained by volunteers who come out and prepare it with climbing chains and links from the top. Recently, bolts have been removed to preserve the wall, which, in addition to being a climbing destination, is a geological curiosity, a “slickenslide,” or a polished rock face that has risen out of a fault.

The Presidio is one of San Francisco's best kept and oldest parks. The Presidio Trust along with the National Park Service seek to preserve the heritage and architecture of the area while providing both locals and tourists with a splendid recreational spot. The park itself consists of a number of restored military buildings. Attractions such as the "Spire," constructed by artist Andy Goldsworthy, and other unique additions have even helped the park be featured in a number of TV shows and movies. The Presidio is an excellent destination to discover with the entire family and the park provides a number of tours to help you through it all. The park is open all year round and its free entry is an added bonus.

In the late 1800s, California's first state engineer, William Hammond Hall, and his assistant, a Scotsman named John McLaren, transformed more than 1000 acres (405 hectares) of sand dunes into a wondrous haven in the midst of the city, christened Golden Gate Park after the eponymous strait nearby. Stretching over 50 blocks from Stanyan Street to the Pacific Ocean, the lush landscape is etched with numerous trails for walking, jogging, biking and horseback riding, alongside a golf course, bowling greens, a lake with paddle boats, soccer fields and a baseball diamond. From the Japanese Tea Garden and the Conservatory of Flowers to the California Academy of Sciences and the De Young Museum, San Francisco's Golden Gate Park encompasses a wealth of scenic beauty and cultural intrigue within is expansive embrace. There are also several playgrounds, a quaint carousel, an aquarium, a buffalo reserve and an outdoor bandshell where open-air concerts are hosted each summer.

San Francisco Model Yacht Club is located in Golden Gate Park. Established in 1898, it is one of the oldest surviving clubs in the country. Check out these tiny boats as they glide across the water. The club features a clubhouse and the artificial lake Spreckels Lake, that supports motor and sail model boats. Visit this club for its boating events and regattas, as well as for a glimpse of its unrivaled model boat collection.

Step back in time and into this primeval forest on Mount Tamaplais. Some of these towering redwoods are more than 2000 years old. Trails are set out for the casual stroller and for the avid hiker looking for a challenge in the cool stillness of this 560-acre (227-hectare) national park. Furthermore, artfully constructed boardwalks through much of the area make this destination eminently accessible. No pets or smoking are allowed. It's recommended that you bring a sweater or light jacket along. The best time to arrive is early morning or late afternoon. Parking space is limited.

The official tour operating service of Alcatraz Island, Alcatraz Cruises takes travelers around the entire island. Different programs and events are also arranged by them. Tours are conducted for day and night time. This tour gives one the opportunity to take in the vivid and notorious history of Alcatraz.

Beginning at the south of Golden Gate Point, this half mile long beach was part of the Presidio, a military base of the Spanish from 1776 until 1997. Since the military base was decommissioned, the beach is now administered by the National Park Service. This scenic beach provides a panoramic view of the Golden Gate Bridge and has a nude beach towards its northern end.

Wild and windblown headlands jut out into waters of the Gulf of Farallones, providing a glimpse into the rugged beauty of the Point Reyes National Seashore. This park, recognized as a significant nature reserve, is sliced by a captivating tapestry full of sandy beaches and forest-clad hillsides, within which thrive a motley of shorebirds, coastal flora, and the majestic tule elk. A stunning oceanside sanctuary for marine and terrestrial wildlife, this famous nature reserve is a prolific viewpoint from where to witness one of nature's most remarkable spectacles, the celebrated grey whale migration. The park opens up to soul-stirring views of excellent coastal scenery, from rocky coastlines at Chimney Rock and the lone form of the Point Reyes Lighthouse, to the Alamere tidefalls. A number of hiking trails offer avenues to explore the park's untamed corners, with the Bear Valley Trail being among the most favored.

Dolores Park is one of the main hot spots in San Francisco and is the major meet-up place for many citizens. Though it is not very large, it attracts crowds of people and the beautiful views make it worth the visit. Recreational resources include a few tennis courts, basketball courts, two soccer fields and a children's playground, but most of all Dolores Park is often used as a venue for special events such as movies in the park. Its surrounding area is known for some of San Francisco's major culinary attractions: Delfina, Pizzeria Delfina and the Tartine Bakery. It is also a great place to chill with some ice cream from the Bi-Rite Creamery. Saturday hang-outs in the park are often events themselves and it's always packed on weekends. Given its location, it's almost always sunny; the famous fog knows better than to ruin the oasis that is Dolores Park. Whether you choose to sit in Dog Beach, Hipster Beach, Speedo Ridge or partake in actual activity at the playground or tennis courts you are sure to have an unforgettable time.

What Ellis Island was to the East Coast, Angel Island was to the West Coast. Graffiti left by immigrants who were awaiting admission or deportation can be seen on the walls of the holding areas. The wooded 740 acre (300 hectare) island sits peacefully in the middle of San Francisco Bay. In addition to the immigration facility, the island is also home to two now-abandoned military installations, Fort McDowell and Camp Reynolds. Hiking and biking trails circle the island and offer spectacular views of the poppy-colored peaks of the Golden Gate Bridge and the iconic San Francisco skyline. Volunteer guides lead informative tours of the island's historical sites and one can even catch a glimpse of the indigenous deer population. Camping is allowed with proper permits. Ferry service varies according to the season.

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