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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.

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.

Overlooking the San Francisco Bay, the Presidio is one of San Francisco's best kept and oldest parks. The Presidio Trust, along with the National Park Service, seeks to preserve the heritage and architecture of the area while providing both locals and tourists with a splendid recreational spot. Visitors to the park can admire several restored military buildings and embark on explorations of the expansive area. Attractions such as the "Spire," attributed to artist Andy Goldsworthy, and other unique additions have even helped the park be featured in numerous TV shows and movies. The Presidio is an excellent destination to visit with the entire family, and the park also offers tours to help acquaint you with all it has to offer. It is open year-round, and entry is free.

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.

Located to the south of Golden Gate Point, this half-mile-long beach is one of the most popular attractions of the Presidio of San Francisco. There is much to do here, and the beach serves as an ideal destination for families and couples alike. Frolic on the golden sands which characterize the beach's expanse, go for a stroll along the waterfront or bask in the picturesque sights which abound here. Soak in the view of the Golden Gate Bridge in all its glory, or settle down for a picnic with loved ones. Those looking to explore the area can hike along the trails originating at the beach.

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.

Beautifully landscaped into a portrait of exotic charm, the Sigmund Stern Recreation Grove is one place you should not miss on a visit to this city. Take in the majestically shaped garden or take a stroll along a rugged pathway and feel at peace with yourself. Host intimate picnics for your loved ones, take your dog for a leisurely walk in the park or explore untrodden paths and delight in the mysterious aura of the grove. If you love the sweet fragrance of eucalyptus, you're going to adore the tall eucalyptus trees that caress the grove. Catch live bands, music concerts and cultural events in action from time to time. Be there for the Stern Grove Festival every summer and see the grove light up with life!

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.

Samuel P. Taylor State Park is a popular park that offers a slew of activities for everyone to enjoy. Established in 1945, this 2,700-acre (1,092.7-hectare) park derives its name from Samuel Penfield Taylor. Visitors can enjoy camping, hiking and traversing well-marked trails. Some areas in the park are dog friendly. The South Creek Trail can also be accessed by those who have limited mobility. The park is a haven for nature lovers, and shelters diverse flora and fauna. Other natural attractions within the park include the Barnabe Peak and the Lagunitas Creek.

This state park, sprawled along the shores of San Francisco Bay, offers a variety of outdoor activities. In addition to great views of the scenic bay, it features picnic and barbecue facilities, hiking and biking trails, and campsites. It also contains two piers available for fishing. Other water-oriented recreation such as swimming and surfing are also popular here.

This place offers a unique opportunity to see many different species of marine wildlife first hand. On an eight-hour cruise you'll travel to the Farallon Islands, located 25 miles off the coast of San Francisco. The Farallon Islands and its surrounding water is rich with whales, dolphins and porpoises and sea birds. In fact, it is the home of the largest population of breeding seabirds in the contiguous United States. Thanks to an upswelling of nutrient-rich waters, it is a renowned place to view humpback and gray whales in the summer and fall.

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