We arrived in San Francisco in the early morning, rented a car and immediately proceeded to drive right back out of town. Knowing we were going to spend the bulk of our 5 days in the heart of the city without a car, we wanted to spend our first free day getting in as much exploration as possible.
Tilden Nature Area
In typical Ray fashion, he researched before our trip and found a hike 45 minutes from the airport.
Tilden Nature Area includes a carousel ride, botanic garden, multiple picnic areas, a lake for swimming, and 2,079 acres in which to lose yourself among the wildlife.
After a quick stop for breakfast in Berkeley, we hit the dusty trail. During the four-mile walk, we encountered more lizards and snakes than people. Frequent rustling in the dry leaves on either side of the trail made me about jump out of my skin. Snakes and lizards are much quieter in the moist undergrowth of the Pacific Northwest I’m used to.
Once at the top of the ridge, San Francisco was visible in the distance, though covered by a thick, fog-like marine layer. Looking over the backside of the trail, the golden hills rolled as far as we could see.
We were done with the hike by 1 p.m. but still had half a day of rental car we didn’t want to waste. Instead of heading straight back to the airport, we opted to figure out another adventure over an ice-cold microbrew. Luckily, the bay area has almost as many as Bellingham and our search was short.
We found Armistice Brewing Company in Richmond where I had one of the best hazy IPAs ever. Yep, even among Bellingham snobby beer standards! It had a tangy pineapple/grapefruit flavor and went down easily. A little off the beaten track from SF, but worth the drive!
And while quenching our thirst, we decided we wanted to go to the beach!
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Golden Gate National Recreation Area is huge and sits on both sides of the Golden Gate Bridge. We opted for a walk on Muir Beach and again found ourselves practically alone.
Maybe this beach is crowded on sunny, tourist-heavy summer days, but on this early September afternoon, we enjoyed a quiet walk.
By 4 p.m. we were sufficiently tired out from the hike and beach walk (maybe a little from the beer) and decided to start heading back to the airport. But, as we wound our way along the Pacific, we found several places to pull out for fabulous views of the city of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. We stopped at the last pullout, Battery Spencer, and walked to the point.
During the early 1900s, Battery Spencer was one of the main protection spots for the San Francisco harbor. The area featured 12” guns that were manned by the military and a few buildings for housing the generators and shells. Operated on and off until World War II, today Battery Spencer offers visitors a piece of history and amazing views of the bridge and city.
Though we hit the point at a perfect time of day when the marine layer had dissipated, by the time we crossed the bridge, the clouds were already starting to roll back in. Sometimes timing is everything!
Interested in things to do in the city? Check out San Francisco in 2.5 Days.
Amtrak’s not taking us to SF, but fortunately you are. We’ll wave from Jack London Square in Oakland.
Following your journey and thinking I might need to tag along next time!
I LOVE SF!! So glad you guys had fun. What’s next? Chile?
Bali first, then Chile!!!
Snakes! Ah, yes, a different experience entirely in the dry grasses of the Bay Area. There is even a species of grass called “rattlesnake” that has a seed head like a rattle. Your day takes me back to my childhood there, Muir Beach, marine layer. Even though you caught the Golden Gate fog-free, my dearest memories are with the curl of fog rolling inland at the end of the day.
I love when the fog rolls in too. Most of our time in SF we couldn’t see the Golden Gate Bridge, so when we got a clear view, the sight was even more special!
Ooh, you were so close to Hawk Hill on the Marin Headlands. It’s early for migration, but if you love birds it’s the place to go. There can be lots of little migrants (warblers, vireos) too in the surrounding trees below the bare summit, with its cadre of raptor counters with clipboards and attitude in season. Staging spot for the flight across the gate.
That sounds really cool. The wind was whipping by the time we got to the bridge, so not too many birds flying in the area. But at Muir Beach, there were a lot of birds and a lot of feathers on the beach. Thought it would be a good place for feather collectors.
Sounds like a perfect day. Wish I had been there especially for the hazy IPA
Me too… maybe Chile?
We were in SF for the first time outside of the airport, back in June
I’m not normally into popular landmarks but for some reason I was excited to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge. Looks like you guys spent your time well
I love the Golden Gate Bridge and Muir Beach. Such a lovely area to explore and enjoy.
Muir Beach looks amazing. I’ve been to the bridge but we never went to the park. Looks like I need to plan another trip
I’ve been to San Francisco and still need to check out Tilden Nature Area. Thanks for the tips!
Looks great! I have never explored this area but hope to one day! 🙂
We love San Francisco, we have gone a couple of times and there is just so much to do and see.
I have loved SF forever, but it gets harder and harder to love being in the city.
Hearing the snakes rustle in the leaves would’ve FREAKED ME OUT! But otherwise, this hike sounds like a pretty dang perfect day. Love your photos.
I love San Francisco but haven’t explored too much right out of the city before. I love those day trips though, to find hidden gems. And I would be jumping out of my skin too with all that rustling!
I don’t normally think of snakes in conjunction with San Francisco! I may have to venture out of the city a little next time I visit!
I didn’t either, which is probably why they scared me so bad.
This was a great hike and beach walk.
We love a good brewery, and the beer sounds yummy!!
Coming from a small town with 30+ microbrews, we have turned into beer snobs.
We haven’t been to SF yet, but we are looking forward to it. So beautiful.
Love San Francisco especially the Golden Gate National Recreational Area. It’s a great alternative away from the city experience.
I had no idea how big the park was until I started doing some research for this post!
I didn’t know the golden gate had a national recreation area. I will totally check that out next time we are up that way.
The area spans both sides of the bridge. I’m sure there’s a lot more to do than I’m even aware!
When we head to San Fran may take a detour as you did. Thank you for the suggestions.
We have never been to San Fran, but have it on the list. I am going to bookmark this post, as I would love to explore outside the city as well. The beach looks beautiful.
The beach was great and practically deserted the day we were there.