America's Best Urban Hike

Hike San Francisco's Grand Walk, Sutro Baths to Crissy Field

Woman walking down the stairs overlooking the ocean on the Coastal Trail in San Francisco

Many years ago we dubbed it the “Grand Walk” and said it was one of the most scenic and stunning trails in the West. We were wrong. This is the most scenic urban hike in America! San Francisco’s 6-mile Coastal Trail from Sutro Baths to Crissy Field is a tour de force of views and iconic highlights from start to finish, and plenty of stairs to boot!

Start at the ghostly Sutro Baths, with postcard vistas of the Cliff House, sea stacks, and the rollicking Pacific. Head up the stairs and continue on the trail through Lands End as the Golden Gate Bridge quickly comes into view, your North Star for the journey as it’s visible nearly the entire hike.

Detours are a must on this walk, like the one leading to Mile Rock Beach and the popular large labyrinth dramatically perched at the edge of a cliff, overlooking the Golden Gate. The trail features several wooden and natural steps undulating along the coast.

People walking th labyrinth in San Francisco near Mile Rock Beach

You’ll pass through swanky Sea Cliff, following the residential sidewalks to a less-known backdoor route to popular Baker Beach. Walk the strand the full distance (where you may also see some full moons—nudists sometimes roam these parts) before ascending the 243-step Sand Ladder, a total thigh-burner, with—ironically—more breathtaking views!

Next up: the Batteries to Bluffs Trail and spectacular Battery Crosby, perhaps the best stretch of this hike, with wooden stairs leading up and down to classic coastal scenery. Definitely detour to secluded Marshall’s Beach (practically empty on a late afternoon) and take a seat on some driftwood—the Golden Gate seems close enough to touch. You’ll have to climb back up again and follow the batteries to that big orange bridge. Go under it, through a fun tiny tunnel, to sidestep the tourists and bicycles, and continue on to Fort Point. Now you’re east of the bridge and things get busier. But ditch the people and walk the final stretch along Crissy Field’s beach. Waves gently lapping, Alcatraz’s lighthouse blinking, and the Golden Gate Bridge looming.

For a less crowded experience, do this hike late day, and time it so you finish at sunset. This is a point-to-point hike. There’s parking at Sutro Baths or Crissy Field. We recommend walking it west to east. It’s straightforward, with the only navigation being through Sea Cliff. When exiting Lands End, you’ll be on El Camino Del Mar. Follow it east, and veer left onto Sea Cliff Ave. when it forks. Turn left on 25th Ave. north, which leads to an entrance to Baker Beach. Walk on Baker Beach all the way to the Sand Ladder at the eastern end. Take this up to the Batteries to Bluffs Trail. When you cross under the bridge, follow the signs to Fort Point and Crissy Field. Dog-friendly!

Trending Stories NorCal

View all Stories
  1. Afternoon on the Island

    What is it about tiny islands in the middle of lakes? There’s something that just draws you in. It’s even more fun when getting there is half the adventure because you have to reach it by canoe, kayak, paddleboat, or a ranger guided boat tour!

    View
  2. Camp and Kayak at Utica Reservoir in Stanislaus National Forest

    Sleeper Hit

    It's all about the water, and the camping, at Utica Reservoir in Stanislaus National Forest, a High Sierra reservoir perfect for kayak explorations and pitching your tent with the lake in the background.

    View
  3. Hiker in the forest at Mount Sutro in San Francisco

    San Francisco's Middle Earth

    No need to travel to New Zealand to visit Middle Earth. San Francisco’s Mount Sutro Open Space is practically Hobbiton—a hidden “shire” in the middle of the city. Okay, maybe not quite as magical, but still an incredible place to take a hike in city limits.

    View
  4. Woman walking down the stairs overlooking the ocean on the Coastal Trail in San Francisco

    America's Best Urban Hike

    Many years ago we dubbed it the “Grand Walk” and said it was one of the most scenic and stunning trails in the West. We were wrong. This is the most scenic urban hike in America!

    View

Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Two people smiling for a selfie on Santa Cruz Island Channel Island National Park

    Island Ahoy!

    Take to the seas on a weekend adventure to remote Santa Cruz Island (the largest among Channel Islands National Park) and an idyllic campsite coupled with a rugged 8-mile (round-trip) trek to a hidden beach.

    View
  2. woman on rocks at Salt Point State Park Sonoma Coast

    Sweet and Salty

    Located on Highway 1 about 18 miles north of Jenner, Salt Point State Park is wild, scenic, and one of the most beautiful places to do some classic coastal camping.

    View
  3. Woman biking the Ventura to Ojai bike path in Ventura County

    Ojai There!

    If a substantive and super scenic bike ride is right in your wheelhouse, do the 30-mile (round-trip) Ventura-to-Ojai bike path that begins (and ends) near the Ventura shoreline, pit-stopping in delightful Ojai for food and drinks.

    View
  4. Masterpiece Marshland + Beers

    San Dieguito Lagoon is one of the biggest wetland habitats in America. Uncover the magical marshland masterpiece on a gentle 3-mile out-and-back urban hike with a pit stop at a brewery.

    View