San Francisco Parks and Beaches

The San Francisco Bay Area is fortunate to have a multitude of State and local parks, mountains and lakes.  The Golden Gate National Park system is a collection of wonderful beaches, parks, mountains and properties that are well cared for and preserved for use by the public.  The history of the area is really quite interesting and a walk through Alcatraz or the Presidio is something you will treasure always.

San Francisco Parks and Beaches

San Francisco has some amazing sights to see. There are so many historic locations, shops, restaurants and fun things to do. While the metropolitan areas boast plenty of activities, the natural beauty of San Francisco is not to be missed. Those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city will find there are several locations to get away from it all.

Golden Gate Park

San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is home to museums, gardens and many fun and interesting events.  Some of the better known attractions are:

  • The de Young Museum
  • Botanical Gardens
  • Japanese Tea Garden
  • California Academy of Sciences
  • Conservatory of Flowers

There is something for everyone.  Plan a visit to Golden Gate Park on your next stop in San Francisco.  The park is beautiful and quite large, allowing for a wide range of things to see and do.  Check out their website at

Angel Island State Park

Accessible only by ferry, Angel Island is a secluded haven that was once an immigration station and has over a century of military history. Those looking for a day away from the city will find a multitude of activities. The island boasts beautiful sandy beaches and hiking trails that lead to peaks with gorgeous views of the bay. Segway and tram tours are a great way to learn the history of the island and see the most famous landmarks. After a long day, the Cove Cafe is a great place for a bite to eat and even features live music on select days. For more information on Angel Island, go to htttp:// or call (415) 435-3544.

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

Located just off of Fisherman’s Wharf, the Maritime Park takes visitors aboard several historical vessels and transports them back in time.Guests will be delighted with sea chanty sing-a-longs and live demonstrations of how the ships work. The visitors center gives insight into history, and living history players make the experience come alive. To find out about the many opportunities at this park, visit or call (415) 447-5000.

Alcatraz Island

This island is not only home to the infamous prison, but also the West Coast’s first lighthouse, premier bird watching, tide pools, gardens and gorgeous views of the San Francisco Bay. The evening tours offer an exciting experience with guided tours and special activities, while day tours are more for exploring on your own. Visitors will get to see the history of this historic site. For more information go to

Public Beaches

Looking for a fantastic beach excursion near San Francisco? There’s a debate over the best public beaches in the San Francisco area, yet it all depends on what you’re looking for. Here are a few of the most popular beaches, including some along the Pacific and some along the Bay. Take a jacket if you’re going to the ocean though, as San Francisco is well known for its fog which can put a chill in the air. However, if you want to stay a bit warmer try a beach along the Bay.

Favorite Public Beaches in the San Francisco Area

Ocean Beach

This Pacific beach provides a peaceful getaway from hectic city life. Easily accessible, this stretch of surf and sand along the city’s West side provides a panoramic view of the ocean. Popular with surfers, you can watch the skillful demonstration of local wave catchers. The beach can get cold so stop for a warm meal at Cliff House or coffee at nearby Java Beach.

Cowell Ranch State Park

This is one of the best hidden beaches in the area. Stop at the bluffs overlooking the beach for a view to remember. Then descend the staircase and find yourself standing on a pristine beach with surf in front of you and cliffs rising behind you. Let all your tension go as you take in the serenity of your surroundings. This is a perfect beach for quietly sipping morning coffee, picnicking or reading a good book.

Aquatic Park

This urban beach is great for stopping at any-time. Near Fisherman’s Wharf you can grab a chowder filled bread bowl to enjoy, while overlooking the bay. The waves are softer than on a Pacific beach and there’s a wading area for children. Close to many tourist attractions including the Maritime Marina the beach is a favorite of visitors and locals alike.

East Beach

Closest to the Golden Gate Bridge, this beach provides a spectacular view along the Bay. Also called China Beach, a moniker based on the Chinese Fishermen who routinely camped there long ago, this is considered the safest family beach. Shallow water is ideal for children and lifeguards are on duty during summer.

For more information, check this site.

San Francisco Bay Area Mountains

There are many mountains near San Francisco. Many skiers use the San Francisco International Airport each winter to get to some of the best skiing in the world.

The Diablo Range exists just to the east of San Francisco. Local ranchers use the majority of this range as ranchland. The range includes four public areas that are great for exploring on horses, on bikes or on foot.

Within Mount Diablo State Park, drivers can enjoy reaching one of the highest summits in the state. The view from the summit includes many famous sights including the Golden Gate Bridge. Mountain bikers love this area as do campers who often experience snow on the peak from November through mid-March. Mount Diablo State Park is located approximately 30 miles east of San Francisco.

The Alum Rock Park was the first municipal park in California. Visitors are still enjoying playing in this park. It is a favorite with equestrians, hikers and bikers. The park is located about 60 miles from San Francisco.

The Grant Ranch Park, which is great for mountain biking, bird watching and hiking. Visitors can tour the historic Grant Ranch House complex.

Another wonderful opportunity to visit the mountains near San Francisco is at Henry W. Coe State Park. This is the largest state park in northern California with 87,000 acres much of which is undeveloped. Watching the fog rise off the mountains is a favorite subject to photograph at this park.

Lying just outside of San Francisco is Mount Tamalpais, part of the Northern California Coast Ranges. Activities at this park include hiking, biking and picnicking. The natural-stone amphitheater is home to the Mountain Play each spring. This play has been going on each summer since 1913.

Those looking for skiing opportunities near San Francisco can check the following resources:

Homewood Mountain Resort – 213 miles
Northstar-At-Tahoe at Tahoe – 200 miles
Alpine Meadows – 198 miles
Squaw Valley – 196 miles
Mt. Rose – 188 miles
Royal Gorge Cross-Country Ski Resort – 180 miles
Diamond Peak – 135 miles
Donner Ski Ranch – 90 miles

San Francisco Bay Area Lakes

San Francisco has several lakes that are great to explore.

Lake Merced is a beautiful freshwater lake in the southwest corner of San Francisco. A 614-acre park surrounds the lake, which is popular with boaters, bicyclists and skaters. The city maintains a 4.5 mile paved trail around the park that is popular a large freshwater lake in San Francisco’s southwestern corner, is the heart of a 614-acre park popular with birdwatchers and those who love to walk for exercise.

Pine Lake is located within the Stern Grove Park. The park is home to San Francisco’s longest running free concert. This is one of the few remaining natural lakes in San Francisco.

John McLaren Park is a 312-acre natural area complete with a lake and reservoir. The area features a golf course, playgrounds, dog play area and an amphitheater.

Sunset Reservoir is the largest reservoir in San Francisco. The area produces much of the solar electricity used by the city. Surrounding the lake is walking trails, lawns perfect for a picnic and a mini playground.



 Sign Up For The Airport Intel Newsletter! Get The Latest “Secret” Travel Tips To Help You Navigate The Airports of the World!