Elite runners and newbie joggers have always flocked to San Francisco to get their training on — the city boasts some close-to-perfect conditions. We have totally tolerable weather (fog beats heat when you’re working out), a varied terrain that prevents boredom, and inspiring views that make you want to keep on truckin’.
Since bounding down neighborhood streets can get crowded, you should consider getting your sweat on off-road — like underneath the city’s towering Cypress trees or along a breezy bay-side trail. So, whether you just bought your first pair of neutral-support running shoes or you’re training for a half marathon, we’ve mapped out three routes (beginner, intermediate, and advanced) for you
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For Novice Runners, Crissy Field, 2.6 miles
If you’re new to jogging, you’ll want to find a route that’s appropriate for your skill level. Most experts will tell beginners to shoot for anywhere between 15 to 30 minutes of run-walking, and this path falls right in that sweet spot. One of the best, easy-to-tackle jaunts starts where the San Francisco Bay Trail and Golden Gate Promenade intersect in Crissy Field (you can access it from the Sports Basement on Mason Road). Start your workout heading west on a dirt trail, passing former airplane hangars, Angel Island, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the vast waterfront. Continue until you hit Fort Point (take a moment to watch the surf crash against the rocks), then loop around and head back, this time traversing slightly further south on Battery East Trail. Take a sharp left at Long Avenue, then take Marine Drive all the way home. This 2.6-mile stretch is great for newbies, but it can get windy depending on which direction you’re facing, so dress the part.
For Intermediate Runners, Golden Gate Park, 5.25 miles
Once you’re comfortable maintaining a solid pace for 30 minutes, it’s time to extend your distance. This mixed-pavement course takes you on a scenic loop inside Golden Gate Park, where you’ll begin on the southern edge at Martin Luther King Jr. Drive (this can be accessed off 9th Avenue and Lincoln Way). Start heading north and take a right on Music Concourse Drive (the walkway might get a little crammed near California Academy of Sciences). From there, jump onto the path that parallels John F. Kennedy Drive, then veer left towards Stow Lake Drive for some charming front-row views of the area. Continue straight until you reconnect with JFK Drive, then cut through at Chain of Lakes Drive and circle back to the starting point. At the end of this intertwining program you will have logged an impressive 5.25 miles.
For Advanced Runners, Presidio Coastal Trail, 7 miles
Becoming an advanced jogger isn’t just a matter of increasing your mileage. If you want to improve overall strength and speed you should incorporate hills into your calorie-busting regimen. Which is precisely what the Presidio’s Bay Area Ridge Trail offers.
Start this 7-mile interval-training course on the pavement at California Street and Arguello Boulevard. From there, run up towards the entrance of the park and take your first right onto a paved walkway. Look for signs for the Bay Area Ridge Trail, since you’ll follow these guideposts almost the entire way. You’ll hit a number of steep inclines within the first few minutes, but if you keep your strides short you can power up the terrain like a pro. Keep looping alongside Washington Boulevard until you hit Lincoln (stop and stretch your calves while soaking in the Golden Gate Bridge panorama), then run up the bridge for half a mile. Feel free to indulge in a mini-Rocky moment, although it’ll probably be jam-packed with people, then flip a U-turn and head back to the starting line.