by Cynthia Cummins
Cynthia is owner and founder of Kindred SF Homes and a top San Francisco Realtor. Check out RealEstateTherapy.org for refreshing reflections on the meaning of home and for more “best real estate advice” (since 2013).
Reading time: 4 minutes
Dream of San Francisco and you’re likely to conjure a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge: Hands down, the most iconic image associated with our cool grey city of love.
Yet with 7 hills in a 7-by-7-mile square space, San Francisco can’t help but offer hundreds of stunning views. Just hike up any ol’ slope and have a look around. Or skip the hills altogether and take advantage of dozens and dozens of relatively flat strolls that offer plenty of fresh air and pleasant vistas.
My new listing at 831 25th Avenue – only 100 steps from Golden Gate Park – offers entrée to many peaceful trails and walks. I once lived on this very block, and every day I rolled into the green sanctuary of one of the best public parks in the world.
From its 25th Avenue portal at Fulton, you can walk west past Speedway Meadows and Spreckels Lake to Ocean Beach, or you can walk north to Stow Lake, the Rose Garden, the Japanese Tea Garden, the de Young, the Academy of Sciences and so much more. Golden Gate Park is a huge, best-kept-secret and I encourage you to check it out if you don’t already know and love it.
But I regress! Back to the hills I mentioned earlier, here’s a list of my favorite seven unexpected (and slightly “secret”) public vistas. (Note some of them are currently inaccessible or closed due to the city’s shelter-in-place order.)
- Strawberry Hill. In Golden Gate Park, cross one of the two pedestrian bridges that lead to the island in Stow Lake. Head uphill. Enjoy a tree-filtered 360-degree view of the St. Ignatius spires, the surprisingly hilly Sunset, Ocean Beach, the Pacific Ocean, the Richmond, Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin headlands and more.
- Twin Peaks. Approach by car (and preferably at night) from Portola near Laguna Honda or from Clarendon. Drive to where the Martians will land when they invade San Francisco. Imagine you are a Martian surveying the splendid city you’re about to conquer. Take note of how Market Street makes a glowing runway of light from your feet to the Bay Bridge.
- Grandview Park. Get it? Grand? View? The park is roughly bordered by 14th and 15th avenues and Noriega in Golden Gate Heights, although I highly recommend walking up the magical Moraga Street steps for access (at 16th and Moraga). From the top you can see downtown, Golden Gate Park, Pt. Reyes and Lake Merced.
- Lake Merced. A trail encircles the entire lake, though there’s a lot of traffic whizzing by. Instead, park in the lot at Harding Park off Skyline. Walk past the boathouse, cut across the golf course and take the trail that goes along the northernmost part of the lake. Lots of green. Lots of green water. Birds. Cattails.
- Sutro Park. We’re talking higher on the cliff than the Cliff House. Drive out Geary Boulevard (which turns into Point Lobos) to 48th Avenue. Or take the 38 bus to its last stop. Walk into the park. Look south for an amazing perspective on magnificent Ocean Beach. You can look in other directions that are equally nice. But the Ocean Beach vista is surprising.
- Zellerbach Garden of Perennials. Once upon a time, admission to the Strybing Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park was free to all. Now you must pay if you aren’t a resident of San Francisco. (But it’s worth it.) There are actually many beautiful views here, but one of my favorites is looking slightly south and mostly east from the Zellerbach Garden of Perrennials. A long lane of lush green lawn framed by trees. Bring a picnic while you’re at it.
- The “notch” at Sanchez and Liberty. Skip the frat party/parade at Dolores Park. Walk west up 20th Street and south up Sanchez (there are stairs available for this last part). At the top of the hill are some very fine views to the south, east and west. Breathtaking any time of day.