A Gorgeous Kid-Friendly San Francisco Hike (With a Cultural Experience Snuck in For Good Measure)

Its where land ends and the massive Pacific Ocean begins.  A place where the city becomes less urban and more wild.  The views are sweeping and the trails are perfect for a family friendly adventure. It’s San Francisco‘s Lands End, a portion of a larger treasure known as the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Land’s End is full of hiking adventures, opportunities to see the remains of ships that met their fate on the rocks near the bay, and even cannons that were once built to defend the city which are still facing the ocean as though awaiting a call to action.  Amongst all that nature and history, there is even a world-class art museum, the Palace of the Legion of Honor, which is home to works of art by some of the greats including Picasso and Rembrandt.

There are many ways to enter the recreation area, but the main trail head starts on El Camino Del Mar at the base of the park.  The beginning of the trail is also the first viewing area.  The vista point unfolds into a view of the entire bay with the Golden Gate Bridge slightly east, Marin Headlands to the north, and the vast Pacific Ocean to the west as far as the eye can see.  On clear days (there aren’t that many of them in foggy San Francisco) there are numerous sail boats all over the bay and under the Golden Gate Bridge, adding to the picturesque view.  Sometimes large freighter ships pass through the bay on their way to Oakland and San Francisco, and on rare occasion a military ship can be spotted.

The main trail starts right from the initial vista point.  The trail is rather easy, so even small children wouldn’t find it too challenging.  Most of the trail is surrounded by bushes and small trees for hiker safety.  Sometimes there are intervals without much surrounding vegetation and views of the ocean open up all over again to remind the hikers that they really are walking along a huge cliff with jagged rocks right underneath.  Parents are advised to keep a close eye on their children because as enchanting and magical as the hike can be, it can also be dangerous.

The main trail isn’t very long, but there are plenty of fun things for kids to do.  Since the beaches of San Francisco are largely covered with jagged rocky cliffs, over time there have been a number of ships that have crashed into the rocks and run aground.  Some of the remains of the ships are over 50 years old and still present today.

People interested in joining such a hike can do so by visiting this Group Hike Through Land’s End.

Another great destination is Fort Miley which was built to protect San Francisco from potentially invading ships. Old 19th century style cannons can still be found facing the ocean at various spots that are now overgrown with thick vegetation.  Kids to get a great kick out of seeing or climbing on an old cannon if they find one.

After a few hours of hiking on trails with arguably some of the best views in all of California, make time to visit the Palace of the Legion of Honor, a museum which is right inside the park. Not only does it have a place to buy snacks and take a little break, but it is also home to some of the greatest artists in history like Picasso, Monet,

Parents who manage to get their kids interested in the museum tend to be most satisfied with the day because after all, it is a rare parent-dream-come-true when the kids are active and learning at the same time.

As mentioned earlier, the museum houses works from some of history’s greatest artists and sculptors. While Picasso’s works are understandably not the most comprehensible to children, the museum has a section with ancient art that might be more fun for kids.

Whatever part of the park you have time to explore, the day is sure to be fun, educational, awesomely exhausting, and unforgettable.

Alex Genadinik is a big fan of the California outdoors and is currently working on a site to
unite residents of the Bay Area into a great San Francisco and Bay Area Hiking Community.

About the author

Sharlene Earnshaw is Trekaroo’s Editor in Chief. She lives in sunny Orange County, CA, with her husband and 10-year-old son and daughter (twins!). She is a self-proclaimed National Park junkie and has the goal of visiting each and every one with her kids. When she isn't traveling to places like Norway, Peru, Disney World, and Hawaii with her family, she enjoys hiking, beach days, obsessively rooting for the San Francisco 49ers, and planning her brood's next trip.
2 Responses
  1. Jen

    We love getting outdoors and hiking with our kids. San Francisco is one of our favorite places to visit so will be bookmarking this for future reference. Thanks for the insider tip!

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