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Outdoor Activities in San Francisco: Adventure City Guide

Find out the best Outdoor Activities in San Francisco with our latest comprehensive Adventure City Guide to San Francisco in USA.

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San Francisco Adventure City Guide - Golden Gate Bridge

Are you looking for an insider’s adventure travel guide for the best outdoor activities in San Francisco?

As part of our Adventure City Guide series, Bobbi from Heels and Wheels, shares with you her expert insider tips on the top adventure and outdoor activities to do in San Francisco.

San Francisco Adventure City Guide - Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco Adventure City Guide – Golden Gate Bridge

Why visit San Francisco for adventure?

The Bay area offers an endless supply of thrills, from riding waves on the same beaches as Kelly Slater to sailing on an America’s Cup racing yacht. Out of the water the explorations just get better. Golden Gate National Recreation Area covers a large portion the the Bay Area, providing visitors with untouched forests, exciting walking trails and peaceful lookout points.

Whether by land or sea, San Francisco has something for all types of adventurers.

Outdoor Activities in San Francisco

Sailing the San Francisco Bay

San Francisco’s pride and joy is its stunning bay. From these waters, people can go under the Golden Gate Bridge, visit America’s most famous prison, Alcatraz, and even escape the city with a few hours on a secluded beach. On a sunny day visitors will see these waters decorated with sailboats and sea lions.

Several sailboats operate out of San Francisco offering a variety of trips, from private charters to public tours and more. Whether it’s a quiet or sporty day on the water you seek, the city can accommodate.

Getting to sailboat operators on the Bay

Boats depart from a few spots around the city and across the bay. You’ll find most board from around Fisherman’s Wharf. The Powell Mason and Powell Hyde cable cars, F streetcar line, 30 Stockton trolley bus, 47 Van Ness bus and more run to this area regularly.

Cost of sailing in San Francisco

Free to $140 per person and more.

Additional information

Find a listing of sailboats operating in the city on the San Francisco Travel website. Cal Sailing Club located at the Berkley Marina offers holds one Free Sailboat Day per month. Thrill-seekers with a bigger budget can hop on America’s Cup racing yacht USA76 at Pier 39 starting at $140 per adult.

Outdoor Activities in San Francisco

Outdoor Activities in San Francisco – Sailing the Bay

Surf Ocean Beach

California is known for its surfing and Ocean Beach is where the pros go to catch some of the state’s best waves. A historical spot in the surfing world, Kelly Slater won his record 11th ASP world championship here.

A few surf shops operate along the beach here allowing visitors to hire equipment, but this day at the beach is not for the faint of heart. The ferocious rips and icy waters make this a dangerous spot for swimmers and surfers alike. Talk to locals to learn about the dangers before paddling out.

Getting to Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach is located on the city’s western coast in the Richmond District near Golden Gate Park. Several parking lots are located here for those arriving by car. Take Muni Bus 23 to reach the beach destination by public transit.

Cost of surfing at Ocean Beach

Free if you have your own equipment. Surfboard and wetsuit rentals cost a total of about $40 per day.

Additional information

Surf shops in this area include Mollusk and Aqua. Visit these shops as well as Surfline to learn more. Those who want to try surfing for the first time or take more lessons while in the city should check out WB Surf Lessons.

Outdoor Activities in San Francisco - Surfing at Ocean Beach

Outdoor Activities in San Francisco – Surfing at Ocean Beach – Photo by Max Goldstein

Hike the Lands End Trail

One of many great walks available in Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the Lands End Trail is a moderate, three-mile round trip route that runs from Point Lobos to Eagles Point. On top of breathtaking views of San Francisco’s rocky coast, people will see Sutro Baths, Legion of Honor, a stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Eagles Point and more.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area covers about 75,000 acres, including land on both sides of the famous bridge. Whether you want to explore urban parks in the city or rural lands across the bay, this state park has something for everyone. Highlights include Alcatraz Island, Muir Forest and the Lands End Trail.

Getting to Point Lobos

Parking is available at Point Lobos, the start of the trail. Alternatively, people can take bus #18 and #38 to Geary and 48th then walk to the start.

Cost of hiking the Lands End Trail

Free! Look at prices for entrance to other sections of Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Additional information

Learn more about the trail and park at Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.

Outdoor Activities in San Francisco - Hiking past Sutro Baths

Outdoor Activities in San Francisco – Hiking past Sutro Baths – Photo by Randy Chiu

Best time of the year to visit San Francisco for adventure?

Locals prefer Autumn in San Francisco, but that could be because the Giants are reigning World Series Champs. There’s really no bad time to visit the city, though the weather can be a bit unpredictable here, the main concern being fog.

Finally, the reason I love San Francisco for adventure is because…

It has a busy city center, but peaceful parks and nature areas. The city is home to loads of festivals, events and activities. Further, the locals are extremely active and friendly.

BIO:

Bobbi Lee Hitchon writes about her travel adventures on Heels and Wheels. She loves road trips, hiking, scuba diving, wine and food markets. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Jeremy Branham

    April 11, 2013 at 11:21 PM

    San Francisco is a great outdoor city. However, there are other hiking trails in the area – one very popular as it is a national park (Muir Woods) and the other very popular with locals (Mt Tamalpais or Mt Tam). They are just across the Golden Gate Bridge.

    Mt Tamalpais – http://www.budgettraveladventures.com/traveldestinations/hikes/hiking-mt-tamalpais-wrong-turns-ewoks/

    Muir Woods – http://www.budgettraveladventures.com/traveldestinations/california/norcal/walking-among-the-giants-muir-woods-national-monument/

    • Bobbi Lee Hitchon

      April 12, 2013 at 11:27 AM

      I kept going back and forth as to whether or not to use Muir Woods or the Lands End Trail. Muir Woods is amazing, so I’m glad you gave a link, but I just thought for this guide, city adventure, I’d mention a trail that would be easiest to reach using public transportation. Thanks for commenting! I’ll have to try Mt. Tamalpais.

  2. Erohisms

    April 12, 2013 at 8:22 AM

    I agree that it’s the city for adventure! We moved to San Francisco almost 4 years ago and can say we adventure more both in and outside of the city than when we lived in New York (where we mainly stayed inside of the city). San Francisco is a great base city for day and weekend trips, whether you want wine, trekking or other adventures.

    With respect to time of year… fall is the warmest, summer the coldest, and winter the rainiest. Fall is harvest time in wine country, which makes a trip there even more beautiful.

    • Bobbi Lee Hitchon

      April 12, 2013 at 11:28 AM

      Great to hear! It is a great city. Yes Fall is the best for many reasons. Thanks for sharing and commenting.

  3. Mindy and Ligeia

    April 12, 2013 at 12:33 PM

    Fantastic post. Very thorough. We love watching the sea lions the best when going to San Fran. Walking the labrynth in front of Grace Cathedral is a must do as well.
    I loved the hiking ideas you mentioned in the post. The next time we’re there, we’ll have to check them out. 🙂

    • Bobbi Lee Hitchon

      April 18, 2013 at 12:39 PM

      Thanks so much! I love the sea lions too! They are so cute. It’s so strange that they just showed up. Labrynth at Grace Cathedral? I must try that next time. Cheers for the tip.

  4. Christina

    April 13, 2013 at 10:32 AM

    That is great info for my upcoming road trip from SEA to SFO! Thanks!

  5. Sand In My Suitcase

    April 14, 2013 at 7:11 AM

    On our recent visit, we loved biking across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito – amazing to bike through the fog then hit gorgeous sunshine in Sausalito.

    • Cole Burmester

      April 14, 2013 at 8:45 AM

      That sounds like an awesome experience!

    • Bobbi Lee Hitchon

      April 18, 2013 at 12:41 PM

      That sounds amazing! So many great biking trails in and just outside the city.

  6. Sara@Travel Escapism

    April 16, 2013 at 11:37 AM

    Thanks for the info. I will put this on my list.

  7. Jeff Stinson

    May 30, 2013 at 6:41 PM

    This is one the best post. I visited SF last year. When the season of love calls, you can’t do much but agree to what your partner say. I and my wife were looking for a vacation spot to celebrate our wedding anniversary. I was really excited when my wife chose SAN FRANCISCO. What is more special than Golden Gate Bridge to a Civil Engineer like me. It was amazing experience visiting golden gate and other places. Also we came across a guy who knew a lot about the history of Golden Gate. It was one knowledgeable and awesome experience. SF made our special day even more special.

  8. Samantha

    June 2, 2013 at 12:53 AM

    Awesome information! I’ve heard so many great things about San Francisco and now that two of my best friends have moved there, I’m definitely in need of a visit, especially for the surfing. Everybody tells me it’s like Seattle but with better weather!

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Adventure Travel

Your Top Destinations For No-Contact Water Sports

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While it can be hard to stay cooped up inside throughout a beautiful summer, there are plenty of other places you head to for some fun in the sun before colder temperatures set in. The best news? If you’re an American, you don’t have to leave the continental US or mess with self-quarantining.

Lake Tahoe, California

A classic vacation spot, Lake Tahoe has it all for visitors. Great climate, little rain, a background of mountains, and one of the largest, most serene lakes in the US. This makes Tahoe not just a great place for spring break partying, but also for some amount of isolation, or at least a bit of peace and quiet. You can find yourself reflected on the water and reflect upon the world around you while out on the lake. Because of the still waters there, it is also a wonderful place for paddle boarding. In case you are looking for quality gear for water sports, you can look into Gili Sports.

Kitty Hawk, North Carolina

The Outer Banks of North Carolina are another classic vacation destination, especially for anyone who loves water sports. The weather remains mild in North Carolina all year round (with the notable exception of hurricane season), so it makes for an outstanding destination through any season. Kitty Hawk, famous for the Wright Brothers first flight, is an outstanding destination, as well as smaller towns like Currituck. You will find slightly rougher currents out in the Atlantic Ocean. However, paddle boarding is also popular here, as is windsurfing.

New Braunfels, Texas

The city of New Braunfels has a river entirely within its limits, the Comal River. This allows for many water sports activities, with tubing as one of the most popular choices. In these times, tubing is a popular choice, as it is a great activity for families that doesn’t involve a lot of contact with strangers. New Braunfels has a huge German influence, with its largest water park named the Schlitterbahn.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Although there is a city in Florida named Venice, the city of Fort Lauderdale is often referred to confusingly as the “Venice of Florida.” This nickname was won because Fort Lauderdale has nearly as many canals as its famous Italian counterpart. Fort Lauderdale boasts 23 miles of beach coastline, but if you add in all the city’s canals and lakes, that puts it at 300 miles of coastline. Fort Lauderdale is also a magnet for yachts, so you can paddle board or kayak past boats in the harbor you’ve only dreamed of. Summers in South Florida can swelter, but there’s also a reason that old folks go down in the winter.

Seattle, Washington

Although it is a huge metropolis, Seattle also offers some of the most pristine coastline in the country. Although it gets colder in the PNW than it might get anywhere in the southeast, the climate in Seattle stays relatively mild. One advantage of Seattle over more southern spots is its glacial lakes, which offer a beauty that few islands can replicate.

Even as the summer wanes, there are so many places in the continental US that you can get out and enjoy the water.

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Adventure Travel

Top of Cappadocia day trek – with Middle Earth Travel

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Trekking through the valleys of Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys with Middle Earth Travel feels more like the set of a Star Wars movie than a historical region once carved out and lived in by humans. Churches, homes and pigeon houses are scattered throughout the valleys, all waiting to be explored. The best part is, Middle Earth Travel know all the hidden secrets.

Standing at the top of Cappadocia

Top of Cappadocia day trek – with Middle Earth Travel

On the 26th of July (which just so happens to be my birthday!) Middle Earth Travel took us on their private and guided Top of Cappadocia day trek. From Pasabag, along the top of Cappadocia and down through the Gulludere Rose Valley to Goreme, we trekked 15kms in one day! (We recommend getting your bearings with this map)

Upon arrival to the Middle Earth Offices, we were warmly greeted by our new friend Atil whom we had met a few days earlier while mountain biking through the Kizilcukur Red Valley. We were then introduced to our guide and given a briefing regarding the day. Normally, the Top of Cappadocia tour would start from Çavuşin, however, since we had already explored Çavuşin Castle, they adapted our tour to compensate ensuring we would explore new terrain!

With charged cameras, plenty of water and our running shoes on, we were driven to our starting point of Pasabag. We wandered through the fairy chimneys, coming across camels and markets – then the true hike began.

Pasabag in Cappadocia

The police station in Pasabag, Cappadocia

Camel in Pasabag, Cappadocia

Camel in Pasabag, Cappadocia

It was a slow and gentle incline. With no trees to provide shade, I quickly realised why our tour guide had chosen to wear fully covered clothing! As the sweat quickly set in (a waterfall in Moss’s case) we snapped away with our cameras and enjoyed the entertaining shapes of Imagine Valley and the amazing view. We also passed a lot of rock piles, which according to our guide mean ‘father’ and are built to help lead the way.

Animal shaped formations in Imagine Valley

Animal shaped formations in Imagine Valley

Middle Earth Travel, Cappadocia

Making our way to the top of Cappadocia

Father leading the way (rock pile)

Father leading the way (rock pile)

The higher we trekked, the more breath taking the views became! As we walked along the summit of Bozdag mountain (the Top of Cappadocia) we could see EVERTHING – Pasabag, Çavuşin Castle, Kizilcukur Red Valley, Gulludere Rose Valley and Goreme. We were on the Father of Valleys! After a quick nod of agreement to the guide, we pushed ourselves the extra distance and made our way to the flag, as this HAD to be the highest point and was definitely worth a photo and a selfie or two!

View from the top of Cappadocia

View from the top of Cappadocia

Flag at top of Cappadocia

From the flag we looked down upon Aktepe Hill which is known as a popular destination for watching the sun set and could spot Kizilvadi Restaurant, our destination for lunch! Kizilvadi Restaurant is an attraction of its own. With its own historic winery and Grape church, plus some Middle Earth Travel treks even stay there for the night! After having a massive feed of soup, salad and pasta plus a surprise birthday cake, we made our way down into Gulludere Rose Valley.

Kizilvadi Restaurant

Kizilvadi Restaurant

The scenery is amazing, with strong colours visible in perfect layers on the chimneys, you would wonder what an artist was thinking, had it been a painting. Also, hidden to the side of the track we walked across a little bridge and not expecting anything to be there we were wowed by the massive church carved. It was absolutely huge and hard to believe that its most recent use has been as a pigeon house!

Coloured chimneys in Cappadocia

Coloured chimneys in Cappadocia

Pigeon houses in Cappadocia

Pigeon houses in Cappadocia

Church in Gulludere Rose Valley

Hard to believe this Church is carved inside a fairy chimney!

Middle Earth Travel Review

  • The team at Middle Earth Travel were extremely knowledgeable and certainly know Cappadocia’s hidden secrets. They have friendships with local tea garden owners which is also of benefit as it gained us entry to locked churches and hidden rooms that we would not have otherwise seen.
  • We covered a lot of ground, however we did not feel rushed. The whole day focused on showing us the region, therefore we had as much time as we needed to explore each church and to take ‘just one more photo’.
  • It wasn’t all about trekking. With a whole day and 15kms to cover, there were a few silly poses (especially in Imagine Valley), and we learnt a lot about the myths, legends and way of life in Cappadocia.
  • In conclusion I highly recommend Middle Earth Travel if you wish to go trekking or mountain biking in Cappadocia.
  • Cost: Day treks with Middle Earth Travel range from 50-90 euro, depending on the number of people taking part. This includes lunch, guide, vehicle transfers and entrance fees to historical sites, but excludes alcoholic and soft drinks.
  • Middle Earth Travel are outdoor enthusiasts and offer multi-day over night treks, mountain biking, abseiling, or custom made itineraries, in multiple regions throughout Turkey.
  • www.middleearthtravel.com

Disclaimer: We were provided with a discount for the trek with Middle Earth Travel, however, as always our thoughts on our adventure travel blog our own.

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Adventure Travel

Most Underrated Travel Destinations

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Everyone knows about Paris and Rome and London but there are so many other beautiful travel destinations that are amazingly underrated and they are cities on our list to visit again once the Coronavirus allows. The fact that so many beautiful countries go unexplored by travelers is a tragedy and we want to change that after Coronavirus. Not only because so many people are missing out on rich cultures and picturesque views, but also because a lot of these destinations tend to be a lot cheaper to travel to than popular cities. 

But what a lot of people don’t know is that there are gorgeous, underrated foreign cities one can visit for a fraction of the price of touristy European cities. Forbes recently published a collection of the ten most underrated destinations you should consider visiting. 

Here are a few of them to learn about while stuck at home due to Coronavirus:

Yerevan, Armenia

Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, is known for its magnificent sights of Mount Ararat, historical monasteries, and its many striking temple ruins. Armenian cuisine is other worldly with classic dishes like rabbit stew, sautéed eggplant rolls, and lamb tartare. 

Telč, Czechia

Telč is a colorful town with Italian influences in Czechia. It boasts of Baroque-Renaissance architecture and has a castle of its own with exciting tunnels and passageways that you can explore underneath the town.

Santiago, Chile

Santiago is the capital of Chile and features gorgeous architecture from the neoclassical era. There are towering cathedrals and, of course, plenty of quality Chilean wine. Plus, the city of Santiago is a great place to kick off your exploration of Chile’s wine country. 

Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Rotterdam is often ignored due to the popular neighboring city of Amsterdam, but it is a bastion of underground music and street art. The architecture is strikingly modern since the city was heavily bombed during World War II and thus had to be rebuilt from the ground up. The city is filled to the brim with amazing cuisine and museums.

Lagos, Nigeria

If you are looking for a big city destination, Lagos is a metropolis that has plenty to see and do so that you’ll never be bored. And whenever you need a break from the urban marketplaces, private beaches are just a short drive away.

Con Dao, Vietnam

Con Dao is a Southeast Asian island that makes an excellent beach destination with two resorts and tons of fascinating history. Once host to a brutal French prison, the island is also home to the tomb of the Vietnamese martyr Vo Thi Sau. 

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

This is one of the oldest cities in Uruguay dating back to the 17th century. The city has a vibrantly decorated historic quarter and a three-century-old convent. It’s also only a short trip away from the bigger city of Montevideo.

A majority of Americans, when asked about traveling abroad, will likely shake their head and say they can’t afford such trips. Many people deal with multiple monthly bills, such as mortgage or rent, student loans, and title loans, which are all stress inducing. 

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...

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