United States

San Francisco: North

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Flickr: David Baron

Just north of San Francisco lies a vast array of parks, preserves, and recreational areas, offering some of the most scenic and diverse running opportunities close to an urban area of anywhere in the world. The terrain ranges from beaches and waterfront promenades to trails and fire roads through redwood forests, open grasslands, and rocky canyons.

It all starts with Golden Gate National Recreation Area, with hills affording unparalleled views and some easier coastal paths at Rodeo Beach. Nearby is Mount Tamalpais State Park, with 60 miles of trails covering a huge variety of terrain. Or, enjoy trails through coastal redwoods at Muir Woods. Making your way along the Coastal Highway (Rt. 1), Stinson Beach and Bolinas offer some good beach running and attractive coastal trails. Then there’s majestic Point Reyes, with a range of runnable trails past green pastures and featuring views of crashing ocean surf. As an alternative to heading north, you can head east into Mill Valley, the area sandwiched between the Coastal Highway and Highway 101. There are wonderful waterfront routes in the tony towns of Sausalito and Tiburon. In San Rafael, there’s a nice coastal path as well as great trail running in China Camp State Park. We also point out some of the more scenic and runnable trails in the parks and preserves of Mill Valley and Novato, which feature thousands of acres of contiguous areas of open space.

Runners should note that that except for some of the waterfront routes, it’s hard to avoid hills. An extensive network of fire roads in the preserves provides makes for easier footing. Take the right precautions when running on the more remote trails. Also note that the weather can be changeable and the region consists of dozens of micro-climates. It might be cool and foggy at the coast and 30° warmer just inland. See also our running guides for other Bay area locations: San Francisco proper, East Bay, Silicon Valley, San Jose, Santa Cruz, Napa/Sonoma, and Monterey/Big Sur!

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Mount Tamalpais State Park

San Francisco: North

Iconic area just north of the GG Bridge. Incredible panoramas from its 2,571 summit. 60+ miles of trails and fire roads, with options for all abilities, through canyons, redwood forests, oak woodlands, open grasslands, and sturdy chaparral. Be prepared for hills!
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Muir Woods

San Francisco: North

Experience old growth coastal redwoods in this National Monument area just 20 minutes from San Francisco. Easier trails through the redwoods, and longer, more challenging trails through canyons and grasslands. Deer Park Fire Rd. also a good option.
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Bolinas Area

San Francisco: North

Just north of Salinas. Some nice road running around Bolinas Park and the Quail Refuge. Rugged beach running on Agate Beach. Coastal Trail is a great trail run - first 1.5 miles from Palomarin Trailhead is fairly flat.
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Point Reyes

San Francisco: North

A fantastic 'destination run', 90 minutes north of San Francisco. National Seashore area has it all: spectacular coastal trails, open ranch lands, and historic sites. The best trail for glimpses of the sea is the Coast Trail.
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Tiburon & Belvedere Waterfront

San Francisco: North

Nice waterfront running in Belvedere and Tiburon. Our 4-mile out and back features attractive homes, water views, and parks. Add-on with the 3-mile loop around Belvedere Island, or get the lungs going in the hilly residential streets above the harbor.
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Muir Woods

San Francisco: North

Experience old growth coastal redwoods in this National Monument area just 20 minutes from San Francisco. Easier trails through the redwoods, and longer, more challenging trails through canyons and grasslands. Deer Park Fire Rd. also a good option.
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