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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