Marina/Crissy Field/Golden Gate Bridge
Marina Yacht Harbor, Palace of Fine Arts, Crissy Field, Fort Point
Duration: 1/2 day
Distance: 4 miles/6.5 km;
Marina/Cow Hollow: +1.3 miles/ 2 km
Fisherman’s Wharf: +2.9 miles/ 4,6 km
Russian Hill: + 2 miles/ 3,2 km
You can combine this walk with the tour from Union Square to Fisherman’s Wharf. You can add the walk along Crissy Field with the car tour through San Francisco.
By car – there is free parking along the Marina basin.
By bus: from Union Square take bus no. 30 towards Stockton Street exit at Jefferson & Divisadero. Walk towards ocean side/harbor and turn left.
By cable car: take the line from Powell Street at the corner of Market Street to the final destination. From the terminal walk left and over the hill above Fort Mason.
From Fisherman’s Wharf walk left and over the hill above Fort Mason.
1st stop: Marina
From San Francisco’s yacht harbor you have fantastic views towards Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge, and over the Bay. The Marina runs in between Fort Mason and Crissy Field, a former airfield next to the Bay that was turned into a recreation area. Crissy Field’s hiking, biking and running path leads you towards the old fortification ‘Fort Point’ that is located right underneath Golden Gate Bridge. From the top of the Fort and the path you have an unusual perspective towards the bridge, not many tourist take advantage of. Instead they get into each other’s way at the lookout on the hill above you.
On your way from the Marina to Crissy Field you will pass beautiful townhouses along Marina Blvd. As mentioned before in the walk from Union Square to Fisherman’s Wharf many homeowners love to decorate their houses in a very odd way. The houses along Marina Blvd give you a great example where the sculptures and accessories from shops close to Chinatown will end.
More homes and mansions are located along Jefferson, Beach, Baker, North Point and Bay Street. Many of them were divided into several apartments by today. In former times wealthy residents shared their mansions with their maids and/or butlers. They were living on the lower floors and were amongst other duties responsible for the cooking. This is the reason why the lower floors have small rooms and big kitchens and the upper floors where the owners were living have large rooms with tiny kitchenettes.
At the end of Marina Blvd you are approaching the Palace of Fine Arts that you can see from the far already.
2nd stop: Palace of Fine Arts
Before you head towards Crissy Field cross the street and make a detour to Palace of Fine Arts. The impressive structure was built in 1915 for the Panama Pacific International Exposition and is the only building that was kept.
You might recognize the building from movies like Vertigo, The Rock, and TV shows like Monk and The Streets of San Francisco. The former exhibition hall became part of the ‘Exploratorium’, an interactive science museum with a 1000-seat theatre. The best way to explore Palace of Fine Arts is by taking the loop trail starting to your right and left in front of Exploratorium. A great photo spot is the view from the duck pond towards the building.
To get back to the Marina and the beginning of Crissy Field just return to Marina Blvd, cross the street and continue straight towards the Bay.
3rd stop: Crissy Field (http://www.parksconservancy.org/our-work/crissy/)
At the end of Yacht Boulevard you reach a small parking lot, which is by the way a good spot to leave your car when walking along Crissy Field.
To the left you have some stairs that lead into the Bay and a great vantage point over Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and Sausalito, the small village at the other side of the Bay. The red colored stones along the beach are debris from the big earthquake in 1906.
Before you continue your walk along Crissy Field turn around first to enjoy the view over San Francisco’s skyline. This view is getting better the closer you get to Golden Gate Bridge.
Follow the path to the left that runs parallel to the shore. At the beginning you have the ‘Crissy Field Visitor Center’ where you get more information about its history and development. Moreover you can buy nice souvenirs in the shop if you need some presents for family and friends.
The lawn to your left was a former runway of the Presidio Army Base. The old Presidio buildings are lined along the hill to your left. Today, many of them are used for commercial and residential purposes. From the Presidio hills you have wonderful views over the Bay, the Pacific and of course Golden Gate Bridge.
From the path you have several possibilities to enter the beach. Coming here during summer months you might don't believe that in spring crowds of people are sunbathing here.
4th stop: Warming Hut
At the end of Crissy Field you come across the Warming Hut. The café and bistro sells delicious snacks and has a small souvenir shop with outlandish gifts.
Referring to the average temperatures in San Francisco the café carries the perfect name. For a nice view over the city’s skyline I recommend to enter the pier in front of the Warming Hut. Just be careful with the fishermen, most of them pay no attention to pedestrians when they wet their lines.
5th stop: Fort Point – (http://www.nps.gov/fopo/)
– during summer the Fort is open 7 days a week and the rest of the year from Fri-Sun 10am-5pm!
From the Warming Hut you can see Fort Point already. During winter and spring this area of the Bay becomes a popular surf spot. Most times the swell is so good that experienced short board surfer are having fun close to the shore and long boarders enjoy the waves below Golden Gate Bridge. They are great to watch but due to sharp rocks underneath the surface, strong currents, and sea traffic they surf in very dangerous spot.
Fort Point was a former deterrence to naval attacks in California. Today a small exhibition informs about the live of the army officers and soldiers in the Fort and shows uniforms from the time of the civil war.
The best vantage point over Golden Gate Bridge is from the roof.
If you like to join the crowds at the lookout on the hill above you, follow the way back towards the Warming Hut and take the steps to your right on Marina Drive.
At the Fort's exit is a tiny box collecting donations to keep the Fort open to public.
If you can spare some money I think it’s worth to support them.
Back at the Marina there are different possibilities how to spend the rest of the day:
You can explore the Marina and Cow Hollow neighborhood with its many shops, restaurants and bars. Just walk to Marina Bvld at the yacht harbor and make a right into Divisadero Street. Chestnut and Union Street are the main arteries of the two neighborhoods and fun to stroll along. Bus no. 30 takes you back to Union Square. Fisherman’s Wharf is a 10-minute walk away.
As alternative you can walk over to Fisherman’s Wharf or visit Alcatraz.
You get to the wharf and Pier 33 (Alcatraz ferry) by walking back to Fort Mason. To the right is a park. Take the path into the park and walk over the hill along the bayside. At the other end of the hill starts the area of Fisherman’s Wharf. Pier 33 is located along Embarcadero half height of Financial District and Ferry Building.
If you like you can also take the Cable Car from the Wharf (Hyde Street) to Union Square to go shopping the rest of the day. Besides the cable car the streetcar at Embarcadero takes you back San Francisco downtown as well.
You can also continue your walk along Hyde Street through Russian Hill and pass the curvy part of Lombard Street. If you take off to the left at Filbert Street and make a right into Polk you will have several cafés, restaurants, and shops to let the day fade out. From Polk Street you can take bus no. 2 or 3 back to Union Square. To Fisherman’s Wharf take bus 47 from Van Ness Avenue.
If you want to walk back to Union Square from Polk Street make sure you turn left before the height of Post Street! Otherwise you end up walking through the Tenderloin.