A Crosstown Trail adventure, sunrise to sunset

On a beautiful October day, Santa Cruz resident Philips Patton hiked the Crosstown Trail from Candlestick Point to Land’s End. He wandered off-trail to visit the Philosopher’s Way in McLaren Park, the ridgelines above Glen Canyon, Strawberry Hill in Golden Gate Park, and China Beach. You can follow his adventure here.

Transit-COVID Update, Fall 2020

After Spring 2020 service cuts, MUNI is once again starting to be a feasible option for making Crosstown Trail shuttle trips (with taxis and ride-sharing good alternatives).

At the start of the COVID-19 shutdown San Francisco cut MUNI service to about a dozen lines that mainly served hospitals and city offices. Ridership was restricted to essential workers and necessary trips. As the COVID situation stabilized and people began returning to work, MUNI resumed several downtown and crosstown routes in June and August 2020, and allowed shopping and recreational trips again.

Passengers must wear face masks on transit vehicles and at stops, and maintain 6 feet between you and your fellow passengers whenever possible. Drivers may skip stops if their bus is too crowded. (You may see a sign in the front window saying “drop-off only”). Even so, buses can still get more crowded than you may feel comfortable. But riding mid-day or reverse-commute, you and the driver may have the bus to yourselves. (It’s still too soon for groups to shuttle). Maintenance crews sanitize MUNI vehicles regularly, and there tend to be lots of windows open for ventilation.

The latest core service map PDF is on the SFMTA website. Laminated copies are also posted at each bus stop, whether or not the lines that stop there are running. (I saw several June maps in October, so be sure and check the date at bottom right).

Following are some of the changes since our Transit Access blogpost of 11/22/19.

In Section 1 of the Crosstown Trail, the T, 8, and 9 run frequently along the city’s east edge, and the 14 and 49 serve Mission Street. The 29, an epic crosstown route, gets you closest to Sunrise Point. (The 23 and 56 lines are NOT running).

In Sections 2 and 3, the 28, 29, 43 and 44 lines are good mid-town/cross-town routes. The K, L, and M run frequently past West Portal and Forest Hill Stations to/from downtown via Upper Market Street. (The 23, 36, 52, 6, and 66 lines are NOT running).

In sections 4 and 5, the N, 7, 5, 38, and 1 buses provide frequent east-west service. The 28 and 29 provide north-south service, crossing a number of east-west lines. (The 18 and 31 lines are NOT running).

For now, the 28 terminates at California Street, and the 43 line terminates at Geary and Masonic, so there is no service to the Golden Gate Bridge or Marina District from the western half of the City.

Something new: the 30 Stockton trolley bus now runs on battery power from the Marina along the north edge of the Presidio, terminating at Sports Basement. So coming from downtown, Chinatown, or North Beach you can start walking via Crissy Field and the Golden Gate Bridge or up through the Main Post, and connect with the Crosstown Trail between Mountain Lake and Baker Beach.

Through 2020, the J, K, N, L, M, and T light rail lines are served by buses; trains will resume sometime in 2021. Buses mainly use the same island stops as the streetcars, but on the T there are separate curb stops.

MUNI’s 1 California turns at 32nd Ave. providing access to Lincoln Park/Lands End (a foggy day in 2011)

MUNI Roulette” in Section 5:

Living in the Richmond District, a block from Golden Gate Park, I can walk a lot of places right out my door; my partner and I also drive a short ways to walk around our favorite lakes. But it’s refreshing to explore further from home, staying car-free. In the last six months I’ve done two MUNI-assisted city hikes to Lands End. Both went well, and I hope to continue.

One August afternoon, instead of crossing Fulton to Golden Gate Park, I hopped a 5 Fulton bus west to 43rd Ave, then walked up Ocean Beach, past the Cliff House, then joined the Crosstown Trail’s Section 1 around Lands End. I returned home via Lake St. and 23rd Ave (both of which are “slow streets”). The 5 had about a dozen passengers (all in the back, which wasn’t totally ideal, but just a 10-minute ride). Normally I’ve gotten as far as Lands End walking from home, so it was nice to go beyond the beyond. The walk was 4.5 miles.

On Indigenous People’s Day, I walked my partner to Geary Blvd., then continued north 2 blocks to California St. and hopped a nearly-empty 1 California bus west to 30th Ave. I paused to enjoy the colorful 32nd Ave. and California St. tiled steps, then went north along the old Ferries and Cliff House railroad grade to El Camino Del Mar, then along SFCT’s Section 5 on the Coastal Trail around Lands End toward Point Lobos. Pausing for oncoming hikers, feet on Ohlone land, was a good chance to view Miwok land across the Golden Gate, and glance down through the cypress trees at the crashing surf. At the Mile Rock Beach junction I made an emergency detour up the SFCT bike route through Lincoln Park golf course, to use the restroom at the NW corner of the Palace of the Legion of Honor. Then I walked the GGNRA’s East Fort Miley loop trail to Clement St. and sauntered south down 42nd Ave seven blocks to Golden Gate Park’s Chain of Lakes entrance. The 5 Fulton bus had 10-12 passengers, just full enough. This was a 6-mile loop, with 3.5 miles of it on my own two feet.

Just off Section 5, hidden between the Palace of the Legion of Honor and the VA Hospital, the Veterans Trail loops around East Fort Miley through restored coastal scrub habitat and several old gun emplacements. Facilities include a restroom and picnic area. It’s a useful connection to/from the outer Richmond District.

Get to know Visitacion Valley

Pork bao. Bean-to-bar chocolate. Coffee worth walking across town for. For your next Crosstown Trail adventure, make sure you arrive at Leland Avenue in Visitacion Valley when you’re hungry, thirsty, and ready to linger.

Wisteria along the Visitacion Valley Greenway

“Viz Valley,” at the southeast corner of San Francisco, is a diverse community with working-class roots. It once had the largest Maltese population outside Malta. Today, it’s home to multi-generational families, immigrants, artists, gardeners, and activists. A highlight, for locals and visitors alike, is the Visitacion Valley Greenway, six verdant parks that climb up from Leland, the neighborhood’s main street.

The award-winning Greenway is part of the Crosstown Trail, and many Trail visitors report that it’s one of their favorite discoveries.

Next to the Greenway’s Hans Schiller Plaza, at 144 Leland, is Mission Blue Gifts & Coffee, a dedicated supporter of the Trail since it opened. Proprietor Kellie McCord and her team have welcomed hikers with water and bananas, and they offer Crosstown Trail gear for sale. Inside, you’ll find jewelry and other work made by local artists as well as coffee from local roastery Saint Frank.

Mission Blue will celebrate their one-year anniversary on Saturday, September 26. Says Kellie, “It would bring us great joy if those of you who will be on the Crosstown Trail that day to stop by and say hello!”

Apparently, Kellie’s enthusiasm for the Crosstown Trail is infectious. Several other businesses along Leland would love to see you when you’re in the area. Stop in or, if appropriate, call ahead to place your order:

The Good Chocolate, 25 Leland Ave., (415) 336-4555: Organic, zero-sugar chocolate, made on the premises.

Frisco’s Family Deli, 28 Leland Ave., (415) 347-7077: Made-to-order sandwiches and Mediterranean specialties.

Leland Market, 65 Leland Ave., (415) 859-5560: Corner market with Latino and Asian specialties.

Taqueria El Buen Sabor No. 2, 98 Leland Ave., (415) 349-4134: See menu here.

Pho Luen Fat, 110 Leland Ave., (415) 585-1167: Banh mi, pho, other Vietnamese specialities.

Grub Kitchens, 167 Leland Ave., (415) 845-7915: American traditional; daily specials.

Visitacion Valley is on Section 1 of the Crosstown Trail. To plan your route, visit our maps and route descriptions page. And take this map of Leland Avenue and environs — the neighborhood also features a church designed by renowned architect Julia Morgan and a school with an intricate, glazed terra cotta Art Deco facade.

My Trip Across Town

The following is a guest blog post by Marcus Brandford, a student at UC Berkeley and recent San Francisco transplant who recently walked the Crosstown Trail and offered to share his about the experience.

By the beginning of May 2020 my days were starting to feel like reruns. For the last few months, most of my time was spent rotating between three modes: work (at the dining table), relaxation (on the living room couch) and ‘active’ (with walks around the block). I was eager to break out of my routines. And as lockdown restrictions started to lift, my friends and I began plotting an adventure to expand our quarantine horizons. I was looking forward to a casual beach day or a drive along the coast – something accessible and relaxing. So you can imagine my skepticism when, out of all our options, our group chose to spend a full day walking 17 miles across San Francisco via the Crosstown Trail.

I love cities and I love to walk, but I had never clocked anywhere close to 17 miles in a single day. I was nervous that I would be bored by mile six and in serious pain by mile ten, but my reluctance subsided once we began to actually plan our trip. As I studied the map, I realized that the Crosstown Trail was actually a perfectly packaged adventure that would show us pockets, parklets, and neighborhoods that none of us had ever seen before. So on a sunny Saturday morning with Philz cups in hand, backpacks full of layers, and cue sheets queued up, we set out on our journey.

For seven hours we weaved through the city, alternating between enclosed wooded trails and expansive city views. We saw houses representing every color of the pastel rainbow. We pumped our fists as residents along the trail leaned out their windows and cheered us on. Halfway into our journey, we ran into another group of hikers and excitedly exchanged info on where each group had been and what they could expect to see next. It was the first time I had talked to strangers in months. And it was all because we were members of the same quirky club, united by an invisible line that led us to cross paths.

I never loved the term ‘urban hike’ because I never fully understood it. Until a few weeks ago, I so closely associated the act of hiking with nature that I didn’t think it was possible to go on a hike within a city. To me, hiking suggests a focused journey through an open landscape. The way I experience cities, on the other hand, is usually about hopping between various points of interest (e.g. the bookstore, the bar, or the park) while the in-between spaces fade into the background. What made the Crosstown Trail special was that it brought intention and focus to the in-between areas that are so easily forgotten. By carving a path through the entirety of the city, the trail encouraged me to pay attention to the entirety of the city. Side streets and storefronts and trail heads that were once hiding suddenly emerged on the trail and showed me a layer of San Francisco I never knew about.

I was skeptical about walking the Crosstown Trail because I didn’t think it would be worth the 17 miles of walking that it required. But it turns out you can learn a lot about something by cutting it in half. A tree cut in half shows the many rings of its years and events that happened along the way. A clock cut in half shows the gears that make it tick. By cutting San Francisco in half, the Crosstown Trail gives a peek into both the complex history and the inner workings of a beautiful and unique city. When I reached the finish line I was tired and my legs were indeed very sore, but my trip was far from boring. And while the the soreness wore off after a few days, my new appreciation for the city has stuck with me ever since. 

Combine the Trail with a ‘slow street’

Like many cities dealing with the coronavirus, San Francisco has eliminated or limited car traffic on designated streets to give pedestrians and cyclists adequate space for social distancing. Several of these so-called slow streets connect with sections of the Crosstown Trail. Here are just a few ways you can combine the Trail with car-free walks and rides through the city’s parks and neighborhoods.

Section 1 of the Crosstown Trail

  • John F. Shelley Dr. between Mansell St. and Cambridge St. Loop through quiet McLaren Park, through redwood groves and up to the Water Tower for panoramic city views. You can also explore the park’s network of interior trails.

Section 2

  • Chenery St. between Lippard Ave. and Elk St. From Chenery, continue up the Crosstown Trail through Glen Canyon or explore Glen Park’s hillside lanes and gardens.
  • Twin Peaks Blvd. between Panorama Dr. and Burnett Ave. Walk on the closed roadway or on the Creeks to Peaks Trail. While you’re up there, hike up the twin peaks: Noe and Eureka.

Section 3

  • Kirkham St. between 7th Ave. and the Great Highway. At 15th Ave., pick up the Crosstown Trail to climb the Hidden Garden Steps and continue to the 16th Ave. Tiled Steps and Grandview Park.

Section 4

  • John F. Kennedy Dr. between Kezar Dr. and Transverse Dr. Visit Golden Gate Park’s iconic sights, from the Conservatory of Flowers to the Music Concourse, or head east toward the new Oak Woodlands Trail.

Section 5

  • Lake St. between 2nd Ave. and 28th Ave. Lake meets the Crosstown Trail at Park Presidio Blvd. Explore Mountain Lake, one of SF’s three natural lakes (can you name the other two?) and the Presidio’s large network of trails.

Before you go, check the slow streets website for updates — more streets are added weekly — and download our own maps and route descriptions. Go solo or with household members, wear a face covering, and keep at least six feet apart from anyone not in your household.

How to Create an Instant Urban Trail

Hear the story of how a trail was created by a small group in a year-and-a-half for $600 and learn the trail components incorporated to make the trail so popular.

Presented by:

Part of the California Trails and Greenways webinar series.

July 09, 2020

10:00 AM to 11:30 AM (Pacific Time)

Register for free at https://www.americantrails.org/training/how-to-create-an-instant-urban-trail

Celebrate the Trail’s first birthday

In June 2019, we launched the San Francisco Crosstown Trail, crossing our fingers that people would explore and enjoy it. And you have. The Trail is now a huge attraction for walkers, runners, and cyclists — both local and from afar.

We’re celebrating the Trail’s first anniversary by inviting you to venture out on your own, during the entire month of June. Choose your day and your distance — any of the Trail’s five segments or the entire 17 miles.

Our celebration is spread across the whole month to avoid crowding. Keep these things in mind to keep parks and neighborhoods safe and healthy:

  • Go solo or with members of your own household. 
  • Bring a face covering and wear it when you are within 30 feet of others.
  • Keep at least six feet apart from people not part of your household.
  • Carry water and hand sanitizer.
  • Wait to walk the trail at a later date if you have to travel from out of town to get there. Celebrate with a walk at your local park instead.
  • Stay home if you feel sick.

Go to our maps and route descriptions page for current maps, app, and directions. Note that the Laguna Honda trail system is closed until further notice. Use Woodside Ave. as a detour between Twin Peaks Blvd. and Forest Hill MUNI.

City parks are generally open for water and restroom breaks, but the same may not be true for state and national parks — it’s good to check ahead of time.

No doubt, there are plenty of trails, streets, and open spaces right in your own neighborhood for you, your family, and friends to explore. Together Bay Area has put together a handy “know before you go” guide to our regional parks. Enjoy (safely and responsibly) as much healthy outdoor exercise as you can this and every month.

Whatever you do, don’t forget to follow our Facebook and Instagram feeds for updates, photos, and stories.

Trail Status Update

In today’s world, getting outside is important. The current recommendation is to stay close to home. Only travel with your own household, and try to stay 6′ apart from others you may encounter. Wear a mask when you get this close to others.

Explore your neighborhood! If you visit the Crosstown Trail, here are some updates you should be aware of.

Candlestick State Recreation Area Parking Closed

Candlestick State Park is temporarily closed to vehicular access, meaning there are no parking facilities and parking on roadways is prohibited. The park is open to local residents.

Laguna Honda Trails Open

The Laguna Honda Community Trail System are open as of April 23, 2021. (They had been closed from March 23rd 2020 to April 23, 2021 to protect the safety of the staff and residents.)

Laguna Honda Closure Info

SF Rec and Park Trails Open

From SF Rec & Park: “During these unprecedented times, we would like to assure you that our parks, trails and open spaces remain open to allow people to go outside and get some fresh air. Parks provide many benefits that are essential to the wellbeing of our communities. Exercise and spending time in nature can improve both our mental and physical health. Spending just 20 minutes a day outdoors can significantly lower stress hormones while regular exercise can boost our cardiovascular health and immune system.”

Note that playgrounds and facilities are closed; Read more about SF Rec and Park status.

Forest Hill Muni Station Improvements Complete

The Forest Hill Irrigation Improvement Project is completed as of mid-August 2020. Check out the new Nature Exploration Area.

Forest Hill Info

Baker Beach Access Open

The Baker Beach Green Streets project is complete as of late July 2020.

Baker Beach Green Streets Project Info

Last updated 4/24/21

Dec. 24 hike: Glen Park to Mountain Lake

Photo: Pat Koren

Join us for a Christmas Eve hike on an 8-mile stretch of the Crosstown Trail, through Glen Canyon, Laguna Honda’s trail network, the stairways of Forest Hill and Golden Gate Heights, and Golden Gate Park. Meet at the Glen Park BART station; finish at Mountain Lake Park. Terrain is a mix of trails, sidewalks, and stairs. Bring water, snacks, and a brown-bag lunch. We’ll take a few bio-breaks along the route. Heavy rain cancels.

When: Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Start: Meet at the Glen Park BART station entry plaza. Arrive in time for a prompt 10 a.m. departure.

Finish: Mountain Lake Park, approximately 2 p.m. Convenient to the 1 California and other transit

Hike leader: Karen Rhodes

RSVP on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/478104129728920/

Transit Along the Crosstown Trail*

Map H, version 64, updated 12/5/19

*Note: MUNI sharply curtailed service in April 2020 to protect riders and operators during the COVID pandemic. Check our Fall 2020 Core Service update to learn what lines are back in service, and riding tips for the new normal. ( 10/16/20)

Section 1: Sunrise Point is the one Crosstown Trail start/end point that is not directly on a transit line. Learn how to get to Candlestick Point State Recreation Area from MUNI’s T, 56, and 29 and Caltrain.

Section 1: Bayshore Blvd and Arleta Station are served by MUNI T, 8, 9, and 56. Caltrain’s Bayshore Station is 2 blocks south of Blanken Ave. via Tunnel Ave.. SamTrans 292 and 397 also stop nearby on Bayshore Blvd.

Along Section 1: Near Visitation Valley Greenway the eastbound 56 runs on Leland and the wesbound 56 stops high up the hill at Wilde and Delta. The 29 runs along the top of McLaren Park on Mansell Dr., and the 44 runs along Silver St. As you cross Mission St. you can catch the 14 and 23.

Sections 1/2: Glen Park BART is served by MUNI 23, 35, 36, 44, and 52. The J stops one block south of the BART station (via an overpass and stairs off Diamond St.).

Along Section 2: MUNI 36, 44, 48, and 52 stop at Portola and Woodside Drives (near Tower Market and Ruth Asawa School of the Arts). The 36 also loops past Panorama and Cityview (1 block from the Troop 88 Trail).

Section 2/3: Forest Hill MUNI Station is served by the 36, 43, 44, and 52 buses, and K, L, and M Metro lines.

Along Section 3: MUNI 6 ends at 14th Ave. and Quinatara, which is roughly the midpoint of the trail. The 66 runs past the foot of the Moraga and 16th Ave. stairs.

Section 3/4: Judah St. and 16th Ave. is along the N Judah light rail line. The eastbound N stops right here; the westbound stop is 1 block east at 15th Ave..

Along Section 4 at the Lincoln Way/19th Ave. entrance of Golden Gate Park you can catch the 7, 28 and 29. Near the Rose Garden entrance at Fulton and Park-Presidio Blvd. you can catch the 5/5R and 28. The 44 stops inside the park in front of the DeYoung Museum and Academy of Sciences (a 12-minute walk east of Stow Lake)

Section 4/5: Geary Blvd. and Park Presidio Blvd. is where MUNI’s 38R and 28 lines cross.

Along Section 5: At California St. you can catch the 1 bus. (The 44 no longer stops here but you can catch it at 6th and Clement).

The hiking route next crosses the 29 at Lincoln Blvd. in the Presidio; the bike route on Lake St. crosses the 29 at 25th Ave..

At El Camino Del Mar and 32nd Ave. you are 2 blocks north of the 1 bus on California St.. The bike route goes past the 18 terminus opposite the Palace of the Legion of Honor.

Section 5: Lands End Lookout visitor center is 1 block from the 38R Point Lobos terminus. Go east up Point Lobos Ave. 1 block to 48th Ave.; go right at the signal and board the bus at the front of the line. (Coming west, some 38s end at the VA Hospital; check the destination sign).

If you go west past the Cliff House to the Great Highway, turn left 1 block on Balboa St. and right 1 block on La Playa to the Ocean Beach terminus where you can catch the 5/5R, 18, and 31.

Notes: Most MUNI transit shelters have a MUNI system map and frequency chart. You can get a PDF of the MUNI system map at SFMTA.com.

Public Transit Tips:
MUNI busses have wheelchair ramps and room for two wheelchairs; most buses also have front-mounted racks for 2 bikes. MUNI light rail lines (J, K/T, L, M, N) do not allow bicycles, and only certain “key stops” are wheelchair-accessible. Bikes are allowed on Caltrain and BART (check for restrictions). More information at sfmta.gov, BART.gov, and 511.org. Most MUNI bus shelters and stations have detailed route maps, which are also available online from SFMTA.

If you have a Clipper card, Fast Pass or Proof of Payment (POP, AKA a transfer), you can board any door; tap your card at the reader or keep your POP handy. For cash fares please board at the front (there is a small surcharge for cash fares). Transfers are good for 2 hours. See MUNI shelters or SFMTA.com for current fares, including senior and youth discounts. Drivers cannot make change.

Groups: If you are planning a group outing using public transit, having people arrive at one of the trail’s start points will give you a lot of options. Paying fares for a large group can be time-consuming and chaotic, so I like to plan my outings so our groups board lines that runs articulated busses (like the 5R, 7, 14, and 38R), light rail lines (J, K, L, M, N) and/or at a terminus. It doesn’t delay the bus as much (good for the driver and your fellow passengers).

Sometimes drivers ask one person to count noses, pay all the fares, and then distribute the proofs of payment to your group. At the start of the line sometimes there’s time for each person to pay their fare and collect their POP. If you transfer, your group can board the next vehicle at any door.

Boarding at the start, have your group take up a block of seats towards the middle or back; mid-route you may have to disperse into available spaces. (Of course folks should give seat priority to seniors, and people with disabilities). Keep backpacks by your feet so they take up less room.