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.

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.

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.

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.

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/

“The Walker’s Map of SF” now features Crosstown Trail

First published in 2010, The Walker’s Map of San Francisco, by Pease Press, is a complete map of the city, showing every trail, stairway, and park, plus neighborhood commercial areas, scenic vistas, and MUNI routes.

The new, fourth edition (released in July 2019), includes the Crosstown Trail; an inset map of Mount Sutro (including the Bay Area Ridge Trail reroute); new trails at Laguna Honda and Golden Gate Park; and bike routes on city streets. The expanded text briefly describes major parks throughout the city, and includes an extensive list of books, websites, park agency contacts, and dog information.

The map goes beyond the county line to include Angel Island, Alcatraz, and the Marin Headlands to the north, plus San Bruno Mountain on our southern horizon. Cartographer Ben Pease calls it “a tourist map for locals, and a local map for tourists. It won’t follow you around like an app, but you can see the whole city at once in full detail.”

Pease is also the official cartographer for the Crosstown Trail. “This is a great map for seeing all the trails that link to the Trail, both within parks and regionally, such as the Coastal, Ridge, Bay, and Anza trails,” he says. “And you can also see all the MUNI connections to and from the trailheads.”

Ordering info can be found at https://peasepress.com/sf.html. Suggested retail price is $7.95 plus tax. You can also find the map at many San Francisco bookstores, including:

  • Bird and Beckett (in Glen Park, 2 blocks from the Crosstown Trail) 
  • Green Apple Books (on Clement and at the Park)
  • Dog Eared Books (on Valencia and in the Castro) 
  • The Green Arcade (Market at Gough) 
  • City Lights (Columbus and Broadway)
Cover and McLaren Park detail. The Crosstown Trail is shown with logos and a thin blue stripe (a little fainter than intended; the official map is a good companion). -bp

Peace and Unity Celebration at the Greenway, Aug. 17

Our friends at the Visitacion Valley Greenway invite you to a Peace and Unity Celebration on Saturday, Aug. 17, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Live music, clowns, and artists will be stationed along the walkways of the Greenway, starting at the Children’s Play Garden and branching into the Herb Garden and the Agriculture Garden. Underpass Brass Band, Dueto Arte, Mr. Choy’s trio, classical violinist David Cheng and more! Book and Wheel’s Chispa Cart debut! Dog costume contest, activities for children, local beekeepers, community arts and crafts. Bring a picnic and a blanket to sit on, and a dish to share for our multicultural potluck!

July 21 hike: Mountain Lake Park to Glen Park BART

Join us for an 8-mile hike along a particularly scenic and varied stretch of the Crosstown Trail, from Mountain Lake Park in the Richmond to Glen Park BART. Sights include the Park Presidio Greenway, Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park, tiled stairways and the Green Hairstreak Corridor ecological restoration in Golden Gate Heights, Laguna Honda Hospital’s farm and garden, and Glen Canyon’s restored riparian habitat. Meet at the Mountain Lake Park Playground (near Funston Ave. & Lake St.). Restrooms at start. Bring water and snacks; we’ll take a few bio-breaks along the route, which finishes at Glen Park BART. Both the start and finish are well-served by transit.

When: Sunday, July 21, 2019

Start: Meet at the Mountain Lake Park playground, just north of Lake St. near Funston Ave. Arrive in time for a prompt 10 a.m. departure.

Finish: Glen Park BART station, approximately 2 p.m.

Hike leader: Karen Rhodes

RSVP on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/2066416320320511/

Opening weekend draws more than 200 hikers and cyclists

Karen Rhodes | June 19, 2019

The Visitacion Valley Greenway | Karen Rhodes photo

“What if I hosted a hike across San Francisco and nobody came?” Such were my thoughts as I stood at Candlestick Point, at the southeast corner of the city, on the morning of Saturday, June 1. I had offered to lead a hike along the brand-new Crosstown Trail, which reaches all the way to Lands End at the northwest. Word had gone out to a remarkably large network of open-space enthusiasts. Now, would anyone show up?

First, hiking partners Debra and John strode up. Then, four women who came all the way from San Carlos. All told, more than 25 urban explorers joined me for an 8-mile hike through the verdant Visitacion Valley Greenway, McLaren Park’s redwood trees, and Glen Canyon, once slated for a freeway but now restored as a riparian habitat.

A highlight was our visit to the Virginia Leishman Farm and Garden, hidden amid a tangle of forested trails above Laguna Honda Hospital and offering animal-assisted therapy and horticulture to hospital residents. Who knew there were goats – and pigs, and sheep – in San Francisco?

Virginia Leishman Farm & Garden | Pat Koren photo

I needn’t have worried about interest in the new trail. I led a second hike the next day, covering the northern half of the trail from Lands End to Forest Hill, that drew more than 30 participants. In tandem, my colleagues in our all-volunteer Crosstown Trail Coalition were leading full-trail hikes, a bike ride, a naturalist-guided hike, and even a run.

Along the way, we came across plenty of folks doing the trail on their own, using the maps and cue sheets we have posted at https://crosstowntrail.org/map/.

“My opening-day hike on the Crosstown Trail is now one of my all-time favorite San Francisco memories.” “A picture-perfect day – we got to see parts of the city we had never seen before.” Response to our opening weekend has been tremendous. Now, all we need to do is organize more hikes and rides, so that residents and visitors alike can enjoy this new jewel in San Francisco’s crown of parklands, streetscapes, and public open space. Join us!

Here is just a sampling of Crosstown Trail opening-weekend media coverage:

SF’s new 17-mile trail offers look at rarely seen areas (San Francisco Chronicle)

The Most Scenic Spots on San Francisco’s New 17-Mile Crosstown Trail (AFAR)

New 17-Mile ‘San Francisco Crosstown Trail’ Connects City’s Parks, Hiking Trails, and Little-Known Outdoor Gems (SFist)

Trekking SF’s new Crosstown Trail this weekend? We rounded up tips from people who have done it (SFGate)