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.

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.