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Land's End: The Wildest Place in the City

Hike along the cliffs, explore hidden beaches and marvel at the views


Land's End: The Wildest Place in the City
Photo by Ocean Malandra
Standing at the edge of the continent gazing out upon the open Pacific from the majestic cliffs of Land's End is the perfect counterpoint to the hustle and bustle of downtown San Francisco, just a couple of miles away. Here you can leave civilization behind completely as you wander along past wind sculpted Monterrey Cypresses hundreds of feet above the crashing surf. Keep your eye out for sea lions, dolphins and even the mighty spout of migrating whales as you enjoy the city's most dramatic natural scenery.

Visiting Land's End

Land's End is located at the far end of the Richmond District, at San Francisco's extreme northwest corner. It is right next to the famous Cliff House, a popular stop on bus tours of the city, and continues as a rugged wild are along the northern coastline all the way to the Seacliff neighborhood.

To get to Land's End on public transit, take the the 38 Geary Muni Bus from Union Square all the way to the end of the line at 48th Avenue and Point Lobos, which is right across the street from the Visitor's Center.

The Land's End Lookout Visitor's Center

Located right at the beginning of the Land's End Trail and up on the cliffs overlooking the Sutro Baths and the Pacific Ocean, this 4,000 square foot facility houses a cafe, a retail shop and interpretive exhibits that describe the ecological features of the area.
  • Address: 2-22 Merrie Way, Golden Gate National Recreation Area
  • Hours: 9am to 5pm Daily
  • Contact: (415) 561-4323 www.parksconservatory.org

Hiking the Land's End Trail

The 3.5 mile round trip trail follows the clifftops pretty much the whole way. For those that are keen on exploring the city by foot the trail can also be hiked one way, as it connects to Ocean Beach on one side and the many attractions of the Richmond District on the other.

From the Visitor Center parking lot, the Land's End Trailhead is clearly marked, but you may want to climb down the steps to explore the Sutro Baths first. The ruins of historic 19th bathouse, which once accomodated up to 25,000 guests a day, the Sutro Baths lie right in front of the raging Pacific Ocean. Follow a trail here to the north to enter a cave-like tunnel through the headlands to a rocky outcrop over the crashing surf looking out at the mouth of the San Francisco Bay.

Back at the Land's End trail head, the path follows a flat track along the top of the cliffs and there are sweeping views out over the ocean along the first quarter mile. This is the best area for spotting whales as they migrate up and down the California coast in the spring and fall.

The trail soon comes to a lookout point before turning right and continuing eastwards along the entrance to the bay. At the lookout point, which offers panoramic views of the Marin Headlands to the north, stop to check out the USS San Francisco Memorial. The memorial is made from parts of the battleship, which saw heavy action during World War II.

From here the trail paths through Cypress trees and over a wildflower covered small hill. After the hill the path hugs the clifftop even closer and peeks of the Golden Gate Bridge and the inner bay beyond become more frequent. Down below, free standing rocks break the waves, forming calmer areas of water where dolphins commonly are seen.

Just after the hill, there is a an optional detour path down to Eagles Point Lookout and a headland where a local artist has built a labyrinth. From here another trail leads down to a small rocky beach. Other trails wind up and down the cliffs here and there are several different vista points that are perfect for picnics or just a relaxing moment.

Back up on the top of the cliffs the trail feels even more remote and winds through some thick vegetation at several points before breaking into the clear along Lincoln Park above you. Trails lead off into the park, which houses the Palace of the Legion of Honor and a public golf course.

The trail ends just after a final vista point where Golden Gate Bridge is visible in front of you as well as the verdant Presidio National Park, and the cove lined shore up ahead is home to some of San Francisco's most scenic beaches, including Baker and China Beach. You can continue on foot through the Sea Cliff area to the beaches or turn and cross Lincoln Park to get back to the Richmond District.

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