But you shouldn’t let a few changes in elevation keep you from walking your way around San Francisco. There’s no better way to experience all of our unique neighborhoods. Here are some ways you can see the city on foot without getting too tired.
Follow the Muni Map
The SFMTA’s bus system crisscrosses the entire city, from Ocean Beach to Dogpatch. It’s a remarkably thorough system, so you might wonder why certain roads aren’t serviced by Muni buses. The answer: hills! Some climbs in the city are too steep for even a biodiesel bus to make. So when you decide to explore Pacific Heights or Russian Hill, have a Muni map handy. Opting for a few shortcuts on a Muni vehicle will save your legs some strain, and save you some time if you’re running late to your next destination.
Take the Stairs
If you don’t want the Muni routes to determine your travels, you can wander freely knowing that some of the steepest slopes in San Francisco have stairs. Some are elaborate wooden structures shrouded in greenery; others are solid cement and chiseled right into the sidewalk. Just another example of the clever urban engineering throughout the city, these stairways connect neighborhoods that otherwise would be isolated.
Want to explore Lincoln Park? Start your journey at the west end of California Street with the beautifully tiled Lincoln Steps. Looking for an outdoor adventure? Taking the Esmerelda stairs into Bernal Heights Park is a genuine walk in the woods (with some super slides along the way if you’re feeling playful). In the mood to see a spectacular view? try the steps that wind their way to the top of Corona Heights Park (be careful; they don’t have handrails). Sticking close to shops and restaurants? Most of Fillmore Street has steps cut into the sidewalk to ease your trek between Pacific Heights and the Marina. Want to see classic San Francisco sights? A total of 400 steps can take you up Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower for some spectacular views, and nearby in Russian Hill are the steps to Macondray Lane, which inspired the setting of Armistead Maupin’s famous Tales of the City (and appeared in the TV miniseries based on the novels).
There are a few easy things to do to ensure your walk is most enjoyable. First, make sure you’re wearing supportive and comfortable footwear. Second, remember that weather changes frequently in San Francisco, and the difference from neighborhood to neighborhood can be stark. Have a lightweight jacket with you for when the fog rolls in. Finally, take some water with you. Carry a reusable water bottle. It spares the environment one more plastic bottle, and the water that comes to San Francisco from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is among the best in the world.
Editor’s note: If you’re planning a walking trip to San Francisco, first visit Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory where you’ll find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to area Wineries and Craft Beer purveyors.