Sunday 27 January 2013

San Francisco Downtown Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 4.76 km (3 miles), terrain goes up a big hill, total gain 122 meters

Pictures courtesy of the creative folks at Flickr Creative Commons. Thanks! 

San Francisco running routes:
Best San Francisco Running Routes: Overview
Marina Green to Golden Gate
Downtown/Embarcadero/Chinatown/Nob Hill
Ft. Mason/Fisherman's Wharf/Telegraph Hill/Lombard Street
Golden Gate Park
For more running routes, see Route List.

San Francisco has to be one of the most fascinating cities to run in. The terrain is varied, challenging and is full of natural and man-made scenic wonders. There are wonderful parks, beautiful neighborhoods, creative people, hilltop vistas and a seemingly endless shoreline. What can I say, for me it was love at first sight.

Here is a route that will take you through the main downtown sights, through old San Francisco. We'll start in the heart of town, at Union Square, then run down the main shopping area, Market Street to the Embarcadero ferry terminal at the water. Then we'll head uphill through Chinatown to the top of Nob Hill, the ritziest part of town, before following the cable-car tracks back down to the start.

NOTE: if you don't feel up to the Nob Hill climb (a rise of more than 100 meters), just keep running north along the bayshore at the Embarcadero, and turn back whenever you choose.

Union Square, photo by Wally Gobetz
Standing there on Union Square, at the foot of the tall column topped by a statue of Admiral George Dewey, you are surrounded by high-end retail names: Tiffany, Saks, Macy's, Bloomingdale's among many others. Sad that the wonderful Borders bookstore is now closed. It was the first bookstore that I had ever experienced with its own café and its "please browse" attitude, back in the 1990s.

NOTE: see the Destinations Tips page for tips about spending your free time in this great town!
Turn to the east, with Macy's to your right, and start running down Geary Street. Run straight down the street until it merges into Market Street, where you then head northeast. You can see the clock-tower of the old Embarcadero ferry terminal straight down the street, our next destination.

Market Street is one of the busiest downtown streets, and forms the main traffic artery for downtown. But the amount of cars is surprisingly limited. There are lots of electric buses and bicycles fighting for the space.
Historic trams along Market Street, photo by Paul Fenton
My favorite thing about Market Street is the F-Line trams, a collection of historic trams that travel a 6-mile route from Castro to the Embarcadero and then northwards to Fishermen's Wharf. They have been brought here from cities all over the world, and they travel the line wearing their old colors.

After about 700 meters, Market Street ends at the impressive Embarcadero, terminal for ferries across the bay.
The ferry terminal in evening light, photo by Michael Ball
Turn left on the Embarcadero and run to the next bayside building, Pier 1. Now turn left and cross the street to head up Washington Street, past Sue Bierman Park on the left side.
Embarcadero from the bayside, photo by David Yu
You are heading back through the downtown, running due west, and after a few blocks you'll run past the captivating pyramid of the Transamerica Tower.
Transamerica Building pyramid, photo by Scott Beale
When you cross Kearny Street, you'll enter Chinatown. You'll also start running uphill. You'll gain 100 meters until you reach the top, at Nob Hill.

But first you get to enjoy the unique atmosphere of Chinatown. You will cross Stockton Street, which is Chinatown's main street, full of Chinese restaurants and food stores. Definitely plan time to come back!
Chinatown, photo by David Yu
Keep running uphill on Washington Street.  When you cross Powell Street, you'll cross the main cable-car tracks that head to Fishermen's Wharf, and one line turns onto Washington here and will accompany you uphill on your way west.

In the next block, the houses start getting nicer, you're getting into Nob Hill, San Francisco's oldest exclusive neighborhood.
Nob Hill, photo by Pablo Reyes Betanzo
When you cross Taylor Street, you'll see some beautiful bay-windowed houses to each side. In just one more block you'll reach the very top of the hill (yea!).

Now turn left on Jones Street and run one block to Clay Street, where you turn left and run back downhill one block to Taylor Street again (this is nicer than Jones).

Now turn right on Taylor and run the two blocks to the heart of Nob Hill, Huntington Park, with Grace (Episcopal) Cathedral on the right side.

NOTE: Some of the scenes of the movie Bullitt were filmed around this square, and Steve McQueen lived on Taylor Street in the film, if you're a fan like I am.
Huntington Park, photo by Pablo Reyes Betanzo
On the far side of the park, turn left on California Street and run by the beautiful ensemble of buildings: the Huntington Hotel, the Pacific Union Club, the Fairmont Hotel and the Mark Hotel, with views in every direction.

Now run downhill the one block to Powell Street and its cable-car tracks again, where you turn right and continue running downhill, southwards the four blocks back to Union Square.

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