Sunday 27 January 2013

San Francisco North Shore/Telegraph Hill Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 9.27 km (5.8 miles), terrain goes up two 50m hills, total gain 124m

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.

The northeast corner of San Francisco is worth exploring. The bayside shore is varied, with inspiring views, and then you have Telegraph Hill and Russian Hill, with the legendary Lombard Street serpentine to tackle.

NOTE: see the Destinations Tips page for tips about spending your free time in this great town!
This run starts at the same place as Heather Marr's classic Marina Green to Golden Gate run, at Marina Green. But this one heads east, taking in the other end of the shoreline, with its beaches, harbors and wharves. It will first go by Fort Mason, then passing the Aquatic Park beach, with the Maritime National Historic Park ships and Alcrataz in the background. It will then go past the fishing harbor and touristy Fisherman's Wharf, then pass more wharves until heading up the jungley gardens of the Filbert Steps to Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill. Then it cuts through North Beach, the old Little Italy neighborhood that was the center of the 1950s beatnik scene. It then follows Lombard Street's serpentine up Russian Hill before heading back to Marina Green.
View to Golden Gate Bridge, photo by Ernest Gaudreau
This is a tough run, with two hills on your way back to the start, but well worth it. Sound like something for you? All right, here we go!

The San Francisco North Shore Route
So get yourself to the start, at the west end of Marina Green, at Marina Blvd and Scott Street. Take a look at the Golden Gate Bridge to your left, behind the marina boats, and look out at Angel Island and Alcatraz out in the bay. Now turn to the east and run along the shore, with the water to your left.

You'll have to turn right at the far end of the of the green, at the next marina. Just follow the water until you run through the parking lot. You'll pass the entrance to the Ft. Mason Center, and then come to the parkland of Ft. Mason itself. Turn left into the park.
Fort Mason view to Alcatraz, photo by Curtis Cronn
Follow the path along the left side of Ft. Mason Green. To your right, there is a bluff with an old Civil-War-era battery with its cannons, the Black Point Battery. 

You will come to the Municipal Pier curving out into the bay. Turn right here to follow the cove, running into Aquatic Park, with its beach. There are historic ships docked-up on the far side of the cove, at Hyde Street Pier, in the Marine National Historic Park. If you like old ships, like me, you'll want to come back here later!
Historic ships, seen from pier, with Telegraph Hill and city, photo by Florence Wang
At the far end of the beach, you'll continue running eastwards along Jefferson Street.

You are now entering the fishing harbor, with fishing boats on the left, and restaurants on the right. The street gets more touristy with each block.

At Taylor Street, you come to Fisherman's Wharf, where you keep left to stay along the water.
Fisherman's Wharf, photo by Nick Ares
The Embarcadero (bayfront street lined with wharves) begins here. Keep running along the water as the street curves to the right.

When you come to Pier 23, cross the Embarcadero and run westwards through the park, where you come to Levi Plaza, between two red-brick buildings (the Levi Strauss headquarters). You will see the white cylinder of Coit Tower atop the cliffs behind the buildings.

Run straight to the stairway going up the cliffs of Telegraph Hill. This is the Filbert Street Steps. Follow them up through jungley vegetation and various hidden gardens, each a unique little jewel, kept up by the people who live here. It reminds me of Cremorne in Sydney, if you were ever there. Keep your eyes open for the green parrots that live here.
Filbert steps, photo by Jenn Deering Davis
You decide if you run or walk up the steps. A brisk walking pace is enough for me.
Filbert steps jungle, photo by Katrin Schaefer
When you get up to Montgomery Street, turn right and run down to the end to the abandoned Julius Castle restaurant. Turn left to go up the brick Greenwich Steps to Coit Tower above, among more jungle.

You are now in Pioneer Park, with a great view out over the bay, and Coit Tower to the side.

Run to the tower and then follow the path down the hill through the park, as it then curves into Lombard Street.
Coit Tower, photo by Lies van Herreweghe
You are now running directly westwards, first going downhill. You'll cross Grant Avenue, San Francisco's oldest street. Beginning at Stockton Street, you're in North Beach, the city's bohemian heart, home to beats like Kerouak and Ginsberg.

When you cross Columbus Avenue (home of the legendary City Lights Bookstore), the street starts going uphill again, up Russian Hill. In three blocks, you'll come to the famous serpentine, with its beautiful gardens, going up the steep section of the hill.

You'll cross the main cable-car line at the top, and then start running downhill. From now on there are no more uphill stretches (Hooray!).
Lombard Street serpentine, photo by Doug Kerr
Run one block to Larkin Street, where we will turn right (Lombard Street turns into a major highway in just a couple of blocks, so let's avoid it). Larkin Street curves to the left, going down to Francisco Street.

NOTE: The famous chase scene in Bullitt went down this way, and followed basically the whole rest of the route.

Now follow Francisco six blocks until it ends at a baseball field. Turn right here at Laguna Street, heading north.

In just one block, you'll be back at Fort Mason Green, on the right side. Run north on the park path parallel to Laguna Street until you come back to the entrance to the Ft. Mason Center again.

Now just follow the same way back to Marina Green as the way you first came.


  1. Nice blog! Not only for running routes, also for travelling inspiration :-)

  2. Thanks! Traveling always inspires me, too.