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Walking the Ocean Beach Trail in San Francisco (With Photos)

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Trail to the Cliff House along San Francisco Bay

Trail to the Cliff House along San Francisco Bay

A Few Must-See San Francisco Attractions

This post will showcase many of the photos taken during a hike my husband and I did many years ago along California's San Francisco Bay between Lincoln Park and the famous Cliff House and Sutro Baths. Much of the hike was along the edges of cliffs. If you have not personally hiked this trail and viewed these attractions, I hope these pictures will let you realize a little more about the spectacular scenery that can be enjoyed along the way.

The California Palace of the Legion of Honor

My husband and I had just finished spending some enjoyable time in the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. This fabulous museum houses one of the world's most significant collections of Rodin sculptures and centuries' worth of European art. After spending several hours inside the museum, absorbing what we could of some of the beautiful selections of art, tapestries, sculptures, and more, we decided to enjoy some fresh air and some exercise.

The Ocean Beach Trail to the Cliff House and Sutro Baths

In meandering around the museum grounds, we discovered a trail that would take one to the Cliff House and Sutro Baths. The day could not have been better had we ordered it up special. A crispness to the air with the bright sun shining made this perfect for wearing sweaters, and we were already wearing good athletic shoes since we knew that we would be on our feet exploring different areas around San Francisco. Thus we were well prepared for this three-mile round trip hike when we happened upon this discovery.

As the many photos to follow will show, sometimes the trail went inland just a bit; however, most of the hiking trail took one alongside the cliffs, which dropped dramatically in places down to the Pacific.

All along the trail were not only the incredible images looking down at the waves crashing against the rocky cliff shoreline but also more intimate sightings like those of wildflowers. My husband and I had started our vacation in late April, and there is a profusion of flowering vegetation (both wild and domesticated) in California that time of year.

The Ocean Beach Trail (Coastal Hiking Path)

As we were making our way along the coastal hiking path, there were many signs along the way, pointing out the more dangerous places. Some of the cliffs had a sheer drop off point, and in other areas, the ground must be unstable as slides had occurred.

It was thrilling to be near enough to see the wildness of this portion of the San Francisco Bay coastline, and yet it certainly behooves one to be cautious and adhere to at least normal parameters of staying safe. Some people, in our opinion, were pushing the limits of that safety.

As we continued along the path, each twist and turn brought new views. We and others along the same hiking trail seemed to be enjoying the scenery on this glorious day. As we got closer to the Cliff House and Sutro Baths, the trail brings one a little closer to the crashing surf and more warning signs.

The Cliff House Landmark Building

The Cliff House is a landmark building located on the northwest side of San Francisco. It has attracted visitors for over a century and continues to do the same today. It sits on a promontory of San Francisco Bay overlooking Seal Rock, aptly named as one can almost always spot seals residing on those jutting rocks just offshore. The physical address is 1090 Point Lobos Ave., San Francisco, CA 94121.

This spot showcases stunning views of natural oceanside beauty. The first visitors that made an effort to visit from San Francisco arrived by horse and carriage. Various incarnations of the Cliff House have been on that same spot over the years, the largest and most grand being a multi-storied Victorian structure that sadly burned to the ground in 1907 after having survived the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

Today visitors can enjoy panoramic views while dining on-site from the very casual Bistro Restaurant. We stopped there to take a short rest and grab a bite to eat. There is also the more formal Sutro's Restaurant on site. In the Terrace Room, a Sunday brunch takes place.

We happened to take this hike and visit this spot in 1991. Since then, in 2003, a two-story wing has been added, which overlooks the bath ruins.

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Sutro Bath Ruins

In the same year of 1896, Adolph Sutro (a wealthy entrepreneur and former mayor of San Francisco) built the very fancy multi-story Cliff House that simulated a Victorian chateau. He also had the baths constructed.

At that time, the Sutro Baths comprised the largest indoor swimming pool complex in the world. The construction's engineering feat was admirable, consisting of one fresh water pool and six saltwater pools.

Each hour when the tide was high, the saltwater pools would have the water naturally circulated and replenished, and at low tide, a series of pumps accomplished the same effect in five hours. Heaters kept the water temperatures controlled. This feat was no small scale enterprise!

Adolph Sutro had traveled the world collecting artifacts and souvenirs and displayed them in a museum on site. Also, there was a concert hall and skating rink to accommodate the masses of people who could frequent and enjoy this place of gathering, rest, exercise, and just plain fun.

The Sutro Baths burned down in 1966. Sadly all that remains today of the baths are the bare bone ruins of the past glory. The scale of these ruins gives one an idea of the size and scope that was a draw to visitors who must have appreciated the ambiance of this spa-like setting.

On-Site Restaurant

After hiking the one and a half miles along the craggy seashore cliffs to the Cliff House and Sutro Bath ruins, we decided that we were hungry. The casual Bistro restaurant suited our needs perfectly!

With windows facing the Seal Rocks and being able to view the wildlife in the area and the ever-changing scenery of watercraft navigating the waters of San Francisco Bay, this was a perfect place to sit awhile and nourish our spirits along with our bodies. While enjoying the views, we each enjoyed a cup of delicious clam chowder and some sourdough bread. Now we were ready for the hike back.

2021 Closure

Be sure to check out the source link below to learn about the closure of the Cliff House and any updates. The Covid-19 pandemic severely impacted the restaurants at this location, along with some earlier problems. I hope that someone will be able to reopen it in the future. It is such a pretty setting!

My hubby inside the the Bistro restaurant

My hubby inside the the Bistro restaurant

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

The Cliff House and Sutro Baths were acquired in 1977 and are now a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area operated by the National Park Service.

My husband and I were happy to have stumbled upon this Ocean Beach Trail and thoroughly enjoyed this portion of a vacation day many years ago. It is a place in San Francisco worth some time when planning a visit. Be sure to take your camera and create some of your unforgettable memories!

Scenery as we head back - Golden Gate Bridge faintly in view

Scenery as we head back - Golden Gate Bridge faintly in view


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Peggy Woods

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