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.

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

Comments are welcomed!

Robert Sacchi on August 11, 2018:

Definitely. It would also be interesting to know how much and who paid for it?

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 11, 2018:

Hi Robert,

It would have been interesting to know more about that sculpture, the artist and why it was placed there.

Robert Sacchi on August 10, 2018:

Yes, it is too bad. I remember while driving, I believe it was in Utah, there was a modern art sculpture on the side of the road. A strange thing to be in the middle of nowhere.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 10, 2018:

Hi Robert,

Too bad you did not have the time to get out and take pictures along the way. To take them while driving is obviously not as safe as you mentioned. Photos have always been my favorite type of souvenir.

Robert Sacchi on August 09, 2018:

Yes, it is. A couple of drawbacks though. Trying to reach the destination meant not taking side trips. Another drawback is driving alone means you can take memories but not pictures, at least not safely.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 09, 2018:

Hi Robert,

It sounds like you got to view some lovely scenery on your cross-country trip. That is a great way to see our country!

Robert Sacchi on August 08, 2018:

I did drive from Oakland on I-80 then drove across the country. I saw the tall pines.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 08, 2018:

Hi Robert,

I believe you would have enjoyed seeing some of San Francisco. I've gotten to spend some time there on three different trips to the wine country north of there but have yet to see all of that marvelous city. This hike to the Sutro Baths was part of a very special day. The scenery was stellar!

Robert Sacchi on August 07, 2018:

Another great travel article with awesome photos. San Francisco was a missed opportunity for me. I was in the Sunnyvale area for a few months but never got to San Francisco.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 15, 2012:

Hello htodd,

So glad that you found this information regarding the Cliff House and Sutro Bath ruins interesting. It is just one of many great attractions in San Francisco. Thanks for your comment.

htodd from United States on January 15, 2012:

Thanks for the great hub...This is really great info

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 26, 2010:

Hello tracykarl99,

Thanks so much for the very complimentary comment. We loved the hike from the Legion of Honor to the Cliff House and Sutro Baths and back again. It was such a pleasant discovery of ours while in San Francisco on one of our trips.

Tracy from San Francisco on September 26, 2010:

Peggy - You are a fabulous travel writer! I sometimes believe that it takes someone who does not live in San Francisco to best discribe it. You captured the city's beauty so well, down to the very "crisp" air! This hike and the lawn at the Legion of Honor are two of my very favorite spots!! Well done:)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 11, 2010:

Hello Seakay,

May I carry your bags? Haha! We also love San Francisco and its environs. So much to see and do there. The Cliff House and Sutro Baths were a nice discovery for us but obviously have had a long history in that area. Thanks for commenting.

Seakay from Florida on July 11, 2010:

Hi, Peggy! I loved San Francisco. You have made up my mind to go back on my next vacation! Thank you for reminding me how beautiful it was!

Great Pix!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 28, 2010:

Hi msorensson,

I would put San Francisco high on my list also as a favorite city. The Cliff House and Sutro Baths were a nice discovery and interlude one day while visiting there. We have been there 3 times and have yet to see it all. Thanks for the visit and comment.

msorensson on March 27, 2010:

San Francisco is my most favorite City in the whole wide world. Glad to be reminded, thank you Peggy.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 09, 2010:

Hello TattoGuy,

OK.....got you down for the next hike. It might be someplace else than San Francisco and the Cliff House and Sutro Baths. OK with you? :-)

TattoGuy on February 09, 2010:

Looks really stunning, book me up the next hike !

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 05, 2010:

Hi jacobkuttyta,

You are welcome. Glad you enjoyed the hike to the Cliff House and Sutro Baths along San Francisco Bay. I got to relive it as well when writing this hub. Thanks for the comment.

Jacob from Delhi, India on February 04, 2010:

Thanks for sharing the photos and the trip details.

I felt that I am visiting the place with you.


Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 20, 2010:

Hi agusfanani,

Happy that you appreciate these trip memories. We have had some great times in San Francisco and this was just a portion of one day seeing this hiking path between the museum and the Cliff House and Sutro Baths. Thanks for the comment.

agusfanani from Indonesia on January 19, 2010:

Wow it's another great trip you've made Peggy. Thank you for having introduced your hubby too...

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 17, 2010:

Hello IslandVoice,

My husband and I have not visited San Francisco in a while, but when we return, we will continue to explore other attractions of which there are many. Enjoy your 3rd visit to San Francisco! Perhaps you can write about it?

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 17, 2010:

Hello Wealthmadehealthy,

You are so correct in that pictures taken while on vacation in San Francisco or anywhere for that matter make for good memories. Thanks for viewing this hub about the Cliff House and Sutro Baths and leaving a comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 17, 2010:

Hi habee,

Hope you make it to San Francisco to see not only the Cliff House and Sutro Bath ruins but also many of their other attractions. We have really enjoyed our visits out there. Thanks for the comment.

Sylvia Van Velzer from Hawaii on January 17, 2010:

San Francisco will always be one of my favorite destinations. My husband and i plan our 3rd trip there, and i hope to see more. Thanks for such a lovely hub.

Wealthmadehealthy from Somewhere in the Lone Star State on January 17, 2010:

What a magnificent hub!! I can go somewhere and not leave my computer!!! I am sorry I have not visited more often!!

You were so fortunate to have made this little journey!! I am so happy for you and I know this was a bit back, but ah the memories all captured on film forever! God Bless!

Holle Abee from Georgia on January 17, 2010:

I've always wanted to see that area - now more than ever! Awesome pics!!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 16, 2010:


Very happy to hear that you liked this particular San Francisco attraction...the hiking included...to the Sutro Baths and Cliff House. The hiking made the visit so much more enjoyable for us! Thanks for the very complimentary comments.

ASHWINSPGA from Lion City ( Singapore) on January 15, 2010:

Amazing hub Miss Peggy. WOW!!! especially the crashing waves. simply astounding. And you write pretty well too. Honored to be your fan. keep them coming...

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 13, 2010:

Hello Truth From Truth,

Oh...believe me, if this caught your attention as to San Francisco attractions...you are in for a real treat if you ever visit. This just scratches the surface (barely) as to all the wonderful sites and experiences you will find there. Thanks for the visit and comment.

Truth From Truth from Michigan on January 12, 2010:

Ive never been to San Francisco , but with your pictures and points of interest I must visit one day. Thanks

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 10, 2010:

Hello The Old Hack,

We were also surprised to find out about all those Rodin sculptures in that one museum attraction in San Francisco. But that is the joy of exploring and discovery. The Cliff House and Sutro Baths were also fun to learn about and the hike getting there was pure joy. Thanks for reading and leaving your comment. Have you written about your Prague experience?

The Old Hack on January 10, 2010:

What an amazing place. I was very surprised to learn that the greatest collection of Rodin’s work was in California. I once spotted a small sculpture by Rodin in a side street off Charles Square in Prague, it looked like a giant piece half sucked boiled sweet, or what I think you call “hard rock candy”. Thank you for sharing this with us.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 09, 2010:

Hi Ethel,

Thanks for taking a look at these San Francisco attractions...the Cliff House and Sutro Baths. Where is the location of your Humber Bridge? I would agree with you that the setting of the Golden Gate Bridge is certainly spectacular.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 09, 2010:

Hi Micky Dee,

So you have a house that looks just like the Cliff House? Is it also built on a cliff? Thanks for reading about these particular San Francisco attractions and leaving your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 09, 2010:

Hi dahoglund,

Not to worry...I have been getting your comments and appreciate each and every one. Thanks!

As to living in San Francisco, as beautiful as it is and with all the many attractions such as the Cliff House, Sutro Baths and many that are even more famous...the only downside is the expense. It costs a lot to be able to live there comfortably in comparison to many other places around the country.

We certainly do enjoy going there to visit! :-)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 09, 2010:

Hi Pete,

Living in San Jose and getting to see more of San Francisco must have made many good memories for you. My husband and I have enjoyed our trips to San Francisco each time and always seek out different areas to explore...then we generally head on up into the wine country.

Have you written about your hike around the Rock of Gibraltar? Would be fun to read. Thanks for the comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 09, 2010:

Hi Hello, hello,

That hike which was unplanned and just "happened upon" was certainly that.....beautiful! We might have at sometime driven to the Cliff House and Sutro Baths just to see them since they are a San Francisco attraction...but finding that hiking path and doing it the way we did was so much better an experience. Happy that you liked the pictures.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 09, 2010:

Hello RNMSN,

Actually our hiking that trail was fun and we obeyed the posted signs so were in no danger. The scenery on the way to and from the Cliff House and Sutro Bath ruins is certainly spectacular. Happy to hear that you enjoyed the pictures. You can release your grip on that chair now. Ha! Thanks for the comment.

Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on January 09, 2010:

Our Humber Bridge is as spectacular but the scenery and surroundings leave a lot to be desired.

Micky Dee on January 09, 2010:

Very nicely done. My house looks just like that! Thanks!

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on January 09, 2010:

San Francisco has many appeals. Your picture are great. A friend of mine interviewed for a job out there and was very disappointed that he did not get it. Not because the job was special but because the city was.He ended up spending working for Univac in the Canary Islands for some time. After too much paradise he went back to Minnesota.

In case you thought I was ignoring your comments, I think I have answered them all. Some glitch or other changed the setting on my hub pages so that I was not getting notified of comments. I've corred that now.

Pete Maida on January 09, 2010:

That is one if my favorite cities. I lived in San Jose for a year back in the late seventies. I also did a similar hike along the Med side of the Rock of Gibraltar. The view was great.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on January 09, 2010:

It is beautiful according to your pictures. Thank you.

Barbara Bethard from Tucson, Az on January 08, 2010:

oh my goodness Peggy you are an intrepid hiker!! the pics had me clinging to the arm of the chair!!! love to you!!

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