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Walking San Francisco's 49-mile drive

Updated on August 21, 2014
ecogranny profile image

A recent San Francisco transplant (12 years), Kathryn is a perpetual tourist in her lively City on the Bay and its surrounds

My sweetheart and I are perpetual tourists in our city. We figure if we live here the rest of our lives, we will never discover all the secrets the city holds. That doesn't stop us from trying.

One of our favorite past-times, and one of our favorite ways to learn about hidden treasures here in San Francisco, is walking the 49-mile scenic drive--a mile or two at a time.

Sure, we could drive it in about three and a half hours, if we had a car. Joseph M. Lubow and Laurel Rosen, who wrote the sweet little guidebook you see highlighted on the right, planned it that way.

Luckily for us, though, they included walking instructions, as well as bus instructions, for those who cannot or do not wish to walk, but want to go at a slower pace than driving.

Seven miles by seven miles, with lots of hills

San Francisco sits at the end of a peninsula and is surrounded on three sides by water--the Pacific Ocean on the west and the San Francisco Bay on the north and east. The city is roughly seven square miles in size, hence the 49-mile drive.

If you have visited our sometimes golden, sometimes foggy city, you already know it is a hilly town. Some folks claim it has seven hills, just like Rome. In fact, it has seven hills--and a whole lot more. If you take the tour on foot, you want to assure you have a stout heart, good walking shoes and a (reusable) bottle of water.

Whether you drive, walk, or bus, you can start from any point you like in the guidebook. Separated into fourteen convenient segments, the guidebook notes mileage for each segment, as well as popular cafes and little known attractions or favorite spots the locals frequent. You will find lots of tips, tidbits, and interesting call-outs, so you don't miss a thing.

Should you decide to follow Lubow and Rosen's guidebook from start to finish, you will start at San Francisco's Civic Center, home to our City Hall, with a rotunda taller than the dome of the U.S. capitol.

The pedestrian mall across from City Hall teems on the weekend with locals practicing Tai Chi and Qui Gong, joggers and walkers out for their morning run, and public events of just about every spiritual or political belief you can imagine.

You know about Chinatown, but have you visited our French Quarter, nearby?

Moving on, your trek will take you through well-known parts of the city, such as our famed Chinatown and North Beach, and to lesser known areas, such as Little Saigon and our French Quarter, where if you check the restaurant windows as you go by, very likely you will see former Mayor Willie Brown holding court with some of San Francisco's most colorful politicians and characters.

There are the ocean and bay fronts, of course. You might want to walk out on Golden Gate Bridge and feel the winds whipping your jacket and slacks. Or walk the boardwalk and visit the Farmers Market at the Ferry Building on the far eastern side of the city.

Along the way, you will encounter street musicians and entertainers, specialty book stores, and art galleries filled with magnificent, amusing and sometimes tawdry art. You will come across sculptures hidden away, off the beaten path, that stop you in your tracks, and views and vistas that take your breath away.

Chock full of annotated bits and lore

Through it all, thanks to Lubow and Rosen's insider knowledge, you will discover fascinating facts about the history and lore of this city that make the tour all the more interesting.

If you're planning a trip to San Francisco, get the guidebook ahead of time and plan the spots you want to spend some time. Bringing children? You will love the guidebook, because it takes you to plenty of little parks along the way, where the children can run and play and slide and swing and blow off pent-up energy.

Below, I've included a few pictures from our walks on the tour. All photographs are my own and I ask you to respect my copyright and ask before using them.

Best wishes, and welcome to San Francisco!

Walking San Francisco on the Barbary Coast Trail
Walking San Francisco on the Barbary Coast Trail

For more fascinating stories and scenery, try Bacon's Barbary Coast Trail book and really dive into some history.

 
Klean Kanteen Wide Insulated Water Bottle, 12 Fluid Ounces with Cafe Cap 2.0 - Brushed Stainless, 18-Ounce
Klean Kanteen Wide Insulated Water Bottle, 12 Fluid Ounces with Cafe Cap 2.0 - Brushed Stainless, 18-Ounce

San Francisco is one of the planet's greenest cities and strives to reduce waste, especially plastic waste polluting our waterways and oceans. You will fit right in with this Kleen Kanteen Stainless Steel water bottle.

 

Photo Gallery

Click thumbnail to view full-size
San Francisco's famed City hall, boasting one of the largest rotunda's in the world; here  Choi Jeong Hwa's Breathing Lotus sculpture graces the mallGlance in the window and you might see former SF Mayor Willie Brown chatting with friends in the French Quarter's Le Central Bistro on Bush StreetA colorful train resides in one of the small parks near downtown where children can play while parents take a break from the tour and enjoy the viewsFor fabulous 360 views, be sure to take the elevator to the top of one of San Francisco's most celebrated landmarks, the Mark HopkinsWesterly view from the The Top of the Mark, one of our city's most iconic venues for cocktails and fine live entertainmentNot far from the Mark, visit Glide Memorial and rest your spirit in one of the many alcoves, or walk one of two mazes, outside or in--your choiceSan Francisco is the Halloween party city, and you will find plenty of costume shops in The HaightA colorful store sparkles on the corner of Haight and Ashbury, one of the most famous intersections in the world
San Francisco's famed City hall, boasting one of the largest rotunda's in the world; here  Choi Jeong Hwa's Breathing Lotus sculpture graces the mall
San Francisco's famed City hall, boasting one of the largest rotunda's in the world; here Choi Jeong Hwa's Breathing Lotus sculpture graces the mall
Glance in the window and you might see former SF Mayor Willie Brown chatting with friends in the French Quarter's Le Central Bistro on Bush Street
Glance in the window and you might see former SF Mayor Willie Brown chatting with friends in the French Quarter's Le Central Bistro on Bush Street
A colorful train resides in one of the small parks near downtown where children can play while parents take a break from the tour and enjoy the views
A colorful train resides in one of the small parks near downtown where children can play while parents take a break from the tour and enjoy the views
For fabulous 360 views, be sure to take the elevator to the top of one of San Francisco's most celebrated landmarks, the Mark Hopkins
For fabulous 360 views, be sure to take the elevator to the top of one of San Francisco's most celebrated landmarks, the Mark Hopkins
Westerly view from the The Top of the Mark, one of our city's most iconic venues for cocktails and fine live entertainment
Westerly view from the The Top of the Mark, one of our city's most iconic venues for cocktails and fine live entertainment
Not far from the Mark, visit Glide Memorial and rest your spirit in one of the many alcoves, or walk one of two mazes, outside or in--your choice
Not far from the Mark, visit Glide Memorial and rest your spirit in one of the many alcoves, or walk one of two mazes, outside or in--your choice
San Francisco is the Halloween party city, and you will find plenty of costume shops in The Haight
San Francisco is the Halloween party city, and you will find plenty of costume shops in The Haight
A colorful store sparkles on the corner of Haight and Ashbury, one of the most famous intersections in the world
A colorful store sparkles on the corner of Haight and Ashbury, one of the most famous intersections in the world

It's nearly Halloween, when travelers from all over the world come to our city to dress up and revel in the biggest Halloween party in the world. If you are making the trip this year, grab a copy of this this handy guide and take in the sights while you're here

Have you visited our fair city? What do you remember most? Dreaming of a visit? What would you like to see here?

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    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 2 years ago from San Francisco

      @TerriCarr: Thank you. It was absolutely stunning. So grateful they left it up for several months.

    • TerriCarr profile image

      TerriCarr 2 years ago

      Great photos. If I happened upon that red lotus in front of City Hall, I think it would take my breath away!

    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @smine27: Thank you Smine. Next time you come, you must let us show you some of our favorite spots off the tourist path.

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      San Francisco is one of my fall time favorite cities Grace. Just reading your lens makes me want to fly there right this minute.

    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @TanoCalvenoa: We never tire of being tourists in our city. There are so many fun places to go, interesting things to see and do. Thanks for walking with us today.

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      TanoCalvenoa 3 years ago

      San Francisco is my favorite big city. As a kid I lived in Sonoma to the north, and visited often. I've been back many times since on vacations. My favorite is Golden Gate Park, although I love many other things too such as Pier 39, Lombard Street, Ghirardelli Square, the zoo, and more.

    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @rob-hemphill: Thank you. Totally agree.

    • rob-hemphill profile image

      Rob Hemphill 3 years ago from Ireland

      Great review! This sounds like the perfect way to explore a city, in fact the only way - on foot!

    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @MJ Martin: Thank you for sharing some of your memories. It's not at all unusual to catch a movie being made somewhere on our streets, and the everyday sights never cease to amaze and sometimes thrill. Come back any time!

    • MJ Martin profile image

      MJ Martin aka Ruby H Rose 3 years ago from Washington State

      We promised ourselves we would go back and walk more of the city, than our last zip through in a rental car. My love of old and unusual buildings kept me spellbound in the areas where we did park and walk. My favorite memories are getting photos of a movie going on featuring the famous back then, cooper car.

      My husband was out on the street in time to see a China Town wedding procession along the streets.

      I will stop procrastinating right now, and get back to that city by the bay I so miss.

    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @Erin Mellor: You must have very strong legs if cycling all those hills sounds fun to you, but I admit, there was a time, when I was younger, thinner and more fit, it would have seemed fun to me too. Thank you for reminding me. : )

    • Erin Mellor profile image

      Erin Mellor 3 years ago from Europe

      I'd love to cycle that route, everywhere is so much nicer cycling or walking than dashing by in a car.

    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @smine27: Always glad to meet a San Francisco fan. Thank you for posting memories here.

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      I've been to San Francisco three times and I remember the beauty and charm of the city. It is such a beautiful city to live in.

    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @LoriBeninger: You and I are on the same wavelength! Glide Memorial has wonderful murals showing the city as it was before the great earthquake of 1906, and I enjoy finding books with drawings and paintings of that time period as well.

    • Linda BookLady profile image

      Linda Jo Martin 3 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      I used to live in San Francisco, and always miss it.

    • LoriBeninger profile image

      LoriBeninger 3 years ago

      I love to walk San Francisco, but I get turned around a lot because I'm always trying to imagine it in 1848 (or thereabouts) - before Yerba Buena Cove was filled in and before anything rose higher than 3 stories. It'll drive you nuts if you try that for very long. Oh well. Will have to pick up this book!

    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @SteveKaye: Thanks, Steve! Happy to see you here, as I so love reading your lenses and enjoying your photographs.

    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @Linda BookLady: I understand. I would miss it if I had to live elsewhere too. Something special about this town.

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      SteveKaye 3 years ago

      Now I need to return without a car. Great review.

    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @Old Navy Guy: You're welcome. I'm glad you stopped by.

    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @nonya222: Thank you! It was such a lovely shock.

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      nonya222 3 years ago

      Congratulations on winning the daily challenge! It was awesome to see you there! Great lens

    • Old Navy Guy profile image

      Old Navy Guy 3 years ago

      An interesting view of a city that many (myself included) only think.....that we know. Thank you for an unusual perspective and an interesting tour.

    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @Sable: Thank you! Let's get together.

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      Sable 3 years ago

      I live here and love the whole idea of walking the 49 Mile Scenic Drive! Another great post!

    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @lesliesinclair: Thank you, Papier.

    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @KathyMcGraw2: Thank you, Kathy. With your lens in the mix, I felt I was in good company. I suspect it was Baker Beach on which you found all those sand dollars. If you get there at just the right time, you will find amazing things sometimes.

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

      Kathy McGraw 3 years ago from California

      I liked this because most of the tour books send you to the same places. The only way to really get a feel of the area is to travel different routes, visit the off the wall places etc. I have walked on the Golden Gate bridge, and you're right about the wind. One of my favorite tours in San Francisco was over to Alcatraz Island....fascinating history. Also once we got lost and ended up at a beach by the bridge and it was just full of sand dollars! Congratulations on winning the daily challenge!

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 3 years ago

      I can see where this guide will be very handy for anyone who wants to explore deeply the wonders of San Francisco.

    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @shay-marie: Halloween in the Castro was a wild ride, all right, and one I watched from afar. Yes, middle-class and low-income people are leaving in droves. We do not know how much longer we may be able to stay ourselves. Just the other day there was a local news story about the gentrification of the city and the fact that families with children and middle-class people can afford to live here no longer.

    • shay-marie profile image

      Shay Marie 3 years ago from Southern California

      I'm happy that I got to experience Halloween in the Castro in all its glory before they shut it down. I spent a good portion of my post college life living SF with a good portion of my good friends living there with me. It was a period of my life I'll never forget. It's gotten so expensive though that most of them have spread out into the greater Bay Area. I had to migrate south.

    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @tonyleather: I'm guessing you've got some good local tales to tell. I'll visit your page soon.

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      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @Merrci: Yum! Thank you.

    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @RinchenChodron: So true. Thank you for stopping by.

    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @Michelllle: Thank you. Are you inured to the sights, or are you perpetual tourists like us?

    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @Diana Wenzel: Thank you. Time for a chat, yes?

    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @sybil watson: Thank you. What a surprise that was. Yes, San Francisco summer is in full sunny swing, most days this time of year--except today. So far we are in shroud. Hope you make it back soon.

    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @getmoreinfo: Yes it is. Thank you.

    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @Pam Irie: Isn't that the case when traveling? We get a taste and some memories, but always want to go back for an extended visit. Thank you for stopping by.

    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @Virginia Allain: Schedule a trip! We could meet for coffee.

    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @RussnJo: We take the hills slow and easy, and spend so much time gawking and taking pictures (just like tourists), that the the climbs end up being a nice massage for our heart and not too taxing on our legs.

      Oregon has such a rich history. I have spent a bit of time there as well. If you are a geology buff, you might try Roadside Geology of Oregon by Alt and Hyndman. Fascinating, and follows the geology through lots of road cuts, and always gives driving instructions.

    • RussnJo profile image

      RussnJo 3 years ago

      I have been to San Francisco several times and love the city! If someone wasn't in good shape when starting this walking venture, you sure would be when done . . . some of those hills aren't real fun to even drive on. I really would like to find such a book for some of our towns in Oregon . . . wonderful article!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 3 years ago from Central Florida

      I only zipped through once on my way to Hawaii. Wish I could return and be a tourist.

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 3 years ago from Land of Aloha

      I had the opportunity to visit San Francisco several years ago. My stay was not as lengthy as I would have liked for this fine city. Charming lens!!!

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      getmoreinfo 3 years ago

      This walk is such a great idea for a scenic view while getting a cardio workout

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      sybil watson 3 years ago

      You have made me so homesick! I always miss The City at this time of year and this guidebook sounds fabulous. Congratulations on your win!

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 3 years ago from Colorado

      Congrats on your win! Thrilled for you.

    • Michelllle profile image

      Michelllle 3 years ago

      Yep, Bay Areas natives! Great lens! Congrats.

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      RinchenChodron 3 years ago

      I used to live in the Bar Area and I loved exploring. It's a lovely place to be perpetual tourists!

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 3 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      Of course! Scoma's is one of my favorites! But the city is wonderful to explore. What a great idea to walk the 49 miles. Enjoyed your lens.

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      tonyleather 3 years ago

      Never been to the USA, but San Francisco sounds fantastic!

    • ecogranny profile image
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      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      @David Stone1: Oh wonderful! Yes, there are lots of terrific guide books for touring the city, on the hoof and otherwise. As you can see, we are deep into this one right now. Perhaps we'll meet at a local bistro next time you visit.

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      David Stone 3 years ago from New York City

      Having enjoyed many hours of walking in San Francisco (North Beach is my favorite) in numerous visits, I think this guide might help with some new ideas the next time around. Our first visit, about 15 years ago, we took walking tours from a guide book, but I never heard about the 49 mile drive until now. It's great information. We love walking the cities and will find this very useful. Thanks.

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