Exploring the Great Outdoors: Top Outdoor Activities to Try in San Francisco

May 10, 2023

If you’re looking for an outdoor enthusiast’s Disneyland, you can find it in San Francisco. 

Outdoor activities in SF have a little bit of everything. From coastal watersports to mountain hiking to scenic bike rides, you can lace up and experience the outdoors on your terms. It’s possible to live here your whole life and never quite go through the long list of trails, paths, beaches, parks, mountains and views to explore!

Whether you’re a fellow nature enthusiast or just looking for fresh air, keep reading to discover the best ways to explore the great outdoors in San Francisco.

1. Great Weather

Yes, we are known as fog central many months out of the year. But we are also known for mild weather that makes almost any San Francisco day a great day to get outside. Temps rarely get far above mid-seventies and far below mid-forties, so while the daily microclimates are unpredictable, you can be confident that you won’t be caught in extreme weather most days. 

2. Access to Water

We’re known as the Bay Area for a reason. Look all around you in San Francisco, and you’ll see a direct route to water! From waterfront walks to coastal hikes to river rafting to boating, you can always dip your feet in water in our city.

the water ponds in front of the Palace of Fine Arts

3. Amazing Biodiversity

You don’t have to travel far to see wildly different terrain! Every direction can take you to a unique nature escape. Head to a sandy beach on a sunny day for surfer vibes, or set out on a lush, moss-covered hike in Muir Woods. Travel a little farther to take you to wine country’s rolling hills and sunny skies. It’s all a fairly quick drive away!

4. Close Proximity to Protected Nature Areas 

San Francisco has more than its fair share of State Parks, National Recreation Areas, National Parks, and more. These titles mean that these areas have an extra layer of government protection to preserve their natural beauty. From Golden Gate National Recreation Area right in the city to Yosemite National Park just a few hours away, you can easily get your fill of stunning protected views.

the beach with rocks and water and the golden gate bridge in the background

5. Interesting People Create Interesting Activities!

San Francisco is full of characters and creatives with some crazy concepts. There are so many unique outdoor events and activities to find that you would never have considered trying until you saw them with your own eyes!

Outdoor Activities in San Francisco

Top 6 Outdoor Things to Do in SF

1. Biking the Golden Gate Bridge

Whether visiting for the first time or a lifelong local, biking the Golden Gate Bridge is a must-do. This easy day activity fits into even short weekend trip schedules and will get you front-row views to one of the best views of the Bay you can find (barring any fog, of course). Even if you do catch a foggy day, the towering bridge above you and the mysterious fog surrounding it makes the activity well worth the effort. 

The best way to bike the bridge is with quality e-bike rentals that are easy to pick up and fun to ride. Then, you can decide whether to take on the bridge with a fun guided tour that will take you over the bridge and into Sausalito or rent bikes and pave your way!

girl riding bike rental on the golden gate bridge

2. Ferrying to an Island In The Bay

Usually, setting out on the sea is a time-consuming affair. But it’s just another (very beautiful) commute in San Francisco! The Ferry can take you across the Bay or transport you to one of the few islands used for recreation.

One of our favorites is the highly underrated Angel Island State Park. This small island in the Bay is dedicated almost fully to outdoor recreation and appreciation. There is a stunning bike route around the island’s perimeter, a museum dedicated to those who immigrated to San Francisco, and several beaches, points and paths to explore.

3. Hiking One Of The Many Trails Around The City

Lace-up your biking shoes! There are tons of spots in the city that will take you out of the busy streets and into some scenic trails. 

Here are a few popular hikes that make for a perfect outdoor activity in San Francisco:

  • Lands End Trail: The Lands End Trail is a popular 3.4-mile trail that offers breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean. 
  • Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve: The Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve offers several hiking trails that wind through a dense eucalyptus tree forest. 
  • Twin Peaks Trail: The Twin Peaks Trail is a 2.5-mile roundtrip hike that offers stunning views of the city and the Bay. 
  • San Francisco Bay Trail: The San Francisco Bay Trail is a 500-mile trail that circles the entire San Francisco Bay. The trail offers stunning views of the Bay and the city skyline and is perfect for cycling or hiking.

4. Explore the Neighborhoods of San Francisco by Bike

You don’t need to travel far for some of San Francisco’s best outdoor activities – this one is right in the city! Exploring the best SF neighborhoods by bike will get you much closer to the thrill of the city than commuting by car. Renting e-bikes is the best way to tackle this activity so that you can easily pedal up the steep city hills.

Looking out on Lands on End Park you see the blue ocean with golden gate bridge in the background

5. Visiting One of Many San Francisco Parks

San Francisco is known for its long list of stunning parks! And these aren’t your run-of-the-mill picnic spots. San Francisco parks are sprawling and include several attractions like trails, gardens, panoramic views and more. 

Here are a couple of our favorite San Francisco Parks:

  • Presidio Trails: The Presidio is a 1,500-acre park with several coastal hiking trails that offer spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay. 
  • Golden Gate Park: This is one of the largest urban parks in the world! It has a Japanese Tea Garden, museums, lakes, a flower conservatory and more. 
  • Lands End: Located at the northwestern edge of the city, this park offers stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean. It’s an excellent spot for hiking and picnicking.

6. Try Some Water Sports in the Bay

On those special days when the sun comes out to play, everyone sprints to the water! There are several beaches to choose from, so bring your favorite watercraft and get to the coast. 

There are several kayak and SUP rentals around the Bay to choose from, and some of the most popular spots to paddle around are the Bay Area Water Trail and Half Moon Bay.

half moon bay cliffs overlooking the beach as the ocean crashes into it

Outdoor Activities Near San Francisco

Top 3 Outdoor Activities Near SF

There are tons of outdoor activities in SF to choose from, but your list is even longer when you get out of the city on a little day trip! Several famous spots just a stone’s throw from the city are well worth the half-day or full-day commitment. 

1. Explore Muir Woods

Muir Woods offers some of the most unique and magical views you can find. With towering Redwoods, mystical trails and coastal views, it’s truly one-of-a-kind scenery. 

This national monument can be tough to reach on your own, so we highly recommend booking a tour to easily fit this trip into your schedule. Our combo tour includes biking the Golden Gate Bridge and a Muir Woods visit in one experience so you can check two iconic SF outdoor activities off your bucket list in one go.

a group of friends biking in muir woods amongst the redwood trees

2. Raft The Russian River

The Russian River is just a 2-hour trip from the city – the best place near SF to raft some rapids! The Russian River is mostly calm and easy, with a few class III rapids to keep things fun and exciting. With tons of stunning river views and options to raft tube or kayak, it’s a great way to escape the city and drift down the current.

After your adventure, there’s no better place to toast to the Russian River than Russian River Brewing Co! This award-winning brewing company is in Santa Rosa and has an extensive selection of delicious pours.

3. Explore the Sights (and Tastes) of Napa and Sonoma Wine Country

Wine lovers, this one’s for you! Did you know that some world-class wine country is only a few hours from the city? Napa and Sonoma wine country both have glowing reputations for producing stunning bottles of wine. 

The Redwoods and Wine Tour will take you through the magic of the Redwood forests of Muir Woods, and then you’ll end your trip sipping stunning reds and whites in Napa and Sonoma Valley! So if you want to spend time outside but do it with a quality drink in hand, this trip is a perfect choice. 

Whether by land or by sea, there are endless outdoor activities in San Francisco! So, if you need help planning your adventurous San Francisco itinerary, reach out to our team! We are happy to show you the best of the city from the seat of a bike.