Guidebook

6 Top Trail Runs in the Bay Area

A taste of optimal running routes in Downtown San Francisco, Mount Tamalpais, the Oakland Hills, and the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Jesse Weber

Description

San Francisco and neighboring cities are the doorstep to nearly endless trails among the coastal mountains of the Bay Area. It’s an asset that many visitors, and even most locals, sorely overlook. The hilly streets of San Francisco will of course provide a good workout, but if you crave dirt trails, you don’t have to go much farther to get them. This list covers a wide range of terrain and distance from the city, so you can find your perfect off-pavement fix.

Amazing trails exist even within city limits. The Coastal Trail from Sutro Heights to Lands End, for example, is in a network of footpaths overlooking sea cliffs and the Golden Gate Bridge, all just steps away from downtown.

Regional parks just outside the city make a quick escape to larger tracts of nature as well. French Trail and West Ridge Loop, in the dense forest of Redwood Regional Park, feels a world away from the city even though you can run there from downtown Oakland.

Dipsea Trail starts from an inland neighborhood and crosses the foothills of Mount Tamalpais to end at the beach. It’s some of the best scenery in Marin County, and also the course of a regionally famous trail race.

To experience more of Mount “Tam” and really test your endurance, start from the beach end of Dipsea Trail and connect several other trails to reach East Peak, making a full sea-to-summit loop totalling more than 3,500 feet of elevation gain.

Another long loop, but with less elevation to conquer, is the Bolinas Ridge and Olema Valley Loop. It’s in a quieter and more rural corner of Marin County, and it tours the topography directly on top of the San Andreas Fault⁠—the source of San Francisco’s infamous earthquakes.

To venture farther from the city and run in more remote hills, try the redwood-forested Huddart Park. It’s a popular place, but only the picnic areas and shorter trails ever get crowded. Several miles of secluded singletrack await deeper in the woods.

Coastal Trail: Sutro Heights and Lands End
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Coastal Trail: Sutro Heights and Lands End

San Francisco
7.0 km
238 m
225 m
Fast and mostly flat dirt path with some of San Francisco's most classic coastal views.
Moderate
Private
French Trail and West Ridge Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

French Trail and West Ridge Loop

San Francisco
12.4 km
564 m
564 m
An escape to nature from the city, and a prime running loop in Redwood Regional Park.
Moderate
Private
Dipsea Race!

Dipsea Race!

Marin County
11.1 km
616 m
630 m
America's oldest trail race
Difficult
Private
Mount Tam Sea-to-Summit Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Mount Tam Sea-to-Summit Loop

Marin County
25.3 km
1,084 m
1,085 m
An epic loop on Mount Tamalpais, from sea level at Stinson Beach to the top of East Peak.
Severe
Private
Bolinas Ridge and Olema Valley Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Bolinas Ridge and Olema Valley Loop

Marin County
25.6 km
745 m
745 m
Varied and hilly terrain along the San Andreas Fault, with redwood groves in the valley and wide-open views on the ridge.
Difficult
Private
Huddart Park 9-Mile Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Huddart Park 9-Mile Loop

San Francisco
14.7 km
586 m
586 m
A solid workout on excellent trails in peaceful, shady forest.
Difficult
Private