Every few minutes a street car pulls up below my window, promising a trip to Ocean Beach. With its echoes of Dark City, I knew I had to find an excuse to see where it took me. My bike's still in transit from Colorado and thanks to the general chaos of moving me and Thor have been getting less exercise than we're used to, so I decided to plan an urban hike using the Muni N line as a shuttle. I got on at the corner of Duboce and Church, but you can pick it up at a lot of points between there and downtown too.
Getting there was easy, if a bit confusing. I read up on the system beforehand, so I had Thor in a container and was prepared to get on at the front and pay $4 total, $2 for each of us. The driver refused to take my money though, just thrust a ticket into my hand, mumbling something I couldn't make out! Very odd, but the rest of the journey was a lot smoother. Within fifteen minutes, we'd arrived at the end of the line. Walking across the street onto the beach, the surf was roaring. There were a few brave souls with boards, but it was a lot fiercer than I was used to around LA.
Walking a few blocks north along the beach, we turned inland by the Beach Chalet and entered Golden Gate Park proper. If you want to start with some food, or do this hike in the opposite direction and end with lunch, I highly recommend the restaurant. Some friends treated me to a delicious meal there recently, and if you get a window table the views are jaw-dropping.
Once in the park, there's a lot of trails to choose from. I recommend wandering where your fancy takes you, there's a lot of hidden treats to stumble across. I ran into a great dog park near the start, so Thor got even more exercise this morning than I bargained for. I did find myself refering to my compass though, with so many winding trails to pick it's easy to end up wandering in circles.
It was Sunday so the park was busy, but it never felt crowded. We wandered past lakes, barbecue pits, meadows and near the end the de Young art gallery (which a group of us had tried and failed to visit yesterday, thanks to a five hour wait for entry to the Impressionists exhibition). All the trail users we met were mellow and friendly, even bikers caught behind the occasional knot of walkers.
Leaving the main park, we continued along the panhandle section that parallels Haight. In previous explorations I've taken Haight itself, but I found the western end a bit sketchy, I had to pick my way through a gauntlet of cheery drug dealers even in mid-afternoon.
When the panhandle ended, we had about another mile to go along Oak to get home. It was roughly six miles, with some respectable grades but no steep hills, and it took a little over two hours to complete. If you're looking for a straightforward hike through some beautiful scenery, right from the center of San Francisco, this one seems hard to beat, especially when you can customize the trip by hopping back on the N Line at any point.