The Best Park in San Francisco

All photos © Heather Champ, with permission

My biggest worry when I moved to San Francisco in December was that my dog Thor would find urban life tough, without the wide-open spaces we'd got used to in Colorado. I found an apartment with a wide sunny window-sill for him to lie on and next to the great off-leash Duboce dog park, but what I didn't realize until I started exploring was that there was another gem just half a mile away. The first signs I saw of Buena Vista Park were the trees at its peak looming over the neighborhood, their tops wrapped in fog. Following Duboce Avenue uphill to its end, and then meandering through 37 acres of woodland, I found myself 575 feet high, looking out over the city as the clouds cleared.

It's now become our morning walk, and we can make it to the peak and back in 45 minutes if I'm in a hurry. That's not often though, because catching up with the other regulars has become part of the pleasure. In the peculiar way of the dog-walking world, I often feel like I know the canines before I've properly met the owners, especially since I can't compete with Thor's natural charms. A great case in point is Bug and Chieka's owner, or as she's better known in the tech world, Heather Champ, the pioneering former Flickr community manager who furnished these photos.

Though it's not on the same scale as Golden Gate or Presidio, it's actually the oldest official park in the city, and is full of corners and history to explore. It was only when I was chatting to one of the gardeners that I realized the marble chunks lining some of the paths were actually fragments of gravestones from the cemetery that was razed by WPA workers in the 30's. At night its nooks can make it less welcoming, with hoboes camping out and casual hookups, but in the morning it's a slice of heaven.


If you live anywhere near the Lower Haight, Upper Castro or Noe Valley areas, you really should check out this urban garden. There's nothing like wandering through groves of Eucalyptus and Redwoods, watching the fog blow through the canopy, to refresh your soul after working through painfully obtuse YouTube comments (just to pick a random example, ahem). And if you see a cute Chihuahua mix with a snaggle-tooth, be sure to make a fuss of him.


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