I was recently staying on the outskirts of San Francisco while my husband worked at the U.S. Open. I quickly found that driving around San Francisco was difficult, and parking in San Francisco almost impossible. I decided against going into the city very much and instead spent my time enjoying the beautiful parks and outdoor spaces in the San Francisco area.

California residents have created a lot of very beautiful and easy to enjoy natural spaces, and I enjoyed several of them on my visit: San Bruno Mountain, Golden Gate Park, and the Marin Headlands.

San Bruno Mountain State Park

San Bruno Mountain is a large state park with picnic facilities and hiking trails. There are various endangered species that this park protects, far off the trails to preserve their habitats. There were signs highlighting two of the butterfly species protected here. I walked a short 1.5 mile trail, and even this short trail was breathtaking and surprising. I walked through arid areas, wildflower fields, berry brambles, and finally into a full fledged forest. It was beautiful throughout the hike, and I was able to do it easily, even in flip-flops.

After my hike I drove to the top of the mountain to see the city of San Francisco, but you can also hike or bike up to the top, and many people were doing just that. The view was amazing, and I think it was the very best view of the whole area that can be had. The day I was there was a beautiful, clear day, and I could see the whole bay area, across to the other shores.

If you are traveling in the area, I would highly recommend San Bruno Mountain as a stop. It cost $6/car to enter when I visited, and it was both fun and beautiful.

Golden Gate Park

I drove through San Francisco, trying to follow the 49-Mile Scenic Drive, which was more difficult than I had anticipated. My favorite place along the drive was Golden Gate Park, which was what a huge city park should be: nature, gardens, trails, sports areas, playgrounds, and even museums. I walked through several parts of the park, and tried to drive through most of the road areas as well, just to see what it was like.

Marin Headlands

If you drive across the Golden Gate Bridge, you will arrive in Golden Gate National Recreation Area. We drove west and entered the Marin Headlands. We were astounded by how beautiful if was, so close to the city, but so removed and lonely. There were very few people around, and we enjoyed the beauty of the area and the isolation of the area.

We went on one hike, down towards the lighthouse. Unfortunately the lighthouse was not open the day we were there, but the walk was still beautiful and we were able to see the seals resting on the rocks below. We also stopped at the beach and drove through the headlands on a scenic road, finding beautiful views of San Francisco from the cliffs.