Our guest contributor today is Jennie Aspelin, a longtime friend and San Francisco mom of four boys.
Find the fairies on your next hike! Part of the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve, the Fairy Gates hiking trail in San Francisco offers intrepid hikers — and avid gnome hunters — the reward of several tiny fairy villages set up along the path. It might even be worth crossing the Bay Bridge!
Hiking the Fairy Gates Trail in San Francisco with Kids
We saw so many “fairy houses” along the Fairy Gates trail. My little guys still believe in fairies so this urban hike was super fascinating to them. We found it to be a quick, easy, two-hour hike at a leisurely pace, with lots of shade and not much elevation.
There are lots of spots off the trail to climb boulders and explore; a meadow which would be great for a picnic; fantastic City skyline views on parts of the trail; and an easy, kid friendly urban hike when you want nature but don’t want to leave the city.
The times we’ve been to the Fairy Gates Trail, it has been pleasant and not super crowded. I’ve talked to a few parent friends that have been and enjoyed the hike, but we rarely see other families on the trails. Maybe we go at off-hours when most of the other hikers seem to be adults who are affiliated to the university. There have been a few mountain bikers and trail runners along the way. We stick to the green trails (see map below).
Here's a helpful description of the trail route >
Here’s a good Fairy Gates trail map with suggested route information >
To get to the Fairy Gates Trail at Mount Sutro Forest
I suggest parking on Clarendon at Johnstone. You can't park directly on Johnstone or you’ll get towed without a UCSF campus permit.
Walk up Johnstone Drive, it’ll be uphill about 150 meters, and the trail entrance is on your right. You’ll pass a private residence before the trial starts (I think the private residence is the UCSF Chancellor’s house).
Parents should know
There are no bathrooms, but my kids are not shy and nature poop and pee on the trail or in a bush. (We bring wipes and doggie bags!)
During the Covid-19 pandemic, please bring your own masks, water, and hand sanitizer.