Choose Your Adventure at Lands End: A San Francisco Hiking Destination - 510 Families
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Choose Your Adventure at Lands End: A San Francisco Hiking Destination

In the northwest corner of San Francisco sits a beautiful destination for hiking, exploring, photo ops, and meditation: Lands End. The park offers breathtaking views of the ocean and Golden Gate Bridge, plus interesting areas for families to explore on foot. Stay for a few hours or enjoy a quick visit before heading to another nearby San Francisco destination.

Child looks at Golden Gate Bridge
Don’t miss the gorgeous views | Photo: Maureen Burke

What to Expect

Lands End is a great outdoor destination. I love visiting the park with out-of-town guests because it offers a great mix of natural beauty and an urban feel. It’s part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and has some nice amenities like free parking, clean restrooms, and a welcome center that sells souvenirs and snacks. The grounds are well-maintained and there’s just the right amount of foot traffic.

Child hikes in San Francisco
Look through the fog to spot boats along the hike | Photo: Maureen Burke

Sutro Bath Ruins and Cave

Our family typically parks in the Lands End Lookout parking lot, then we head down to the Sutro Baths ruins. This area is accessible by a long staircase off the main parking lot or a trailhead at the southern end of the grounds. Both the stairs and the trail are steep and not for strollers or those who require mobility assistance. The stairs are made of packed gravel and sand, which can be slippery in some spots. It’s best to hold hands with little ones. Make sure you bring a snack down with you because climbing back up can be hard since there are more than 120 steps—but it’s worth the effort!

Family walks down stairs at Lands End
Climb down the stairs to access the Sutro Bath Ruins | Photo: Maureen Burke

Once down the stairs, you’ll have a chance to explore the Sutro Bath ruins. The area was once home to a lavish ocean-sourced bathhouse. Today, visitors can climb and walk along the concrete remains. It’s a little eerie but also exciting because you can sense that something big was once at the spot. Traversing the ruins is probably best for grade school kids or older because there are some steep ledges and a misstep could land you in algae water. When we visited, some families ventured out to the beach and climbed on the nearby rocks; be sure to use extreme caution and pay attention to tides when near the ocean.

Kid climbing on ruins in San Francisco
Explore the Sutro Bath ruins | Photo: Maureen Burke

Don’t miss the cave to the north of the ruins. If the tide is low, you’ll be able to journey in and see where the ocean has carved out a tunnel in the cliffside.

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Walking along the ruins at Lands End
Bigger kids may enjoy walking along the ruins | Photo: Maureen Burke

Hiking the Lands End Coastal Trail

Take the family hiking on the Lands End Coastal Trail. The route is 1.3 miles each way. When starting from the Lookout parking lot area, you’ll trek down a packed-gravel trail that’s smooth enough for a jogging stroller. Sweeping views of the ocean will keep your kids engaged. There are often boats, from gigantic containerships to small fishing vessels, traveling along the coast. The first half mile or so is smooth and flat, but from there you’ll encounter some hills and stairs. My six-year-old child held her own, but my toddler got tired and sat in our hiking backpack for most of the walk.

Hike at Lands End in San Francisco
The flat path is stroller friendly for about .5 miles. | Photo: Maureen Burke

At the end of the trail, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge. A handful of benches make this a convenient pitstop for a snack. From here, you can: 1) turn around and complete the 1.3-mile trail back to the beginning; 2) continue on to China Beach; or 3) walk to another destination on the park grounds, including Legion of Honor Art Museum (which offers free admission to Bay area residents on Saturdays) and Lincoln Park Playground.

Children playing at playground in San Francisco
Lincoln Park Playground is a fun stop near Lands End | Photo: Maureen Burke

Great Jumping Off Spot

Lands End is located along the ocean between Golden Gate Park and The Presidio, so you can easily extend your time in the city beyond just a hike. Explore the interesting areas inside the park and right around it. Walk to Cliff House, Camera Obscura, Lincoln Park Steps, or Ocean Beach. Take a quick drive to museums in Golden Gate Park or the new Tunnel Tops nature-based playground in The Presidio.

water feature child and golden gate bridge
Tunnel Tops Playground is not far from Lands End | Photo: Whitney Moss

What to Bring On your Lands End Visit

  • Bring layers because the ocean air is cool, but climbing up stairs along the trail can get warm.
  • Hiking backpack or baby carrier if visiting with little ones who may tire along the journey.
  • Plenty of water and snacks to power your trek.
  • Shoes with good grip; sandals aren’t advised due to gravel and sand along paths.
Child near the beach access at Lands End
Plenty of areas to explore | Photo: Maureen Burke

Visit Lands End Lookout

Location: 680 Point Lobos Ave, San Francisco
Website >
More to do with kids in the Presidio just a couple of minutes away >
More family-friendly destinations in nearby Golden Gate Park >
More trails for hiking with little kids in East Bay >

Family climbing stairs on hike in San Francisco
Be prepared to climb some hills and stairs | Photo: Maureen Burke

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