A walk by the water — sea, lake, river, bay — is a balm for the overworked body and soul. Part of the magic is having no place to go: A walk on the beach can last as long as desired; a walk around the lakeshore is a circle; a walk along a stretch of the river can lead upstream or down, to the headwaters or not.
This meditative, nowhere-to-go mindset is in play on walks along San Francisco’s bayshore. If you’re goal-oriented, you can take on the challenge of hiking as much of the planned 500-mile-long San Francisco Bay Trail as possible (about 350 miles are currently in place). Or not. But it’s an option, given that the Bay Trail route piggybacks on the shorter walks described here and elsewhere around the bay (check out baytrail.org).
Another nice thing about bayshore walks: You don’t have to worry about the furies that sometimes enervate a seaside walk. The winds are generally less strong along the bayshore, and sneaker waves are not a worry. Tides affect waterlines, but these trails are all located above mean high water, so you don’t have to consult a tidal chart to time your trek.
Tiburon Linear Park
This urban walk, also called the Tiburon Historical Trail, shadows the shoreline of Richardson Bay and lies, for the most part, on the abandoned railbed of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad, which provided passenger and freight service throughout the North Bay from the 1870s into the 1930s. From a start at Blackies Pasture, head south on the paved path toward Tiburon, with vistas opening across the water onto Sausalito, the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge just peeking over the wooded ridgeline, and stretching southeast toward the San Francisco skyline. The 5.4-mile out-and-back trail, shared easily with cyclists and joggers, traces the shoreline past the soccer fields and open spaces of McKegney Green before hitching up to parallel Tiburon Boulevard, which is followed via sidewalk to the waterfront in downtown Tiburon. Walking back along the same route, Mount Tamalpais, Marin County’s sleeping lady, dominates the viewscape. The entire length is wheelchair- accessible. For more information visit www.tiburonpeninsulafoundation.org/historical-trail.php.
Wave Organ and the Municipal Pier
The classic San Francisco bayfront walk is along the Golden Gate Promenade at Crissy Field, a 9-mile out-and-back ramble that features classic views of the Golden Gate and easy access to East Beach and a grassy former airstrip. But you can break away from the crowds and take in a pair of different bayside attractions by heading east from the promenade. Beginning at the easternmost parking lots, walk inland past the St. Francis Yacht Club and harbor, enjoying classic views of the San Francisco skyline, and continue to the tip of the jetty that arcs into the bay, where you’ll find the Wave Organ. Built in 1986, the organ consists of pipes “played” by the waves; place an ear to a pipe to listen, keeping in mind that the music can’t always be heard above the crash of the surf. To continue, retrace your steps back to the yacht harbor and again head eastward, passing the scenic Marina Green, Gashouse Cove and Fort Mason with its galleries and eateries on sidewalks and paved paths. Head down toward the bay once you reach Van Ness Avenue, which dead-ends at the Municipal Pier. Closed to vehicle traffic and frequented by anglers, the pier curves out into the bay, where views open across the water to Angel Island, Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate, and inland across Aquatic Park and the hilly waterfront neighborhoods of the City by the Bay. The walk totals about 5.5 miles out and back. For more information visit www.nps.gov/goga.