2021 Ultra #32 – The SF Crosstown Trail Ultra

My wife (adventure buddy!) discovered the SF Crosstown Trail and we spent a couple of days hiking most of it for our anniversary. Well, a route like that, it’s only “logical” (!!!) to make an ultra out of it. From Land’s End to Candlestick Park (and back), the 34-mile out and back route traverses lush urban forests, greenways and watersheds with just 3 or 4 traffic lights each way. Most of the segments, you’d be hard pressed to know that you are in the city. Such a gem hiding in plain sight! Here’s my Strava activity:

SF Crosstown Trail

For our anniversary, over the course of two days, we started from Land’s End and got pretty close to John McLaren Park before calling it. So in some ways, the route was already scouted for an out-and-back run with various urban aid stations (gas stations!), water fountains, cafés, etc. I started early’ish after getting to Land’s End a little before 7am.

Land’s End
Coastal Trail

I think I pulled my hamstring during my last ultra (#31). Right leg was feeling pretty stiff (a little sore too) and was hoping it wouldn’t flare up too much to the point I would have to abort. The initial stretch is along the Coastal Trail with fantastic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, all the way until Baker’s Beach. Not a lot of people on the trail that early.

Lobos Creek Valley Trail
The Presidio Landmark

I’ve driven past 19th avenue so many times, but didn’t realize there’s a greenway right next to it, for a few blocks leading up to Golden Gate Park! This route was full of surprises. There’s a gas station at 19th ave and Lincoln Way (mile 3 and mile 19) and also various restaurants.

Greenway along 19th avenue

The route then cuts across the Golden Gate Park via the Rose Garden and then over the bridge across Stow Lake. Just so lush!

Rose Garden

At 16th and Kirkham, there’s a gorgeous set of steps, colorfully named the Hidden Garden Steps with engraved mosaic tiles on each step. I found this one with “Run Jim Run! LOL”, wonder who that is and why it’s there?

One more flight of stairs and you get to the top of Grand View Park and that’s one hell of a view. In a panoramic view, you don’t realize how big Golden Gate Park truly is. It’s so cool to have such an oasis in the middle of all that concrete!

Grand View Peak – that green strip in the distance is Golden Gate Park!

After descending down (more steps!) and reaching the Forest Hill Station, you enter another fantastic greenway, surrounding the Laguna Honda Hospital. And first stretch of wild blackberries! When my wife and I hiked this route, we feasted on them. We were actually surprised that the ripe ones weren’t already eaten by others!

At the top of Panorama (Twin Peaks), you descend down and enter yet another greenway, the Glen Canyon Park. The history of this park is quite fascinating. There was a planned highway and three women (aka the Gum Tree Girls) along with the locals fought against to preserve this watershed (Islais Creek). As you enter the canyon, you definitely leave the city behind. Also, more wild blackberries!

Past the Recreation Center, there’s the Glen Park Greenway which leads up to Pebble’s, a family-owned Brazilian American café. My wife and I stopped here during our hike (and so did I on the way back), chatting with the owners. Supposedly the “Pao de Queijo” is the hot item here!

After crossing Hwy 280 and a bit of sidewalk running, the next greenway is John McLaren Park. So many hikers, dog walkers here! Also, water fountains. At the top of the park, there’s a fantastic vista point overlooking Visitacion Valley and Candlestick Park.

It was starting to feel more city-like past the McLaren park, but the Visitacion greenway had its own charm – community gardens and native plant libraries!

Past the downtown (Leland Ave and tunnel), I finally got to Candlestick Park. Of course, I had to make it to the very edge before turning back!

I hung out at the turn around point for a bit and then headed back. Stopped by a grocery store on Leland Ave to get a coke and made my way back.

Of course I had to stop by Pebble’s and grab an espresso. The jet lag was kicking in at this point and while the caffeine worked for a while, the last few miles was a lot of zombie walking. The sun was out and I got some pretty spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge on that last stretch.

This was a pretty amazing urban ultra and I would highly recommend it. There’s plenty of aid stations and water fountains along the way, not to mention the lush greenways and urban forests that transport you pretty far that you can’t tell you are in San Francisco!

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