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A Coastal Walk in San Francisco

San Francisco is known for many things, but the Golden Gate Bridge has to be near the top of that list we make in our heads. Without being a tourist checking boxes, shouldn’t you try to see the sites that make a place unique? But seeing doesn’t have to mean doing what everybody else does.

So how do you see something as famous as the Golden Gate Bridge in a different way? You let it come to you gradually. The perfect way to do that is with a walk from Lands End to the bridge. This walk takes you along a diverse landscape of rocky cliffs, spectacular beaches with crashing surf, high end neighborhoods, past defensive fortifications dating from the world wars and finally to the bridge itself.

You can Google the route and map it out neatly, but maps only offer a one-dimensional view. Even Street View, for all its delights, can’t convey everything. You don’t experience the clumpy clay in the sand after a light rain, or the shear cliffs that claim the lives of the careless adventurers looking for that perfect vantage point, or the spa-like aromas emanating from the wet flora, or the cheap plastic Halloween decorations adorning multi-million dollar homes. No, you’ve got to walk it to experience these things.

The walk itself is a good workout, with a lot of climbing and long stretches on soft sand, but it’s not the Appalachian Trail, you can get by with a moderate fitness level and good walking shoes. The bridge and the roar of crashing waves will be your constant companion. Were it not for the bridge you might think you were in another place.

The bridge comes at you from different vantage points. One of those vantage points is mental. We can all visualize the Golden Gate Bridge in our minds. So it can be invigorating when you see the real thing. It was thought impossible to build by many, but 84 years after opening she looks as good as you imagine she would.

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