The Running Trails of Golden Gate Park, II

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

There are a lot of wonderful things about the location of UCSF. We are right by multiple Muni lines, we are close to Arizmendi bakery, and we have some of the greatest views in The City. However, I think one of the best things about our school’s location is its proximity to Golden Gate Park. In the first installment, I described my four-mile loop. This week, I will lay out my 6-mile and 10-mile loops through the park.

Six-Mile Loop

This is really just an extension of the four-mile. So instead of turning left after the bridge, you continue straight on JFK. At this point, the sidewalk turns into a dirt trail. You will go past a big field on your left and a small lake (Lloyd Lake) on your right.

Continue until you see a wide, flat lake called Spreckels Lake on your right. There, you will see a sign that reads “Polo Field and Stadium.” Turn left down that road. You can either run up and over a little hill to end up on the track that surrounds the Polo Fields, or run through a short tunnel to get to the field and then climb the stairs to the track.

When you’re up on the track, turn right to run part ways around the field. Once you’re on the opposite side, hop off and turn left on the Middle Drive West, which will soon merge with MLK. (You may not see signs, but if you run right, you will run right into MLK.). Follow MLK back to Ninth Avenue, just as in the four-mile loop.

Ten-Mile Loop

The Ten-Mile Loop is an extension of the six-mile with an out-and-back portion that takes you along Ocean Beach and up to Land’s End. So for this one, instead of turning into the Polo Fields, continue straight on JFK. This is a very peaceful section of the run. There are usually fewer people; there is a wide dirt trail and a lot of tree coverage.

You will see buffalo roaming on your right. Run until you come to a T at Bernice Rodgers Way, and turn right. At this point, you can begin to hear the waves at Ocean Beach and see patches of blue through the trees. You will pass Beach Chalet soccer fields on your left.

Follow the road until it intersects with the Great Highway, and turn right. Cross the Great Highway at Fulton Street, so that you are on the same side as the water, and turn up the hill towards the Cliff House.

Depending on the day, you may get some headwind here, but keep going: the view at the top is worth it. Continue past the Cliff House until you see Land’s End Lookout on your left. At this point, you can decide how much more to run.

If you loop around the parking lot, and head back, it will be 9.8 miles. If you’re feeling up for it, you head into the Land’s End Trail and add an additional out–and-back. To continue the loop from Land’s End, retrace your steps back into the park, past Beach Chalet, to the intersection of JFK where it T’d off with Bernice Rodgers.

Instead of turning left onto JFK, continue straight, and the road will intersect with MLK. From there, you can follow MLK all the way back to Ninth, or if you’re looking for more of a trail run, there is a dirt path that runs parallel to MLK along the edge of the park that you will see once you’re back on MLK.

The trail does not meander quite as much as MLK, so you will end up with slightly less mileage on the run, but it will be perhaps a little more scenic.

Those are just some suggested loops to try if you’re like me and want to run simply. Make sure to stay safe out there. These loops are good because there are generally a lot of other runners, bikers and cars about, so you don’t feel too isolated. I recommend teaming up with friends if you go while it’s dark. The park is such a great place to run around and explore, so I hope to see you out there!