The Best Hike in Italy? San Fruttuoso to Camogli: A Scenic Trek Along the Italian Riviera

VIDEO: Big & Small have discovered the best hike in northwestern Italy! The San Fruttuoso to Camogli hike is a challenging one, including lots of dizzying switchbacks, inclines and declines, and steep slopes that require steel chains to maneuver through. Click above to watch!

The Ligurian coast boasts some of the most scenic hiking trails in all of Italy, including the well-beaten paths that link up the enchanting five towns known collectively as Cinque Terre. While tourists swarm straight to Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore, those looking for a less-congested but just as spectacular walk should set their sights a little further northwest to take on the San Fruttuoso to Camogli hike.

Taking the Ferry from Genoa and Nervi

A look at Camogli from the sea.

We were based in Genoa, the grand capital of Liguria, home to pesto, focaccia, Christopher Columbus, and Europe’s biggest historical center. From there, we first took a day trip to the seaside resort area of Nervi, where we walked along the Passeggiata Anita Garibaldi, a 2-km path along the water that features a number of rickety metal stairways that lead down to tiny beach areas and large, flat rocks meant for dedicated sun-worshippers. Nervi is a great day trip from Genoa, accessible via train or ferry. See more about Nervi in our video above!

Beach time in Nervi.

Still, we wanted to get out on the Ligurian Sea and discover more of the region’s hidden treasures. Our main goal was to get to the former fishing village of Camogli, whose colorful stacked houses sit as sweet and pretty as any positioned in a Cinque Terre town—but, first, we wanted to hike. To do that, we headed to the tiny bay of San Fruttuoso, nestled between Camogli and the popular (ahem, overpriced and overtouristed) Portofino.

Getting to San Fruttuoso

A fast and furious ride on the Ligurian Sea.

Forget the car, the only ways to access San Fruttuoso is via ferry or foot. To get there, we took a 2pm ferry from Genoa’s Porto Antico (the old port) with Golfo Paradiso. The ferry service also stops at Nervi, so if you happen to be there, you can pick it up at Nervi’s main port as well. The entire trip from Genoa to San Fruttuoso costs 15 EU (about $16.65 USD) and takes roughly 1 hour and 20 minutes, with a quick stop in Camogli.

We figured out it’s most cost-effective to take the ferry the whole way to San Fruttuoso, then hike to Camogli, where we could catch a train back to Genoa. Of course, the ferry offers some beautiful views of the coastline, but, beware—it’s fast and furious. We both got a little seasick on our way there, so we were relieved to be back on solid ground.

The tiny bay of San Fruttuoso.

Arriving in San Fruttuoso, you’ll first notice the sparkling turquoise waters, tiny pebble beach, and formidable 10th-century Benedictine monastery, the Abbey of San Fruttuoso of Capodimonte, towering above it all. There’s a small selection of bars and restaurants with tourist prices, so budget travelers will want to be prepared with extra water and food before arriving.

We got a quick espresso for a little boost before our hike and set off for the trail. I had read that there were two trails—an easier one that takes you inland, and a perilous one that lines the craggy coastline. We planned on taking the “easier” path, until, well, we couldn’t find it. Instead, we came across this sign:

No big deal … !

San Fruttuoso to Camogli Hike

The 8.7-km path along the coast.

Ready and willing to get going, we accepted this challenge and set off. Within the first 30 minutes, we crossed paths with a handful of hikers coming the other direction. Each had a slightly different opinion of the journey we had ahead, but all seemed to indicate it was going to be long—and tough.

From that point on, we saw no one. With cicadas providing the soundtrack, we zigzagged our way through the hills, climbing slowly up along relentless switchbacks. We captured quick shots of jagged cliffs rising above the blanket of blues, before heading into the depths of the forest.

Holding on for dear life!

As we approached the coastline again, we finally saw them: the steel chains we’d been warned about. These chains can be found strategically attached to the sloped edges of the cliffs. At first, we thought, no big deal, this is a cinch! But then the path grew narrower and rockier, and sloped ever steeper toward the sea.

Around every bend, we were hoping to see some signs of civilization, but then there would be another bend, and another set of chains. Finally, around the 3-hour mark, we caught a full view of Camogli and eventually came across a small collection of houses. A little further along, we ended up in the tiny area of San Rocco.

A sweet site: Camogli from a distance.

From here, we started to see a scattering of tourists, as the trail eventually turned into a paved path and then a long set of stairs heading down. Camogli—and a buttery piece of focaccia—was now easily within eyeshot.

Getting to Camogli

The whole hike from San Fruttuoso to Camogli is roughly 8.7 km and took us about 4 hours. We headed straight to Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, the lively road that lines the sea, to catch the sun setting at Bagni Lido, grab an aperitivo, and try out a fresh slice of focaccia al formaggio, the region’s famous bread stuffed and baked with stracchino cheese.

By 10pm, we had to catch the train back to Genoa. We wish we had more time to explore Camogli—it’s yet another charming Ligurian town that rivals the five among the Cinque Terre, or even the “Alternative Cinque Terre” (see video below!).

VIDEO: Big & Small explore six coastal villages along the Ligurian coast. This is our Alternative Cinque Terre (or rather Sei Terre, “six lands”). See the towns of Porto Venere, Lerici, San Terenzo, Levanto, Bonassola, and Framura. Click above to watch!

Need to Know: Hiking Italy

Liguria has several hiking paths that snake around its hills and coastline. The San Fruttuoso to Camogli one is our most recommended for seasoned hikers who want to get away from the crowds.

Here are some quick tips for getting the most out of your hiking trip in Liguria:

TAKE THE FERRY & TRAIN: To do this hike, we recommend taking the ferry from Genoa with Golfo Paradiso. See their schedule and current rates on their website (we paid 15 Euros for a one-way from Genoa Porto Antico to San Fruttuoso). We saved money (and escaped the crowds) by going straight to San Fruttuoso, hiking, and then taking the train back to Genoa from Camogli.

COME ALREADY FUELED & BRING SUPPLIES: Bring plenty of water (we recommend at least 2 liters per person), especially on a hot day. There’s no place to fill up on the path, until you get close to the finish line. Be prepared with a few snacks as well, and know that the options available in San Fruttuoso are extremely limited. (We couldn’t find any small store, only bars and restaurants.)

DRESS APPROPRIATELY: Wear sturdy shoes. You’ll be covering diverse terrain that includes jagged rocks, dirt paths, and slippery slopes. Dress in comfortable clothing, making sure nothing fits too loosely—you’ll see why this is important when maneuvering through those cliffs with the help of steel chains!

FOLLOW THE TRAIL MARKERS: This hike is well-marked. Just follow the two red dots, which come in especially handy in some of the rockier areas where the path blends in with everything else.

GIVE YOURSELF PLENTY OF TIME: We recommend planning for at least 4-5 hours on the trail. That includes time for breaks, picture-taking, and enjoying some nature and solitude.

STAY SAFE AND INSURED: When doing any sort of hiking, especially in a foreign country, it’s important to have a quality insurance plan. Big & Small recommend SafetyWing, which offers excellent travel medical insurance at an affordable price. This is a great option for nomads and both short- and long-term travelers.

Big & Small’s 2018 Year in Review

Italy, the Middle East, SE Asia, USA and the Balkans

Taking in one of Italy’s most glamorous views in Positano.

Big & Small did slightly less traveling in 2018. Still, we managed to do a complete trip around the globe—starting in Italy, we headed east, only to end up back in Italy for the close of the year. We slept in a total of 41 beds, and visited 8 new countries. Through it all, we made use of planes, trains, automobiles, trams, buses, tuk-tuks, scooters, and our own two feet to get across vast oceans and mountain ranges, charming old towns and coastal villages, and sprawling metropolises.

Here are our top 12 highlights—and all of our YouTube videos!—from Italy to the Balkans, the Middle East to SE Asia, and the USA to a few hidden treasures in between. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for regular updates on our adventures!

1. Puglia, Italy

Big & Small skipped the car and decided to rent scooters to explore the charming towns of Puglia, Italy, including the magical home of the fairytale-like trulli—Alberobello! Other towns we visited include: Ostuni, Cisternino, Locorotondo, Martina Franca, Carovigno, Costa Merlata, Torre Canne, San Vito dei Normanni, Monopoli, and Polignano a Mare. We had a few scooter problems along the way, but enjoyed the beauty of the countryside and the stunning coastline of one of Italy’s most underrated regions. Follow our journey!

2. Valbona to Theth Hike, Albania

We made it to the top of Albania!

After a quick change in travel plans, we decided to head into Albania from Montenegro. We had heard about the Valbona to Theth hike, a roughly 10-km trek that takes you between two tiny villages nestled deep in the heart of the Albanian Alps. This is the first time Big & Small hiked with everything on our backs, navigating rocky terrain as we made our way to the peak from Valbona before walking through dense forest on the knee-buckling descent to Theth. We managed to do this hike at the tail-end of the season in October, which meant we were rewarded with spectacular fall colors—swaths of bright reds and oranges blanketing the rugged mountain edges. We relished the fresh air, local food, and lack of WiFi. Just getting to this area of Albania is a journey in itself (including a ferry and some harrowing bus rides). But that means it remains rather unspoiled, and we sure hope it stays that way.

3. Sarajevo, Bosnia

Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is a city where wars began and olympics were held. You’ll see stunning landscapes, sweeping mountains, and remnants of tragedy. Here are 10 things to do in Sarajevo, including taking the new cable car up Trebevic Mountain, walking along the abandoned Olympic bobsled track, trying local food and coffee, and learning about the city’s most harrowing moments under siege.

4. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai was Big & Small’s introduction to the Middle East, and it did not disappoint. We spent a whirlwind two days in this luxe desert city, hopping between glamorous malls, a 7-star hotel, faux beaches, and the tallest building in the world. But the best part was getting a taste of the much more modest Old Dubai.

5. The Amalfi Coast, Italy

Discover southern Italy’s Campania region and the jaw-dropping Amalfi Coast! This is the land of colorful, cliffside villages; narrow, nail-biting roads; stunning hidden beaches; and pure luxury living. But this doesn’t mean budget travelers can’t experience all the fun and fabulousness. Here are our tips on doing the Amalfi Coast on a budget.

6. Galle, Sri Lanka

A visit to this pearl of the Indian Ocean was an unexpected surprise. The island of Sri Lanka is a must-see, thanks to the kind and generous people, fresh and vibrant foods, beautiful beaches, calm waters, and the chance to meet sea turtles and a monkey in stylish pants! Our journey to the southern coast town of Galle began with a rickety but scenic train ride and took us to hidden beaches, a sea turtle hatchery, and the locals’ best breakfast spot.

7. Belgrade, Serbia

Belgrade, Serbia, is a mix of grit, decay, hipness, and luxury, and its dynamic energy is like no other European capital we’ve explored. Once the heart of the former Yugoslavia, the Balkans’ grandest city has a fascinating history—plenty of it dark—which can be found in everything from its scenic fortress overlooking the Sava and Danube Rivers to the shocking ruins of the NATO bombings of 1999. But Belgrade is just as much a bustling metropolis for the young at heart, with its great restaurants, sleek cafes, renowned nightclubs, newly renovated waterfront, and one of the coolest museums devoted to Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla.

8. Sofia & Seven Rila Lakes, Bulgaria

One of the most beautiful hikes in the Balkans.

The capital city of Bulgaria has a fascinating history interwoven with its diverse mix of influence from the Romans, Ottomans, and Greeks. Throughout the city center, you’ll walk through old Roman ruins; catch a full view of a mosque, Catholic cathedral, orthodox church, and synagogue all at once (the Square of Tolerance); and pass by dilapidated, Communist-era buildings sitting alongside hip new cafes and restaurants. In Sofia, we visited the Museum of Socialist Art, took a free food tour, drank some “miracle” mineral waters, and explored the nearby Vitosha Mountain. But our most memorable moment in Bulgaria was hiking the Seven Rila Lakes trail (part of the highest mountain range in the Balkans), one of the most breathtaking and rewarding hikes we’ve ever done. 

9. Liguria, Italy

If you’ve already battled the crowds of Cinque Terre and are looking for a more tranquil side to the seaside region of Liguria, Italy, we’ve got your itinerary. Big & Small based ourselves in the larger town of La Spezia, and traveled by bus and train to six other nearby coastal villages that rival the five towns of Cinque Terre for their spectacular views, colorful houses, and fresh seafood. Join us as we walk through Porto Venere, Lerici, San Terenzo, Levanto, Bonassola, and Framura. This is our “alternative” Cinque Terre—or more like our “Sei Terre” (Six Lands)!

10. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Big & Small spent a month in Malaysia’s gleaming, bustling capital of Kuala Lumpur. Our intention here was not only to take in the city’s spicy food and melting-pot culture, but to be true “digital nomads,” i.e. save money and focus on our online work. But we found plenty of time to sit by the pool and explore the city as well. We visited the Petronas Towers and the national mosque, checked out traditional Malay dance, dodged monkeys at the Batu Caves, and caught plenty of whiffs of the world’s stinkiest fruit.

11. Montenegro

Montenegro boasts fewer than 700,000 residents, but welcomes more than 1 million tourists every year. This is because this small Balkan country has quite a lot to offer, from its rugged mountains to its narrow strip of beaches along the Adriatic coastline. Big & Small traveled through the country via bus and train. We walked the boardwalk of Bar, meandered our way through the old towns of Kotor and Budva, enjoyed fresh seafood and pomegranate juice, and visited the largest lake in the Balkans. But we also had a few disappointments along the way…

12. San Francisco, California, USA

This was our home base for several years, so we enjoyed being reintroduced to San Francisco’s many charms (even with its growing ills, too). The City by the Bay is now infamous for its outrageous prices, but it’s still a place full of things to see and do that require nothing but your curiosity.

A Day Exploring San Francisco’s Spectacular Coastline

Already spoiled with panoramic bay views, high hilltop outlooks, and charming natural oases, the downtown dwellers of San Francisco rarely make it all the way to the other side of the city. It’s a bit ridiculous given the 7×7 quaintness of San Francisco, but, hey, it’s quicker to cross the bay into Oakland then to journey all the way to the outer reaches of Fog City—a nickname that only becomes fully realized the more you venture west.

So, Big & I decided to take a day trip out to the coast, to nosh on some fancy toast, explore whimsical windmills, climb up sandy dunes, wander through ruins, hike the coast, and walk what has to be one of the most scenic labyrinths in the world. Here’s a look at our journey, with full details (and a handy walking map!) below—we recommend every part of it.


1. Trouble Coffee Co.: Grab a coffee, coconut, and slice of cinnamon toast

This tiny coffee shop at 4033 Judah Street were the pioneers of the (in)famous $4 artisanal toast wave. Note the “Back in 5” sign here: That 5 was more like 20 for us, but the adjacent tree-trunk-sculpted parklet made the wait a bit more tolerable.
This tiny coffee shop at 4033 Judah Street were the pioneers of the (in)famous $4 artisanal toast wave. Note the “Back in 5” sign here: That 5 was more like 20 for us, but the adjacent tree-trunk-sculpted parklet made the wait a bit more tolerable.

coconut
No complex menu here: just order the thick slice of cinnamon toast slathered in Grade AA butter and add a cup of joe and a fresh young coconut to wash it all down.

2. Cool Beach Bungalows: Strike a pose 

Feelin’ the colors…
Feelin’ the colors…

3. The South (Murphy) Windmill: See the largest of its kind in the world

The Murphy Windmill would attempt to outshine its sister attraction (the next spot on our list) by becoming the largest windmill in the world outside of Holland when it was completed in 1908. Its sails reach out 114 feet. It was used to pump fresh well water into the park. After going into a state of disrepair, it’s been brought back to its former glory thanks to windmill experts based in the Netherlands, of course.
The Murphy Windmill would attempt to outshine its sister attraction (the next spot on our list) by becoming the largest windmill in the world outside of Holland when it was completed in 1908. Its sails reach out 114 feet. It was used to pump fresh well water into the park. After going into a state of disrepair, it’s been brought back to its former glory thanks to windmill experts based in the Netherlands, of course.

4. The North (Dutch) Windmill: Frolic through the tulip gardens

The Dutch Windmill was built in 1902, before its much-bigger sister, and is now the whimsical focal point of the bright and beautiful Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden, intricately speckled with thousands of vibrantly colored bulbs.
The Dutch Windmill was built in 1902, before its much-bigger sister, and is now the focal point of the bright and beautiful Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden, intricately speckled with thousands of vibrantly colored bulbs.

5. Sutro Heights Park: Get a bird’s eye view of Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach

Walk along the Great Highway and take a right at Balboa Street to climb these sandy steps.
Walk along the Great Highway and take a right at Balboa Street to climb these sandy steps.

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The top of Sutro Heights Park offers sweeping views of Ocean Beach and Golden Gate Park.

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Weave your way to the park’s peak and explore the area where Adolph Sutro’s luxurious, cliffside estate once sat above the original Cliff House.

6. Sutro Baths: Explore the abandoned ruins of what was once a world-famous pool

Sutro Baths
Sutro’s other local marvel has also been reduced to ruins, but these ones make for a pretty fun urban spelunking adventure. The Sutro Baths were once contained the world’s largest indoor swimming pool. It’s now a spot to gawk at the sea, and get some pretty fantastic engagement photos!

7. Lands End Coastal Trail: Hike the well-trodden path

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At the top of Sutro Baths, take the Coastal Trail leading towards Mile Rock Beach and Eagle’s Point. This trail is fairly touristy—it’s mostly flat and grants nice views of the Pacific and the Golden Gate Bridge—but it’s easy enough to catch a moment or two of solitude, especially when you get to the big (hidden) attraction…

Mile Rock Beach Stairs
Follow the signs for Mile Rock Beach and descend the sandy stairs. Halfway down, you’ll see that the stairs continue to your left—this will take you to Mile Rock Beach. Don’t take those steps; instead, keep heading straight up to the small rocky cliff. And look down!

8. Lands End Labyrinth: Time to calm the mind and… handstand

8. Lands End Labyrinth: Go off trail for this manmade seaside wonder
This labyrinth was first created by artist Eduardo Aguilera in 2004. After a few jerks destroyed his artwork in 2013, a group of local volunteers rebuilt it in 2015.

Walking the stone-guided paths of this labyrinth—with the waves crashing below—is the best type of meditation.
Walking the stone-guided paths of this labyrinth—with the waves crashing below—is the best type of meditation.

9. The Golden Gate Bridge: The photo opps are endless

Can never get sick of this view...
Can never get sick of this view…

10. Lincoln Park Steps

Walk along the path at the edge of Lincoln Park until you reach California Street. Head down the stairs and look up at this very cool neighborhood project.
Walk along the path at the edge of Lincoln Park until you reach California Street. Head down the stairs and look up at this very cool neighborhood project.

Follow our path…

The entire 4-mile journey.
The entire 4-mile journey.

BONUS: Head into the Sea Cliff neighborhood and weave your way down to China Beach then Baker Beach. From there, you can take the Batteries to Bluffs trail to get even closer to the great Golden Gate. READ MORE HERE about that hike.

Mount Bachelor in Oregon and Rural Northern California

Big and Small Travel are on Youtube! We post travel videos showcasing recent trips and excursions. Our most recent videos from 2016 include Mount Bachelor near Bend, Oregon where Big and Small go snowshoeing for the first time! Check it out below:

We enjoy the urban slides of San Francisco, California at Seward Street. Watch Handstand Steph fly and fall on these fast slides below:

Lastly, J-Crew got a chance to explore Northern California in an area near called Brownsville-Challenge, California. Check it out below:

PhotoPhiles: Cinque Terre, Italy – The Italian Riviera

 

Monterosso in Cinque Terre
Monterosso in Cinque Terre

It’s hard to pick the most breathtaking spot in a country full of them, but this is one part of Italy that will truly wow you into submission. On the coast of the Italian Riviera, in the Liguria region, Cinque Terre or “The Five Lands” comprises a quintet of quaint villages: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The stunning and jaw-dropping architectural beauty of Cinque Terre was created over a millennium by farmers and residents. Houses and buildings rise sharply from the sea, as do intricate rows of grapevines.

Our home base while visiting Cinque Terre was in La Spezia, a mid-sized town just south of Riomaggiore. It’s a convenient and more affordable spot to stay when visiting the area, and has easy access to the train line that runs between the villages. It’s also a great base for a day trip to Pisa (just a 1-hour train ride) or even Florence (a little over 2 hours on the train). Each town has its unique flair: Be sure to purchase a hiking and train pass to make a stop at each. We recommend grabbing an espresso in Monterosso, sharing a pizza in Vernazza, slurping up a basil-olive oil gelato in Corniglia, digging into stuffed mussels in Manarola, and topping it all off with a glass of red in Riomaggiore. (Don’t worry, the steep, sometimes treacherous, hiking will burn it all off!)

Enjoy our photos and videos showcasing one of the world’s most charming corners.

Manarola: Taking in the sunset after enjoying stuffed mussels and incredible Italian red wine.

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Corniglia from the hiking trail: Primary industries here are fishing and winemaking.

Manarola: The stunning harbor and vista in the town center.

Cinque Terre Vista
Vista point from the hiking trail, near Corniglia.

Manorial: The terraces in Cinque Terre are supported by over 7000 KM of dry stone walls.

Monterosso: JCrew enjoys coffee time along the Liguria Sea.

Monterosso: The biggest town in Cinque Terre brings in the biggest crowds with its expansive sand beach.

Handstand Steph at Monterosso.

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Corniglia: The Oratory of Rocco dates from 1480.

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Riomaggiore: Hiking along the free trail, just outside the town.

Beach in Monterosso.
Monterosso: Beautiful blues line the Cinque Terre’s most northern town.

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Near Corniglia: Cinque Terre resident selling freshly squeezed orange juice along the paid trail.

San Francisco’s 8 Best Running Trails

From hippies to techies, love-ins to hack-a-thons, the culture of San Francisco has certainly changed throughout the decades. But one thing has remained the same: the city’s awe-inspiring natural beauty. There’s eye candy surrounding nearly every nook and cranny of San Francisco, whether you’re up for taking a jog through Nob Hill, the Marina, Pacific Heights, the Presidio, even the FiDi and the Mission. It’s truly the greatest motivation to get your butt outside and moving. So, here, I’ve cobbled together a few of the city’s best urban jogging routes that will take you through breathtaking sites, streets, sidewalks, paths, natural green areas, boardwalks, and beaches. No gym membership necessary, however a word of caution: It’s always critical to watch where you’re walking/running in this city, as you may end up stepping on a stinky surprise from either dog or human… Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Before starting, check out an update with Handstand Steph at one of the more popular stair workouts in SF:

We’ll begin at our own neighborhood, with what we’ve dubbed, “The Russian-Nob Circuit,” developed and created by Handstand Steph with consultation by J-Crew.

The Steps of Ina Coolbrith Park on the Russian Nob Circuit.
Ina Coolbrith Park on the Russian Nob Circuit. Looking up the steps toward Taylor Street.

1. The Russian-Nob Circuit:

Rough Mileage: 0.6 miles one way, to the point you reach the Green Street stairs on the left side of Taylor Street.
Level of Difficulty –
Moderate-Difficult depending on how many hills you do and how fast you go.
Extra Challenge:
Make it a 6-, 8-, or 10-hill workout that spans Nob Hill and Russian Hill (see below for more details).

Trail Details: A- Begin at Pine and Taylor, which is a block down the hill from Grace Cathedral in Nob Hill. Run up and down the Taylor Hill twice, preferably from the wider left hand side, where the Masonic Center stands. Proceed north up Taylor, running toward Broadway. (Optional: Note the beauty of Grace Cathedral and, if you’re feeling extra energetic, jog up the steps past the maze, exit the Cathedral grounds on Sacramento, then head down to rejoin Taylor Street.)

Steph conquering the Broadway stairs on the 'Russian Nob
Steph conquering the Broadway stairs on the ‘Russian Nob” Circuit.

 B- Make a left turn at Broadway and run up the hill. At the top, admire the awesome view of North Beach, the Transamerica building, and the Bay Bridge.(Optional: Run the Broadway steps twice, once on each side, for an extra kick in the butt.) Turn left and continue upward (with another big hill) on Taylor.

C- At the top, and to the right, you’ll come across Ina Ina Coolbrith Park between Green Street and Broadway. This hidden gem has a beautiful and winding staircase leading to Chinatown then North Beach. Run up and down these stairs a couple times. If you’re feeling strong, continue on Taylor until you reach the Green Street steps to the left.

D- Go straight up the narrow, steep staircase, which connects to Green Street. I recommend doing these steps hard at least once or even twice before heading to Jones Street and making your way back to Pine Street.

Recommended Pit Stop: Once finishing the Green Street steps, run about three blocks to Hyde Street. Take a left and continue on Hyde until you get to California Street (there are a few extra hills here to add to that workout!). Reward yourself with a treat or cup of Stumptown Coffee at Flour and Co., located at 1030 Hyde Street.

 

Running to Coit Tower
Running the Macchiarini stairs to Coit Tower.

2. The Lyon Street Steps of the Presidio:                                                        

Rough Mileage: Nearly 300 steps.
Level of Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult, depending on your speed and frequency.

Trail Details: A- Begin at Broadway and Lyon, at the top of the stairs. I usually start from the top of the hill and walk down to prepare the ascent up the majestic Lyon Street steps. On weekends and sunny days, prepare for tourists and locals with cameras, because the view is vast and regal. On the way down the stairs note the Palace of the Fine Arts and the wondrous blue hues of the Bay ahead, as well as the lush, green Presidio to the left.

Looking down from the Lyon Street Stairs.
Looking down from the Lyon Street Stairs.

B- Prepare for 288 steps, broken up into a few different staircases. From the bottom, the first half is steeper than the second half, so don’t lose hope! From there, at Vallejo, the steps get wider and are broken up into a few sections, which are flanked by elegant landscaping. At the top, you’ve reached one of the wealthiest streets on the West Coast (home to the Levi family and more) — congrats.

Extra Challenge: For a more comprehensive workout, add some push-ups and crunches at the top, then head back down and repeat until your legs shake uncontrollably. Be sure to stretch (particularly the calves and the derrière) once finished, as this stairway workout is guaranteed to hurt at least a day or two.

Steph at the bottom of the Lyon Street steps.
Steph at the bottom of the Lyon Street steps.

3.Coit Tower Run

Rough Mileage: 0.40 miles from bottom to top of the Filbert Steps
Level of Difficulty:
Easy-Moderate, depending on where you begin.

Trail Details: A- You can either start at Kearny and Broadway (to get in some more mileage) or Filbert and Columbus, where you’ll run to the start of the Coit Tower path. Starting at Kearny and Broadway will lead you to the Macchiarini stairs. Here, you’ll encounter fewer people, but will have to contend with two steep hills, with uneven steps to add to the fun. Be careful of scattered trash and people stopping on the steps. If you begin at Filbert and Columbus, you’ll experience a gradual incline until you hit the Filbert Steps.

Peter Macchiarini stairs leading to Coit Tower.
Peter Macchiarini stairs leading to Coit Tower.

B- Once you’ve reached the steps and path leading to Coit Tower you’ll see more people angling for pictures and admiring the awesome views of Downtown SF, including landmarks like the Transamerica building, North Beach and the Embarcadero. Take the stairs to the main trail leading to Coit or divert off-trail and on to the dirt for incredible views of North Beach and beyond. You’ll reach Coit Tower within 5-10 minutes. If you’re looking for a quick workout with moderate ease, this is your best urban workout.

Recommended Pit Stop: Once finishing Coit Tower, run down to Columbus Avenue and go to Pacific. Grab a great cup of coffee or better yet an espresso at Reveille, located at 200 Columbus Avenue.

Coit Tower
Coit Tower

4. The Embarcadero Waterfront Route

Rough Mileage: From approximately 1.5 to over 2 miles.
Level of Difficulty: Easy-Moderate, depending on speed.

Trail Details: The ultimate run through the “concrete jungle,” the Embarcadero path is ideal and very convenient for even those coming from outside the city. Depending where you begin — good starting points include the Ferry Building, AT&T Park, or Fisherman’s Wharf — you’ll see many of San Francisco’s leading attractions. There are typically many local runners that take this path, helping to motivate any beginner runner. If that’s not motivation enough, breezy views of Coit Tower, the Bay and Golden Gate Bridges, Alcatraz, and more will leave your senses overwhelmed.

Tip: Run early or later in the day to avoid higher foot-traffic times.

In awe of the Golden Gate Bridge along the Coastal Battery Trail.
In awe of the Golden Gate Bridge along the Coastal Battery Trail.

5.Coastal Trail Battery Path near Golden Gate Bridge                                  

Rough Mileage: 3.2 miles
Level of Difficulty: Moderate-Tricky, due to trail conditions

This is a very scenic and, thus, very popular trail with its sweeping bay and ocean views. Start at Battery Chamberlin on Baker Beach, or overlooking Baker Beach on the dirt path along Lincoln Avenue. The main appeal of this trail is the breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Along the way, you’ll pass numerous artifacts of military history — generations of coastal defenses line the Coastal Trail between Baker Beach and the Golden Gate. The batteries along this portion of the Coastal Trail generally predate the great wars of the 20th century — Batteries East and West were erected just after the Civil War. From these forts to Nike missile sites, San Francisco’s seacoast is evidence of how the art of war and defense has evolved over the decades.

Steph checks out the numerous batteries along the Coastal Trail Battery Path.
Steph checks out the numerous batteries along the Coastal Trail Battery Path.

Tip: This is a true running trail, so beware of loose dirt, uneven ground, and rocky areas.

6. Golden Gate Park: This large, lush park is littered with trails — like the ones circling Stow Lake and going up Strawberry Hills — and even offers a well-maintained track for sprinters and stair-runners at Kezar Stadium.

Steph handstanding near Lovers Lane among one of many Presidio paths and trails.
Steph handstanding near Lovers Lane among one of many Presidio paths and trails.

7. Bernal Hill: This Outer Mission park/nature area has it all: trails, views, and elevation. There are various starting points here to get to the main trail, which circles the hill and rewards you with spectacular views of the city. You’ll be sharing the trail with lots of neighborhood residents and dog-walkers.

Your SF trail/workout warriors in the Presidio.
Your SF trail/workout warriors in the Presidio.

8. The Presidio: One of the more underrated neighborhoods in the city, the Presidio boasts numerous scenic trails (including the Coastal Trail Battery Path mentioned above) that snake through lush sections of forest and along the coast. This is a great resource for specific trail information at the Presidio Information Page.