January 2005: Golden Gate National Recreation Area


San Francisco, California

In 1972 a menagerie of government properties around the San Francisco Bay that included forts, a prison, an airfield, beaches and forests came together as the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, becoming one of the world's largest urban national parks. In the park are such popular destinations as Alcatraz, the Presidio and the Cliff House at Lands End. Today the park administers 75,388 acres of land - including 28 miles of shoreline - on more than 20 separate parcels.

You will not be lacking things to do with your dog in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. One of the best places for dog owners to head is Fort Funston on the Pacific Ocean at the southern extreme of the park in the city (off Skyline Boulevard
- Route 35). There are trails to romp along among the cliffs and plenty of unrestricted access to the beach. Look for hang gliders soaring above the cliffs. Except for areas of bird nesting and small China Beach, dogs are permitted on the sand
in the city of San Francisco all the way north from Fort Funston to the San Francisco Bay.

Across the bay there is first-rate canine hiking in the Marin Headlands and the Oakwood Valley on designated trails. Elevations in the wooded hills climb to over 1000 feet. Dogs are not permitted in the Muir Woods or the Tennessee Valley, the two most significant prohibitions against dogs in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. (Please note - these rules are subject to change.)

Connecting the Golden Gate National Recreation Area on both sides of the San Francisco Bay is one of the world's most famous bridges - the Golden Gate Bridge. You can walk your dog across the familiar orange bridge, maybe the most photographed man-made structure in the world. The hike is more than 1.5 miles one-way and an estimated 3800 people make the walk each weekday with foot traffic doubling on the weekends.

You will pass under the world's two highest bridge towers, 220 feet above the water. Views from the bridge on a clear day can extend 20 miles out to sea, although the pedestrian walk-way is on the east (city) side. This is not a hike for a skittery dog - you are only feet from speeding traffic, it is noisy and the bridge does sway. A new 4'6" Public Safety Railing has recently been installed to provide a better buffer for bridge hikers. The south terminus of the hike in San Francisco is in Fort Point and the Golden Gate Promenade extends the hike another 3.5 miles along the bay. A live webcam provides continuous pictures of the bridge at goldengatebridge.org so you can check on visibility before making a special trip to the bridge with your dog.

The park is located in the western edge of San Francisco along the Great Highway. The parcels of land can be accessed from US Route 1.