One of the loops you can string together is about 1 mile (West Ridge Trail-Historic Trail-Quarry Road Trail-Nike Road-East Ridge Trail-Mystery Trail-North Ridge Trail-Historic Trail), but your running route through the park can be shorter is you plan to do a run-through. Include the neighboring streets and staircases to increase your running time.
Destination Distance From Downtown
3 of 5 diamonds
Getting to the summit of Mt. Sutro may be difficult when using narrow side trails with exposed roots. However, the Historic Trail traverses the side of the hill and is relatively flat and straight-forward to run.
Time To Complete
This is the average running time if you are starting in the nearby neighborhoods, using the 100+ step staircases, and complete a running loop that includes the summit.
Avoid running here after a rainstorm - the trails can be a muddy disaster.
Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve is a centrally-located 61-acre eucalyptus forest in San Francisco named after the eccentric former mayor of the city, Adolf Sutro. On most days, thick fog coming off the Pacific encompasses this lone hill, giving the forest an undeniable mystique. If you’re craving a quick afterwork dash in the woods where it’s cool and shady, check out Mt. Sutro’s secluded trails.
What Makes It Great
Owned and located next to the University of California San Francisco Parnassus Campus, Mount Sutro is quite literally in the middle of the city. It’s 909 foot peak, covered by a dense eucalyptus forest, towers over the university and offers a break from the everyday hustle and bustle. Several trails meander it slopes and connect to each other and to the surrounding neighborhoods: Forest Knolls/Laguna Honda Lake to the South, and Clarendon Heights to the Southeast, Cole Valley to the Northeast, and Inner Sunset to the West. The reserve exudes waves of eucalyptus scent - complimentary aromatherapy for your run! Shady and cool, trees of 100-200 feet gently sway above you. Make your way to the Historic Trail for a well-maintained dirt path traversing the north side of the park. From here, views of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge can be seen beyond the trees and it is especially beautifully lit on a sunny afternoon. To make a loop within the reserve, be prepared to mix and match different sections of the trails, some of which are less maintained and overgrown. Looking for a great burn? Run up a flight of 162 steps on Oakhurst Lane (then make your way to West Ridge Trail to the Historic Trail).
Who is Going to Love It
Trail runners looking for a great workout in the middle of the city will want to check out Mt. Sutro. With so many different trail sections, it’s easy for beginners to intermediate runner to piece together an appropriate workout. The short and relatively flat the Historic Trail is great for beginners. Intermediate runners can choose to ascend sections of the East Ridge Trail and include the neighborhood stairs for a great thigh-burning workout. On another note, up to 61 species of birds have been seen within the reserve, including the Great Horned Owl, so if you’re an avid birdwatcher make your way over to this forested wonderland.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
If possible take public transportation or bike; parking is limited and usually occupied by UCSF staff and students. Check out the posted links for best parking areas within the neighborhoods. Parts of the reserve are overgrown, sometimes with poison oak, so it’s best to wear long running pants. Nike Road and Medical Center Way are both paved roads that enter into the park, but all trails are dirt. Whether it is dry and dusty or wet and muddy, wear shoes that can handle the terrain. Even fallen leaves can prove slippery when ascending certain steep side trails! Posts with directions are located at most trail intersections, but to avoid becoming lost, become acquainted with your running route and/or use Googlemaps on your phone.