Button up your pea coat, don your deck shoes, and weigh anchor at San Francisco’s Land’s End where a Shipwreck Walk awaits adventuresome admirals, both young and old. This revamped park at San Francisco’s western edge offers more than just devastatingly beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean—there’s also ghost trains, shipwrecks, abandoned pools, hidden bunkers, caves, secret beaches, native plants, porpoises, occasional otters, and more!
With trails accessible to a variety of fitness and mobility levels (awesome for strollers), ample parking, a killer visitors center, and nearby dining at Louis’ and the Cliff House, this park is an ideal reason to pack up the visiting grandparents, kiddos, and even the family dog for a day or just an hour of San Francisco at its off-the-Wharf finest.
Signs from the parking lot direct young admirals toward a wide ambling path with plenty of stop-and-learn signs along the way. Fans of Thomas the Tank Engine will delight in the stories and pictures of Gold Rush tycoon Adolph Sutro’s 1888 steam train which once chugged along not far from where the very path where their little feet are stomping.
Chug up Steam Train Grade until you (think you can) reach the Golden Gate Overlook which sports postcard worthy views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Then amp up your nautical knowledge at the next stop, Shipwreck Overlook, with this tidbit of twin-ship trivia: of the more than 30 ships that have wrecked along this short stretch of coastline, two of the most visible ruins are the hulls of the sister ships the Lyman Stewart and the Frank Buck. Together in berth and in death—they were built in the same shipyard and launched just days apart in 1914. The Lyman Stewart wrecked here in 1922, the Frank Buck joined her only yards apart in 1937. At low tide you can make out both, as well as the wreck of a third ship—the Ohioan, which sank here in 1936.
Keep Things Rolling
Though ideal conditions such as low tide and clear skies (the fog rolls in thick!) merit the easiest sightings, even on a socked-in day at high tide, with a little patience you can still make out the ruins among the crashing waves. Plus you might spot a porpoise or two frolicking in the waves!
Once you’ve made it to the shipwreck mecca, you can keep going another half mile to Mile Rock Beach. This coastal trail narrows and is more rugged (there is a pretty steep walk down to the beach) but for the mommy who wants to get her postpartum glutes in shape, this walk will do just the trick! Plus you’ll be rewarded with a secret beach that few visitors see.
Ditch the Stroller
For another rigorous workout and to tire out your toddler: take the steps that lead down to Sutro Baths. Once you’ve explored the bath ruins and nearby cave, you can head back up the wide path to the parking lot, or catch your breath and a breathtaking view, and then head up the Sutro Baths Upper Trail to reconnect with the main trail. Caution: the upper portion of the trail can be slippery when wet, so exercise good judgment and keep your little ones near.
The newly bedazzled visitor’s center boasts fresh-baked goods and hot coffee, plus clean restrooms, doggie water bowls at the drinking fountains, and lots of kids books and toys. Open Mon-Fri 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, Sat-Sun 9:00 am – 6:00 pm. And for the hungriest shipmates out there try Louis’, which is open every day from 6:30 am – 6:00 pm and serves breakfast all day, plus burgers, grilled cheese, and mimosas!
What to Wear
You’ve heard it before: pack layers. Even on a sunny day before you get more than a few hundred yards from your car the fog can creep in and when it does it brings the chill of the salt, salt sea with it. And if you want to spend some time on nearby Ocean Beach, you’ll want at least a light jacket.
Take Geary Blvd until it turns to Point Lobos Avenue. The parking lot is on your right, before the downward slope. Public transit option: Take the 38 Geary to the end of the line/Sutro Park and cross the street at the light.
Land’s End Lookout Center: 680 Point Lobos Avenue, San Francisco, Ca
What is your favorite feature of Lands End?
Photo credit: Amber Guetebier