The Bay Area's Top 10 Self-Guided Walking Tours
Whether you’re a couch potato or an avid exercise enthusiast, why not take a break from the monotony of your daily routine when you're traveling? These 10 walking itineraries are outstandingly popular among Bay Area locals. So put down your iPhone, lace up your designer footwear and go!
Precita Eyes Mural Arts
A group of San Francisco artists either vandalize buildings with graffiti or beautify urban environments with thought-provoking wall murals, depending on who you ask. Installations include a colorful celebration of the Tenderloin and the Central Drug Store mural in the Excelsior district. To plan your walk, visit precitaeyes.org for a full list of murals.
Barbary Coast Trail Tour
Self-guided walkers follow inlaid bronze medallions in the sidewalk as they traverse a gently sloping four-mile path through Downtown, Union Square, Chinatown, North Beach, Telegraph Hill, Fisherman's Wharf, and other famed San Francisco locations nestled conveniently near each other. Get your guidebooks at barbarycoasttrail.org.
Residents (and workers) of San Francisco's Financial District enjoy walking the elevated plaza between Embarcadero Center and the Golden Gate Apartments. A landscaped sanctuary where you can chill out, eat lunch, read books, and escape traffic noise. This plaza is also where the Bay Area's best stand-up comics make history at the Punchline. Urban legend has it that one time, one of them was almost funny.
Municipal Rose Garden
Berkeley residents are proud of this many-terraced Eden of exploding colors, where 3,000 rose bushes burst forth with more than 250 flower varieties. Explore the surrounding woods. Then travel an underground tunnel to Codornices Park, known for its giant redwoods and charming playground. Remember to bring your flattened cardboard box for sliding down that cement chute. Visit berkeleyheritage.com for more rose garden info.
Among the flattest four-mile walks in the entire Bay Area is around Oakland's Lake Merritt, just east of downtown. A view-filled experience involving neighborhood architecture, park-like settings, and toy boats on the lake. A perfect place for peaceful sauntering. Rarely crowded because tourists avoid Oakland. Little do they know what they are missing.
Sawyer Camp Trail
South of San Bruno, follow Skyline Boulevard for the entire six-mile length of San Andreas Lake. Breathtaking views – or is that just the gasping of those masochistic joggers speeding by? Anyway, this pretty trail follows the eastern shore of yet another idyllic, forested, crystal-blue lake in which swimming, fishing and everything else is prohibited, but looking is still allowed.
Aimless wandering is the best way to traverse this charmingly constructed, hideously wealthy little ocean-side village, replete with storybook architecture, celebrity residents and a soft white sandy beach. Small groups of peace-seeking locals spend many dreamy hours among Carmel's cobblestone walkways, hidden alcoves, blossoming secret gardens, Clint Eastwood, and other look-worthy attractions the tourists can’t find.
Monterey Beach Walk
Monterey residents never tire of the uniquely azure water found only here, whose color can only be described as Monterey Blue. It's fun to follow 17-mile Drive along Monterey's western shoreline with the beach on one side and the Country Club on the other. More specifically, it's fun for the first two miles or so.
Sonoma Art Walk
Looking to escape from Sonoma Plaza? Try a theme walk. Local art lovers often meet at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art just south of the Plaza. From there they visit all the art galleries on Napa Street. Favorites include the Spirits in Stone Gallery, Tin Can Coffee Gallery, North Bay Gallery and at least five others. It amounts to a leisurely one-mile walk. Pleasant, moderate exercise for the sworn non-athletes among us.
Local Mill Valley walking groups looking for a real challenge bypass the chatty tour guides by simply following Panoramic Highway southwest through Muir Woods all the way (if they can) to Stinson Beach. The trek is about six miles one way. On arrival, eat at Fat Auggies or The Sand Dollar. You'll need the nourishment for that long walk back. Or stay at the Stinson Beach Motel and walk back tomorrow.
—By Judee Shipman
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Lagunitas Petaluma TapRoom & Beer Sanctuary, 1280 North McDowell Blvd., Petaluma
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Lincoln Theater, 100 California Drive, Yountville
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Lake Chalet, 1520 Lakeside Drive, Oakland