The best parks in San Francisco are excellent for all ages and interests, thanks to the varied sightseeing and outdoor adventures on offer. The city may be a densely populated urban centre, but it's blessed with 220 public parks across a dramatic coastline and hilly topography.

    San Francisco has more parks than any other city in the US, so you will find no shortage of options for your next visit. Whatever your family's interest may be, there's always a suitable public park for you in the city. Parks in San Francisco let you revel in the unique California landscape and wildlife, tackle challenging hiking terrain, enjoy a ballgame, and even explore an array of 19th-century ships. Read on to learn about where to explore San Francisco's most beautiful outdoor spaces.

    1

    Muir Woods National Monument

    Home of towering redwood groves

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    The Muir Woods National Monument is one of the best parks in San Francisco, offering spectacular views, diverse wildlife, and a majestic forest of ancient redwood trees. Redwoods can only be found on the Pacific coastline between Monterrey and southern Oregon, so don't miss the opportunity to visit while in San Francisco. The national area is just 16.5 miles northeast of the city centre.

    A popular activity in the Muir Woods National Monument is hiking in the shadows of the Redwood Forest. For a short yet dramatic hike, consider the mile-long boardwalk of Redwood Creek Trail. You can ramp up the heart rate on the Dipsea Trail, taking you 5 miles out to the Pacific Ocean.

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    Location: Mill Valley, CA 94941, USA

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 415-561-2850

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    2

    Mission Dolores Park

    San Francisco’s favourite outdoor meeting place

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    Mission Dolores Park is where locals hang out and relax on a sunny day in San Francisco. Known as one of the best parks in the San Francisco Bay Area, the inviting green space of ‘Dolo’ provides refuge from the sun under palm trees. The typical scene includes book readers sprawled across blankets, college kids playing Frisbee and chugging beer, kids running around the Helen Diller Playground, and tourists enjoying its many attractions.

    Highlights of Mission Dolores Park’s Mexican heritage include the statue of Miguel Hidalgo and a replica of Mexico's Liberty Bell. Make sure to explore 2 of the city’s best neighbourhoods that flank either side of the park, namely Mission District and The Castro.

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    Location: Dolores St &, 19th St, San Francisco, CA 94114, USA

    Open: Daily from 6 am to 10 pm

    Phone: +1 415-554-9521

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    3

    Buena Vista Park

    Enjoy magnificent views at the city’s oldest park

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    Buena Vista Park is a great choice to get your hike on and earn your views in San Francisco. Much of the park is covered in ‘wild’ forest terrain and untamed winding trails, providing plenty of opportunities to go off-the-beaten-path. Free public tennis courts and a large dog park are part of the park. If you’d rather just enjoy a picnic, head to the peak and revel in a magnificent panorama of the city.

    Buena Vista Park is one of the best parks in San Francisco for recreation with great dining nearby. It's right where the famed Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood and Buena Vista Heights meet – both being great dinner spots to consider. For a unique experience, take a psychedelic tour that transports you to the 1960’s Summer of Love movement.

    Location: Buena Vista & Haight Street, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA

    Open: Daily from 5 am to midnight

    Phone: +1 415-831-5500

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    4

    Oracle Park

    One of America’s premier ballparks

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    Oracle Park is one of America's premier ballparks and a visit to San Francisco wouldn't be complete without attending one of its ballgames. Home to the 7-time World Series Champions San Francisco Giants, a game here is an unmatched experience partnered with epic waterfront views.

    The duelling magnificent clock towers adorned with flags and the Willie Mays statues are the 2 exterior features you can’t miss. Once inside, check out the world’s largest baseball glove – a whopping 26 ft tall – and grab a beer at famed Peet’s Café. For the real baseball buffs, make sure to sign up for the 90-minute Behind-the-Scenes Tour where you get to sit in a Major League dugout and visit the press box. Tickets can be hard to come by on the day, so make sure to book in advance.

    Location: 24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94107, USA

    Phone: +1 415-972-2000

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    photo by Alex Hendricks (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    5

    Glen Canyon Park

    An inner-city oasis teeming with wildlife

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    Glen Canyon Park is situated along a deep canyon, running 70 acres. There is no other NorCal park more classic than this green space that showcases the unique terrain of the region. A robust network of trails is popular with hikers, runners and blueberry lovers – wild berries are available for munching along most trails.

    Bird species that come from all over North America often stop in Glen Canyon Park on their migratory route. Other wildlife highlights include howling coyotes, great horned owls, and red-tailed hawks. The park is constantly going through extensive upgrades with recreational facilities such as tennis courts, soccer fields, and a playground.

    Location: Elk St and, Chenery St, San Francisco, CA 94127, USA

    Open: Daily from 5 am to midnight

    Phone: +1 415-831-2700

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    6

    Pioneer Park

    A historical city landmark

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    • History
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    What Pioneer Park lacks in size – at merely 5 acres – it makes up for in history and magnificent views. The park encircles Telegraph Hill, with the famed Coit Tower built on top of it, providing unmatched views of the bay and Golden Gate Bridge. Originally built in 1876 to celebrate America’s 100th birthday, it became the site of the Marine Telegraph Station before evolving into a much-visited city park.

    A spiralling paved roadway with stepped terraces and an esplanade accompanies you as you ascend the hill. Along with its views, Coit Tower is well-known for its array of fresco painting collections. Pair a visit at Pioneer Park with a shopping excursion at PIER 39 – a lively waterfront shopping mecca.

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    Location: 1 Telegraph Hill Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 415-249-0995

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    7

    Washington Square Park

    The heartbeat of the city's original Italian district

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    Washington Square Park is a small, rectangular-shaped public space that provides all the Italian delights you desire. Creamy gelato and cheesy pizza from Golden Boy, as well as focaccia from Liguria Bakery, are among the most popular options among locals. Sit on one of the many wooden benches and take in the park’s highlights – towering Saints Peter and Paul Church and a bizarre dry fountain with Ben Franklin balancing on top.

    Visit on a summer evening to enjoy free movie screenings in the park. Due to Washington Square Park’s central location, a visit to both Pioneer Park and the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park within the same day is doable.

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    Location: Filbert St & Stockton Street, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA

    Open: Daily from 5 am to midnight

    Phone: +1 415-274-0291

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    8

    San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

    Centuries-old ships on the shores of Aquatic Cove

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    At San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, you can travel back in time to the maritime heyday of 19th-century San Francisco. Centred on a pier-protected beach in the Fisherman’s Wharf area, the park is home to a visitor centre, maritime museum, research centre and 8 historic ships to explore. The park is about 2 miles from downtown, with public buses and trams within a short walk from the entrance.

    Start your day at the informative museum before you stroll along the pier, marvelling at the magnificent Balclutha sailing ship and 4-storey-tall Eureka paddlewheel ferry. You can board all ships for a nominal fee. Continue to the onsite workshop where actual shipbuilders walk you through their process. Afterwards, head to the pier end for impressive views of the bay and landmarks such as Alcatraz Island and Golden Gate Bridge.

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    Location: 700-898 Beach St, San Francisco, CA 94109, USA

    Phone: +1 415-447-5000

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    9

    Golden Gate Park

    Urban recreation in a cultural oasis

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    Golden Gate Park is an American landmark that provides you with a diverse offering of nature, culture, history, and education. You can see a herd of bison, play polo, ride a paddleboat on Stow Lake, and visit a world-renowned science academy. You can see why it is the 3rd most visited park in the entire country and simply one of the best parks in San Francisco.

    Highlights include the de Young Museum’s collection of fine arts and the manicured Japanese Tea Garden. Golden Gate Park has numerous picnic areas for a relaxing lunch – it’s even home to both a disc and traditional golf course. Finish your park exploration on the western end at Ocean Beach for an epic Pacific Ocean sunset.

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    Location: 1232 John F Kennedy Dr, San Francisco, CA 94121, USA

    Phone: +1 415-831-2700

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    10

    Presidio of San Francisco

    Views of San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge

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    The Presidio is a popular outdoor recreation centre for San Franciscans, with miles of hiking trails, a golf course, and dramatic views. Formerly a US military fort, the 1,500-acre park now serves as a public space and signature location for photographs of the Golden Gate Bridge.

    The Presidio of San Francisco’s main attraction is the vast Crissy Field, which has a golden sandy beach, walking paths, cafes, and public BBQ spots. It also has an urban environmental centre offering public workshops, after-school programs, and summer camps. Other must-sees include the historic Walt Disney Family Museum and the Lucasfilm Yoda Fountain. Make sure to pop into the Presidio Visitor Centre to grab a map to help you navigate the vast park.

    Location: 1 Lincoln Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94129, USA

    Phone: +1 415-561-4323

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    Ryan Thomas McNutt | Contributing Writer

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