The most beautiful hikes around the famous “golden gate” of San Francisco, California

Golden Gate Park Visitor’s Guide.

San Francisco’s largest park, Golden Gate Park, covers more than 1,013 acres and is 3 miles long and 1/2 mile wide, larger than New York’s Central Park. After nothing more than barren sand dunes, Golden Gate Park owes its existence to tenacious Scotsman John McLaren, who created the landscape we see today in the late 1800s, a task many thought impossible.

Golden Gate Park Highlights

Today the park is home to two major city museums, the De Young Art Museum and the California Academy of Sciences, a Japanese Tea Garden, an outdoor botanical garden, a Flower Conservatory, many outdoor spaces and even has a resident bison herd. Keep exploring this guide to see some of its top attractions.

The 49 Mile Road runs through Golden Gate Park, and an easy way to see the best spots is to simply follow its signs showing a white seagull with an orange beak and “49 MILE” in blue.

If you’d rather walk in the park than drive, try one of the Golden Gate Park walking tours in the San Francisco Guide, which includes historic tours, stroller tours and Japanese Tea Garden tours.

The attractions on the following pages are just the highlights of the park. You can find many more things there that are described on the Golden Gate Park website.

Golden Gate overview.

We give Golden Gate Park four out of five stars. It’s one of the most beautiful urban parks in California, and it’s a great place to take a break from the crowded city. If you only have one day in San Francisco, you can skip it, but it’s a good place to explore if you plan to spend two or more days there.

Beach Chalet.

Start on the west side of Golden Gate Park, across from Ocean Beach. The Beach Chalet is a good place to “go” or stop for a bite to eat at the microbrewery and restaurant on the top floor, which has a great view of the beach. Golden Gate Park’s visitor center is downstairs.

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Queen Wilhelmina Windmill

Turn right east (from the ocean) onto John Kennedy Drive to see the Queen Wilhelmina Windmill, one of two Dutch windmills standing near the western edge of Golden Gate Park. In spring, tulips bloom around its base.

American Bison.

Continuing east on Kennedy Drive, you will come to the home of a small herd of American bison in Golden Gate. The Golden Gate Bison herd in Golden Gate was established in 1892. Back then, this park was also home to elk, bears, goats and other animals.

Model boat at Spreckels Lake

Fans bring their remote-controlled boats to Spreckels Lake on weekends, and you can have fun watching them. Continue east through Presidio Drive Park.

Flower Conservatory.

The Conservatory of Flowers is a greenhouse with jewels in a white frame. It boasts a tropical area, a water lily garden and a rotating collection of potted plants. Entrance fee.

You can walk from the Conservatory to the AIDS Memorial Grove, created as a place to honor all those involved in the fight against AIDS and a quiet place to walk and reflect.

Cross the park and walk south to Martin Luther King Jr. Move over and turn right. Park along the road or on toll plazas to explore the park’s museums.

California Academy of Sciences.

Science is natural at the California Academy of Sciences, with a planetarium, Africa Hall (with penguins), a swamp exhibit with white alligators, T-Rex and blue whale skeletons and an aquarium. The building has a “green” roof covered with native plants and has a beautiful observation deck. Get tips on how to have a good time and find information on tickets, exhibits and hours on the California Academy of Sciences website.

De Young Museum.

The de Young Museum’s collections include works of 17th- and 20th-century American, Native American, African, and Pacific art. As San Francisco’s flagship art museum, the de Young Museum also hosts special exhibitions, and their displays, both in presentation and explanation, are excellent. Get tips on how to have a good time and check the schedule on the DeYoung website.

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Japanese Tea Garden.

The Japanese Tea Garden is the oldest public Japanese garden in California, created by Baron Makoto Hagiwara for the Midwinter Exhibition in 1894. The Japanese Tea Garden covers four acres densely filled with water features, humpback bridges, and small pagodas such as the one above. Around them you’ll find a variety of trees, flowers and bonsai trees. Get tips on how to have a good time and check out the hours and ticket prices on the Japanese Tea Garden website.

San Francisco Botanical Gardens

The San Francisco Botanical Garden covers 55 acres, is filled with landscaped gardens and open spaces and contains more than 7,500 varieties of plants from around the world. Special collections include ancient plants, the Japanese Moon View Garden and the Perfume Garden, which presents a different view of the garden. Get tips for a great visit and get more information at the San Francisco Botanical Garden website.

Stowe Lake.

Continue west on Martin Luther King Drive and follow the signs to Stow Lake. The road will take you into a traffic circle. Golden Gate Park’s largest lake is popular with anglers and boaters. Rent houseboats and rowboats on the northwest side. Continue west and you will reach the Great Highway. Stop at Cliff House or Beach Chalet for a rest stop. Both are good places to watch the sunset.

Map of Golden Gate Park.

Golden Gate Park is a long, skinny park. If you want an interactive version of this map from which you can get driving directions, try this custom Google map.

How to get to Golden Gate Park.

Bounded by Fulton Street, Lincoln Street, Great Highway, and Stanyan Street San Francisco, CA Golden Gate Park website

The easiest way to get to the Golden Gate is from 19th Avenue, which runs through the middle of it. You can also enter from any of the main streets that bound it. The 49-mile drive enters on the west edge of San Francisco at Sunset Boulevard and Lincoln Avenue on the south side, or you can enter from the Grand Freeway on Martin Luther King Drive and join it by following the signs. Free summer shuttles run about every 15 minutes on summer weekends and holidays, making it easy to get around with parking.

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