Running with a little one in tow multiplies the logistical complexities of “going for a run” by about 100. There’s scheduling around naptime, lunchtime, school time, potty time, and remembering not only your own gear – GPS watch, headphones and water bottle – but also your little one’s snacks, blanket, hat, snacks, books, stuffed animal du jour, assortment of trains, snacks, sippie cup. . . did I mention snacks? If and when you finally make it out the door, the last thing you need to worry about is where to find a safe, relatively smooth path for running.
With this in mind, here are my favorite ten top stroller runs in San Francisco to get you started:
Marina Green to the GG Bridge:
Park at the Marina Green and head west along the shared path. If you’ve lived in San Francisco for more than 10 minutes, you’re familiar with this popular spot for runners, cyclists, walkers, roller bladers, etc. It’s also dotted with relatively clean restrooms, and a handful of shops/cafes that welcome outdoor sportsfolk. You can run along this path anytime between sunup and sundown without needing to worry about finding an emergency diaper, bottle of water, snack, tube of sunscreen or post-run coffee & muffin. And the path is smooth enough not to interrupt the zzzzs of your miniature running companion. This is a 5 mile out & back loop from Marina Green to Hopper’s Hands at the base of Golden Gate Bridge.
Fort Mason to Pier 39:
Start in Fort Mason – you can park either in the Lower Ft Mason Center Parking Lot and head up the hill into Fort Mason, or street park within Fort Mason (enter at Franklin St). From here, follow the path along the water, take in the beautiful scenery as you pass Aquatic Park, and hop onto the wide sidewalk adjacent to Jefferson St which will lead you right to Pier 39. This path is very smooth in spots, but does usually require me to stop and gently “bump” the stroller over curbs or cracks in the sidewalk on occasion. However, the beautiful landscape and activity along this route keep both me and the little one happily entertained for the duration of this 3 mile loop.
The roughly 3 mile stretch of The Embarcadero between Pier 39 and AT&T Park is one of the best stroller runs in the city. The sidewalk is perfectly smooth and wide enough to easily dodge pedestrians; plus, who can beat a run along the bay, with views of the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, the city landscape, and the home of the San Francisco Giants? This popular route can get busy, particularly at lunchtime on sunny days, and of course on game days, but it’s still hands down one of my favorites.
Golden Gate Park:
One of San Francisco’s true gems, there are endless miles of sidewalks and paths through the park, many which are wide and smooth enough to accommodate a stroller. On the weekends, JFK Drive is also closed to cars from Stanyan to Park Presidio for part of Saturday and all of Sunday (details here).
The Panhandle is a roughly 1.5 mile loop between Stanyan and Baker and between Fell and Oak. Part of the path was recently repaved, providing ample space for cyclists, runners, and walkers. Yes, there will sometimes be interesting “clientele” on the park benches, but I’ve been running here without incident for 15+ years.
The path along The Great Highway is paved, but will feel more like a trail run than a road run to your little passenger. The pavement may be a bit bumpy, but it’s a beautiful, long, flat stretch with incredible views. Stop in the Beach Chalet afterward for a coffee or sandwich; this building also houses restrooms and a drinking fountain. There is plenty of parking beachside, and you can get up to a 5.5 mile run in an out-and-back along the full stretch of the Great Highway.
This is a straightforward stroller run, looping around the lake in a 4.5 mile circle. Parking is readily available in a few parking lots along the perimeter. One downside: restrooms aren’t easy to come by on this route, although a few porta potties do exist.
Lake Street runs parallel to the southern edge of the Presidio and gives you a 4 – 4.5 mile out & back, starting at Arguello, out along Lake St through Sea Cliff, and circling back via El Camino del Mar. Add some variety, and an extra half mile (warning: it’s uphill!) by making your return via the Presidio’s Park Trail and Mountain Lake Trail Path. Your little one will be thrilled to find a beautiful, recently renovated Mountain Lake Park playground awaiting at Lake St & 12th Ave. The playground also has clean restrooms, a drinking fountain, and is adjacent to Mountain Lake – great for bird and duck watching.
Though strollers aren’t technically permitted on the track itself, the upper loop, a paved, roughly .40 mi loop, is fair game. Parking is easy, inside Golden Gate Park, or on the opposite side of the track along Frederick St, and there are restrooms within the track facility.
Ok, technically this is not a stroller route. But the availability of childcare at the Y, allowing moms to run within the beautiful Presidio while the kids are being looked after, make this a uniquely special run.
I’d love to hear what your favorite stroller routes are, too! Connect with me on Twitter at @runningjen.