Issue 573 to

Urban Field Notes: Up, Down and Across the City

Hours of adventure on San Francisco's new 17-mile Crosstown Trail.

Urbanist Article

I spent the summer of 2019 interning at SPUR's San Francisco office. During the final weeks of my stay, I decided to check out the new S.F. Crosstown Trail. The trail is a 17- mile route that traverses San Francisco while connecting the majority of the city’s parks and green spaces. As an avid runner I felt this was the ultimate finale to a great and educational summer at SPUR.

I disembarked the Caltrain at Bayshore station with the normal Wednesday commuter traffic and began my trek diagonally across the city. I began my journey by observing the residents of Visitacion Valley engage in their morning routines. I followed the trail as it wove through residential streets between homes, with gardens, artwork, and playground equipment along the way, until I finally made it to John McLaren Park.


Through the trees at John McLaren Park


The perfect climbing tree found in McLaren Park​​​​​.

In McLaren Park a distinct contrast began to emerge. Instead of witnessing someone’s morning, and walking intimately between residents’ homes, I experienced a public park with playgrounds, picnic areas, tennis courts, fields and trails. In the presence of such beauty I began to get excited for what other treasures lay ahead. By the time I exited McLaren and reached Glen Park, I felt more comfortable walking through residential streets. I was able to appreciate the unique architecture of the homes I passed.




View of Sutro Tower after walking trails behind Laguna Honda.

Glen Park will forever be my favorite part of this experience. Getting a little lost there allowed me to cross paths with the Wednesday Walkers. They are the most delightful walking group from Berkeley, a small group of friends who explore new trails or paths every Wednesday. As I quietly followed them, feeling like a y on the wall, I could not help but smile at how joyful they were. They kindly asked if I was also hiking the Crosstown Trail, to which I enthusiastically responded, “Yes!” From there, we walked through the remainder of Glen Park, Forest Hills, and Golden Gate Park. While chatting we enjoyed trails full of greenery and trees but never fully escaped the sounds of transit, people and construction.

View from Grandview park looking back over the
Sunset District
Hidden Garden Steps from Kirkham St.
A daisy patch along the trail
Boating on Stowe Lake

As I waved goodbye to my new found hiking friends, to finish the trail alone, I reflected on the secret beauty I had seen along the way; the 16th Avenue tiled stairs, a random patch of daisies, the Sokolo Art and Framing Shop located in the garage of a home, 360-degree views from Grandview Park, rowboats floating along Golden Gate Park’s Stowe Lake, all culminating in the Park Presidio, and finally seeing the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time! I remain in awe of all the unique spots I experienced on my five-hour excursion across S.F. on the trail. I will do it again the next time I visit San Francisco, and I will definitely make sure it is on a Wednesday!


View of Land's End from Baker Beach


My first view of the Golden Gate Bridge

A final note: As the Crosstown trail is newly opened it still does not have adequate signage to guide walkers, especially those new to the city. You can download cue sheets and maps by visiting or downloading the OuterSpatial app.

Former SPUR intern Jena Metwalli is majoring in public policy at the University of Michigan.