Explore Dogpatch, South Beach, and the Embarcadero on This Self-Guided Walking Tour
Despite our famous hills and many microclimates, San Francisco is a city best explored on foot. If you're looking to explore some of San Francisco's most famous neighborhoods by pounding the pavement, try this self-guided itinerary from local authors Kristine Poggioli and Carolyn Eidson. What follows is one of 17 walks from their book, "Walking San Francisco's 49 Mile Scenic Drive", edited and condensed for our website.
Explore Dogpatch, South Beach, and the Embarcadero
Walking this route will give you an up-close look at both San Francisco history and the new San Francisco in the making. This walk begins right along the bay in the Dogpatch neighborhood. Then, as you pass the home of the World Champion San Francisco Giants, the streets transform before your eyes into the burgeoning South Beach neighborhood. That’s nothing compared to the end of the walk along the picture-perfect Embarcadero, passing directly under the Bay Bridge with a final stop at the historic Ferry Building. The breeze, sun, and views alone on this excursion make it worthy of repeat visits.
Begin: Third and 22nd streets
End: The Ferry Building
Distance: 3.0 miles; 6,000 steps; 1 hour
Hill Steepness Rating: 1 of 5
Begin at the intersection of Third and 22nd streets.
1. Third Street
Third Street is long, both in distance and history. It begins in the Bayview. Third Street then crosses Islais Creek Channel into Dogpatch and continues on through Potrero Hill and Mission Bay. It then crosses over Mission Creek past Oracle Park to Market St.
Technically, the street itself is actually longer than that. At Market, Third St. becomes Kearny St., which runs north and—after a little hop over Telegraph Hill—runs all the way to the northern edge of the Embarcadero. At the opposite end of town, as Third St. heads south out of the Bayview, it crosses U.S. 101 and turns into Bayshore Boulevard, which—after a few more name changes—eventually terminates in San Jose!
Walk one block east on 22nd St. and turn left on Illinois St.
2. Pier 70
The oldest working civilian shipyard in U.S., Pier 70 has been in operation since the Gold Rush. Pier 70 workers built the first steel ships on the West Coast. Though it’s still one of the largest ship repair yards on the West Coast, many of the buildings are leased to other businesses. The Port Authority plans to completely transform these 28 acres of the central waterfront into a new neighborhood.
Continue north on Illinois St. Bear right at Terry A. Francois Blvd.
3. Mission Rock Bleacher Boards
Both The Ramp and Mission Rock Resort are great places to take in the sun, sailboats, and seafood on a warm afternoon or before a Giants' game. When you’re through looking at the menus, take a look at the numbers carved into the aged siding of Mission Rock. Those colored boards are old bleacher seats from UC Berkeley. Go Bears!
Continue north on Terry A. Francois Blvd.
4. Terry A. Francois Boulevard / San Francisco Bay Trail
The industrial repair docks, fishing pier, and views of the huge white shipping cranes across the bay at the Port of Oakland all take you back to San Francisco’s rough and tumble waterfront days. The manicured jogging path and backside construction views of all the new buildings facing Third St. keep it modern. We have the San Francisco Bay Trail Project to thank for this gorgeous nature walk. The tranquil bay walk is named for the first African-American to sit on San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, Terry A. Francois.
Coming Soon: Chase Center
The new home of the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors is slated to open for the 2019-2020 season. In its inaugural year, this state-of-the-art venue will also host some of the most successful recording artists of all time, including Cher, Janet Jackson, and Metallica. Expect more terrific special events to be coming to San Francisco in the years ahead.
Continue north on Terry A. Francois Blvd. until you reach McCovey Cove.
6. China Basin Park
As you sit on the grassy mound with the ballpark looming over your shoulder, staring up at the bronze statue of Giants’ legend Willie McCovey backlit by the bay and bridge, you can almost hear the sound of his bat cracking as he hits one of his 521 career home runs. It's a lovely spot to picnic, enjoy bay views, or watch boaters sitting waiting to catch balls knocked out of Oracle Park. This little urban oasis sits in China Basin, whose name comes from the 1860s when clipper ships bound for China tied up here.
Turn right on to Third St. Cross the bridge.
7. Lefty O’Doul Bridge and Hidden Houseboats
Renamed in 1969 to honor the famous baseball player Francis “Lefty” O’Doul, this drawbridge allows cars and people to cross Mission Creek as it runs into McCovey Cove. Look to your left as you cross the bridge. Just a few blocks from the ballpark, 20 floating homes and 35 small boats sit docked in Mission Creek, right in the middle of some of the most valuable real estate in the west. Two women, Ruth Huffaker and the perfectly named Betty Boatright, fought the city to save the community from eviction in the 1970s and secured a long lease.
Turn right on King St. after crossing the bridge.
8. Oracle Park (24 Willie Mays Plaza)
Welcome to the home of the 2010, 2012, and 2014 Major League World Series Champions! The Giants moved to this stadium from Candlestick Park in 2000. Oracle Park features glorious bay views, gourmet food, a retro design, and 42,000 seats (which are built slightly wider than in most stadiums). You can visit Oracle Park all year round and take a behind-the-scenes tour to see the parts of the ballpark only the players can access.
Continue east on King St. As it curves north, King St. becomes the Embarcadero. Continue walking north.
9. Herb Caen Way
For 60 years, Herb Caen’s daily column in the San Francisco Chronicle provided gossip, satire, and anecdotes of the city he adored. He wrote over a dozen doting books about San Francisco, coined the term “Beatnik,” and popularized the word “hippie.” To honor this beloved citizen, the city renamed 3.2 miles of the Embarcadero for him—and even included ellipses on the street sign as a nod to Herb’s habit of ending his sentences with them.
10. Java House (Pier 40)
Java House has been feeding longshoremen and tourists since 1912.
11. The Embarcadero
After the city filled in Yerba Buena cove, workers constructed this seawall and roadway atop the landfill to create a new waterfront and christened it the Embarcadero, Spanish for “the place to embark.”
13. Red’s Java House (Pier 30)
Red’s served as the wharf’s most famous burger and beer dive for decades. The newest owners fancied up the menu (by adding French fries). Rumor has it Red and his brother, from the neighboring Java House on Pier 40, eventually made peace and went back to working with each other.
14. San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge
When it first opened in 1936, our hybrid suspension and truss-cantilever bridge was the longest, most expensive bridge in the world, at $77 million. Just over 75 years later, the bridge's new eastern span brought the title of most expensive bridge in the world back to the bay. In addition to the palm trees down the center and a new bike lane, the bridge has set two Guinness World Records. The eastern span has been crowned both the widest (258.33 feet) and the longest self-anchored suspension span bridge in the world (2,047 feet). The western span, named for former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, may be older but is no less beautiful. Its north-facing side has been turned into the largest light art installation on the planet by acclaimed artist Leo Villareal.
15. Hills Brothers Coffee Factory (2 Harrison St.)
The Hills Brothers came to San Francisco in 1873 and quickly joined the city’s booming coffee industry. The discovery of vacuum packaging in 1900 let them become one of the first outfit to ship coffee all over the west. After the 1906 quake, they rebuilt their factory on the Embarcadero. The smell of coffee wafting from the factory is cited by native San Franciscans as the quintessential smell of the city. A nine-foot bronze statue of their original logo stands outside the building, which closed in 1990.
16. San Francisco Fireboat Station No. 35: The Guardian and the Phoenix (Pier 22)
San Francisco fireboat Phoenix, hero of the Loma Prieta earthquake, and fireboat Guardian are part of local maritime lore.
17. Cupid’s Span (Embarcadero and Folsom St)
What’s up with that 64-foot-high, painted fiberglass and stainless-steel bow and arrow planted in the ground at Rincon Park? Could it be a tribute to the Ohlone natives or The Avengers' Hawkeye? No. According to the married artist team of Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Cupid's Span was inspired by San Francisco’s reputation as the home port of Eros, the greek god of love.
19. The Audiffred Building (1 Mission St.)
Why does this red-brick building look nothing like the buildings around it? Two reasons: a French immigrant, nostalgic for his homeland, modeled it after a Parisian commercial building in 1889; and every other building around it, except the Ferry Building, was blown up immediately after the 1906 quake to stop the spread of the inferno raging through the city.
How did Hippolite D’Audiffret save his building? By promising two quarts of whiskey and a cart of wine to each fireman if they didn’t destroy the building. After another century of adventure, the Audiffred building became San Francisco Landmark No. 7 and the Zagat-rated restaurant Boulevard.
20. Ferry Building (Embarcadero at Market St.)
This landmark at the foot of Market St. is not just a busy ferry terminal but a culinary destination, as well. It's ground floor is full of local produce, cheese, and wine. On Tuesdays and Saturdays, extensive farmers' markets spill out on to the sidewalk. Between its great dining, beautiful architecture, and many options for quick getaways around the Bay, the Ferry Building is a great place to end one adventure and begin another.
In 2013, Kristine Poggioli and Carolyn Eidson found a new way to kick-start some healthy habits: they would cover all of San Francisco's historic 49 Mile Scenic Drive on foot. After getting reacquainted with almost every corner of the city they call home, Kristine and Carolyn decided to collect their travels in a book, "Walking San Francisco's 49 Mile Scenic Drive". They have continued to share their love of San Francisco by leading groups along some of their favorite routes and sharing their experiences with visitors from all over the world.