San Francisco is one gorgeous city with gently rolling hills and lots of elevated spaces providing spectacular views of the city from several lookout points. Most of these viewing spots with panoramic San Francisco views are easily accessible via short hikes in dog friendly parks. Presenting, in no particular order are these San Francisco viewpoints where all you need is a camera and some sturdy hiking shoes for mind-blowing photos. I have also included a Google Map at the very end which clearly shows the location of all these places to catch spectacular views in San Francisco.
Best San Francisco views # 1: Ina Coolbrith Park
Ina Coolbrith Park, is a tiny patch of green tucked away in Russian Hill, one of the most beautiful neighborhoods of San Francisco filled with many Instagram worthy spots. This park, meant for both humans to admire the a great view of the bay bridge, the city skyline and Coit tower in the yonder, and canines to have a stroll, consists of a stairways and pathways intercepting plants, shrubs and other vegetation.
The park is named after San Francisco’s beloved librarian and literary figure Ina Coolbrith, who was also the first California poet laureate (the first of any state). The park is located at the corner of Taylor and Vallejo and is at an elevation good enough to get a vantage point for some of the best views of the city and the Bay. The Transamerica pyramid, the tallest skyscraper of the city, dominates the cityscape in one direction while the Alcatraz island stands stoically on the blue waters of the bay in the other and is visible on a clear day.
You will also see Coit Tower, the star attraction of the neighboring hood of North Beach, peeking out at a distance. The latter is one of the must visit attractions if you are in town for its fantastic murals and bird’s eye view of the city from the top and is one of the 20 things to do in San Francisco.
The dog friendly park is one of the best viewpoints in San Francisco and has steps to go up and steps leading down to the other side facing the Bay Bridge. Please have your pooch leashed at all times since the park is a tiny one with considerable traffic from pedestrians and joggers.
If you are at the park, climb down the steps and explore Russian Hill for its beautiful houses, good restaurants, hidden gardens tucked away in alleys and the undulating streets with the cable car chugging downhill/uphill, which makes for a very quintessential SF experience. A short walk leads to the bustling neighborhood of North Beach/Little Italy where you can have lunch at Tony’s for some unforgettably yummy pizza or brunch at Mama’s (if you have the patience to stand in the unbelievably long line) or Wayfare Tavern.
Top San Francisco viewpoints # 2: Kite Hill Open Space
Kite Hill Park, another open space in the heart of the city which offers sweeping views of San Francisco skyline, is also dog-friendly. Kite Hill open space is a grassland community and is near the neighborhood of Castro, flanked on either side by Tank hill Park and Corona heights park (another pet friendly romping area).
The park is easily accessible via steps leading to the topmost point and there are some benches strewn around should you want to rest and take in the awesome views. Perfect for a day out to hike in San Francisco or stop in and take the magnificence of the city and for tourists looking to stretch their legs, a moment of solitude and escape from the touristy Fisherman’s wharf! The Sutro tower looming over the park is quintessentially San Francisco and adds a nice touch to the landscape.
Local’s tip: On your way back, stop by the Seward street mini park with its legendary giant sliders where adults and kids alike have fun sliding down on flattened cardboard boxes (bring your own). Totally worth a quick visit and worth adding to your kitty of hidden San Francisco gems!
Best views in San Francisco # 3: Tank Hill Park
Tank hill park offers jaw dropping San Francisco views and is dog-friendly as well. It is located in Cole Valley, a sleepy little neighborhood right next to the craziness of Haight and therefore often overlooked by tourists. It has several local jewels, the most famous one being Zazie-a super famous French brunch place notorious for long lines.
However there are several other equally awesome eateries for brunch/lunch such as Padrecito and Cafe Reverie and we had some great lunch at the latter. Cole hardware, a great little grocery store with the freshest fruits (mangoes, lychees and all kinds of yum) and a quaint pharmacy are some other businesses along Cole street.
San Francisco panoramic viewpoints # 4: Corona Heights park
Corona Heights Park, another dog-friendly patch of green in the city is yet another San Francisco viewpoint that you definitely don’t want to miss and is close to Kite Hill Open Space. There are several ways to trek to the very top, such as easy steps from the main entrance of Museum and Roosevelt drive, but if you are a bungling pair like us, you will probably hike up the arduous trail starting all the way from the other end which meanders upwards from a tennis court.
The “hike” sign at the bottom is a give-away for the uphill task of trekking but if you chug along and get to the very top, all that huffing and puffing will be so rewarding once you set eyes on the 360 degree view of the city. It is so worth the pain and the joint groans and moans. The spectacular San Francisco views as seen from here are as enjoyable as the sight of several pooches running around with their owners (on leash or without).
San Francisco lookout points # 5: Bernal Hill
Bernal Hill (located in Bernal Heights Park), is a green elevated Shangri-La in the southern part of the city adjacent to the neighborhood of Bernal Heights and provides some of the best views of San Francisco (sky scrapers, water, Sutro tower and Bay Bridge). Added bonus, it is dog friendly and dogs can happily run around off leash once inside the park.
San Francisco skyline viewing spots # 6: Mt. Davidson park
Mt. Davidson park, in the beautiful neighborhood of Diamond Heights, is an elevated grassy woodlands with several dog friendly trails. The fog transforms the woods into a scene straight out of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings movie. This is also home to the huge white cross belonging to the Armenian-American association that looms over its surroundings. This park is undoubtedly one of the best San Francisco viewpoints and has a near 360 degree view of the city.
Top San Francisco views # 7: Grand View park
True to its name, Grand View park offers an unrivalled view of the city, with the entire skyline line visible from its elevation and the golden gate bridge playing peekaboo at a distance. But what is even more charming is the path that leads up to the street bordering the park, i.e. a flight of tiled/mosaic-paved steps created lovingly by the residents of Golden Gate heights to brighten your steps, starting from 16th Street and Moraga Avenue.
With their colorful and intricate motifs of plants and animals ( spot a meandering snake fashioned cleverly out of bits of blue tile on every step), these tiled stairs are an instant mood lifter and a prized addition to the cityscape, something that lifts the mundanity out of our lives as we step on them and make our way up to the park. Remember to get clicking the as you ascend! Wear warm clothes since it gets pretty windy up there (use my handy packing guide to figure out what to pack for our crazy weather).
Location of all the San Francisco viewpoints
I hope you liked this post on some of top spots offering the best San Francisco views and where to find them. You can read more about my insider guide to San Francisco in all these blog posts here.