San Francisco is known for its scenic views and in this post, I am here to tell you about 10 such amazing spots to see some of the best views in San Francisco. From panoramic skylines to marvellous views of the Bay Bridge and other SF landmarks, these San Francisco viewpoints are perfect for whipping out that camera and wide angle lens for the photographer in you!
FINDING THE BEST VIEWS IN SAN FRANCISCO
San Francisco is one gorgeous city with gently rolling hills and lots of elevated spaces/overlooks providing spectacular views of the city. Most of these places offering some of the best views of San Francisco are easily accessible via short hikes in dog friendly parks and open space reserves.
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 photographs. I have also included a Google Map at the very end which clearly shows the location of all these San Francisco neighborhoods to catch some of the best San Francisco views.
BEST TIME TO VISIT THESE SAN FRANCISCO VIEWPOINTS
Most of these viewpoints in San Francisco are dog parks and only frequented by locals (GrandView Park being more touristy because of the mosaic steps leading to it). So although there is a good chance that you won’t be jostling with others for a great San Francisco view, I highly recommend going either very early or in the evening to catch a spectacular sunrise or sunset in San Francisco.
Visiting early has its advantages-namely parking since many of them have limited parking available next to them and most of it is street parking. Remember to keep your car locked and secure with no valuables inside since SF is notorious for frequent car break-ins.
I will be belaboring this point throughout the post-but just so you know, San Francisco is kind of cold and windy and foggy all the time. Dress in layers and warmly, please or else you’ll be shivering the entire time after climbing atop these lookout points. All of these places require some kind of hiking to get to the top, so wear sturdy footwear.
All the San Francisco viewing points mentioned here are dog friendly. Please keep your dog on leash and dutifully pick up after him/her.
For locations with the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge, here are my foolproof top 4 spots in San Francisco and Marin Headlands
BEST VIEWS IN SAN FRANCISCO: INA COOLBRITH PARK
Location: Intersection of Taylor and Vallejo streets, Russian Hill
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 actually). The park is at an elevation good enough to get a vantage point for some of the best views of San Francisco 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 in San Francisco if you are in town for its fantastic murals and bird’s eye view of the city from the top. Mural watching at the entrance is free of cost (one of the many free things to do in San Francisco).
The dog friendly park has one of the best views of SF 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.
EPIC SAN FRANCISCO VIEWS : SEE THEM ALL AT KITE HILL OPEN SPACE
Location: 19th and Yukon Street, Castro
Kite Hill Park, another open space in the heart of the city which offers sweeping views of San Francisco skyline, is also dog-friendly. This 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 (other 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 of San Francisco. Perfect for a day out to hike in San Francisco or stop in to stretch those legs while enjoying some of the best views in the city. 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!
LOCAL’S FAVORITE SAN FRANCISCO VIEWPOINT: TANK HILL PARK
Location: Twin Peaks Blvd, Cole Valley
Tank hill park offers jaw dropping San Francisco views and is one of the many dog-friendly spots in the city. It is located on the southern edge of 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.
TOP SAN FRANCISCO LOOKOUT POINT: CORONA HEIGHTS PARK
Location: Museum way & Roosevelt way, Corona Heights
Corona Heights Park, another dog-friendly patch of green in the city is yet another park offering some spectacular San Francisco views 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 (one of the best hikes in San Francisco BTW) 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).
WHERE TO GO FOR THE BEST VIEW IN SAN FRANCISCO: BERNAL HILL
Location: 3400-416 Folsom Street, Bernal Hills
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.
There is an urban legend, aka a rope swing at the very top of Bernal Hills which people have claimed to have seen (there are many photos on the internet as well). This is kind of a hit or miss phenomenon since I have never seen the swing ever, not a single time of the many, many times that I have trekked up Bernal hills.
When it comes to finding these rope swings in San Francisco, I am either plain unlucky or the swing is removed at lightning speed within days of it going up. Perhaps a bit of both, but I am really not complaining here. I am terrified of swings and wouldn’t sit on one for all the Instagram fame in the world.
SAN FRANCISCO’S HIGHEST POINT FOR EPIC VIEWS: MT. DAVIDSON PARK
Location: Myra Way, San Francisco, CA 94127
Mt. Davidson park, in the beautiful neighborhood of Diamond Heights, is an elevated grassy woodlands with several dog friendly trails and is the highest point in the city at some 468 ft. This is one of the most beautiful places in San Francisco to go on a romantic hike, i.e. a fun day date in the city with your partner.
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. Come properly dressed as it does get windy up here (here’s a handy San Francisco packing list to help with that).
BEST SPOT FOR PANORAMIC SF VIEWS: GRAND VIEW PARK
Location: 1705 14th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122
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 Avenue and Moraga Street.
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).
Pro tip: There is another hidden flight of equally colorful stairs near the 16th Avenue tiled steps. Find the exact location in my hidden gems in SF post here.
WHERE TO CATCH THE BEST VIEWS IN SAN FRANCISCO: BILLY GOAT HILL
Location: 2442 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94131
Tucked away in the Diamond Heights neighborhood is Billy Goat Hill, another dog friendly open space area providing panoramic views of San Francisco’s skyline. There used to be a swing here but like most swings in San Francisco, it often gets removed. Across the street are stairs leading to Walter Haas playground. Remember to grab a jacket while visiting Billy Goat Hill as it does get really windy up here.
EPIC SKYLINE VIEWS OF SAN FRANCISCO: TWIN PEAKS PARK
Location: 501 Twin Peaks Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94114
Twin peaks is the go to spot for most locals for near 360 degree views of the city (we even went there for our after-wedding photoshoot). Located at the base of our famous Sutro Towers, this 64 acre park not only has scenic views but also some really nice hiking trails.
Two nearby attractions along Twin Peaks Boulevard are the Christmas tree point (another viewpoint for crazy good views) and the Giving Tree, a skinny little tree laden with Christmas ornaments that was planted as a replacement to a Christmas tree stolen from the Civic Center Plaza 15 years ago.
BEST VIEWS IN SAN FRANCISCO: JOHN MCLAREN PARK
Location:100 John F Shelley Dr, San Francisco, CA 94134
This park, in the southern part of the city, has a very different perspective and view of San Francisco. Here you’ll find amazing views of San Bruno mountains and South San Francisco as well as some of the best dog friendly trails in SF. Get on the meandering 2.7 mile Philosopher’s Way Trail with 14 musing stations along the way, featuring plaques with a quotation, a bit of park history or other interesting trivia. McNab lake and the Jerry Garcia amphitheatre are two other attractions of this park.
LOCATION OF THE BEST VIEWPOINTS IN SAN FRANCISCO
As promised, here is the location of all the San Francisco viewpoints mentioned in this post where you’re guaranteed the best views in San Francisco. All these parks are open to the public. Finding parking is always tricky in San Francisco, so come in early.
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 with these posts: