Corona Heights Hike

by Katie Cook

This sign near the peak of Corona Heights Park points the way towards the best 360-degree views of San Francisco.

Corona Heights Park is often overlooked in favor of the taller near-by hills of Buena Vista and Tank Hill. This former quarry has stunning 360-degree views of the city and offers a unique vantage point not seen on some of the taller hills. This 16-acre parcel of land, formerly known as Rock Hill, was home to the Gray Brothers Quarry. In the early 1900s the hill could be identified by the large dust clouds from excavation blasts, now this hill can be identified by unique red rock formation that crowns the the top of the hill.

Our walk begins at the Castro Street MUNI Station. Exit the station and make a left onto Castro and cross Market Street. Walk along Castro Street for one block and make a left onto States Street. The driveway entrance to Corona Heights Park is directly across from 173 States Street.

This section of the park has basketball courts and a children’s playground. This hidden park is typically quiet with just a few visitors.

Take the series of paved switchbacks on your left, directly across from the playground. At the end of the switchbacks you’ll see the Randall Museum.

The Randall Museum opened in this location in 1951. It is primarily a museum for children, but everyone is welcome. The museum has an aviary with a variety of birds and plenty of interactive exhibits. If you’d like to learn more about the birds that call Corona Heights home, you can join the museum’s bird walk offered at 8am on the third Friday of every month.

Walk to the far end of the Randall Museum and take the driveway on the left-side of the building. The driveway will lead behind the building and on the left you’ll see a bench facing the first overlook point. Enjoy the view, but don’t stop here! Take the stairs and wind your way further up the hill.

The well-maintained stairs, built out of railroad ties, offers a wide path. On a windy day you can feel the gusts of wind getting stronger with the increased elevation. Some days the wind is so strong that you feel like you might be blown off the side of the hill. At the top of the stairs you’ll be rewarded with a fabulous 180-degree view of the city.

Follow the sign and climb the remaining 150 feet to the summit.

At the summit you’ll be rewarded with what I think is the best 360-degree view in all of San Francisco. On a clear day you can see downtown and out to the East Bay, Bernal Heights, Twin Peaks, and the roads around Buena Vista Park.

Looking Northwest from the summit.

Walk around the rocks at the top of the summit and go down the stairs. As you walk down the stairs you are now facing Buena Vista. Take the stairs all the way down until you reach a flat, grassy area. Turn to the right and walk across the grass. Just after the dog play area you’ll see a sign for the next trailhead. Take the trail as it leads downhill.

This trail is mostly shady and banana slugs can often be spotted on the trail. Some sections of the trail are steep with loose gravel so you’ll want to watch your step. The trail has a series of switchbacks until it ends at the tennis courts.

The trail stops at the tennis courts. Cross the tennis courts and take the first exit out of the park. You are now on 15th Street. Make a right onto 15th Street, followed by a right onto Castro to get back to the Castro MUNI station.

If you’d like to continue your walk head down 15th Street and instead of turning on Castro, cross Castro and continue on 15th Street as you make your way into Duboce Triangle. Make a left onto Noe Street and walk three blocks to Duboce Park. This park is usually sunny and has plenty of benches and lots of grass for lounging. If you’re hungry you can grab a bite to eat or a cup of Sightglass coffee at the Duboce Park Cafe, across the street from the park, on the corner of Duboce and Sanchez.

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