Fort Funston may be the prettiest of all the San Francisco beaches.
Sandy cliffs drop 200 feet to a beautiful beach at the southernmost edge of San Francisco. This is the wildest of the San Francisco beaches and the views are gorgeous.
This beach seems to be a local secret. But it's well known to San Franciscans with dogs and it's a very popular spot for hang gliding and flying remote-controlled airplanes off the cliffs.The cliff in the photo below is the one the hang gliders take off from. You can see two people at the top.
Some people ride horses on the beach, from Mar Vista Stable nearby, but there have been so many complaints about the way the horses are treated, I don't recommend it anymore.
From the parking lot on top of the cliffs, there is a steep, rugged path going down to the beach. The view on the way down is really beautiful, with ice plant clinging to the cliff sides and the breakers crashing on the sand below. It's quite a workout climbing back up to the parking lot.
The beach starts south of Ocean Beach and runs along the bluffs for about a quarter of a mile. With a really high tide, the water comes all the way up to the cliff, but most of the time there is plenty of room to walk.
It's about a twenty minute walk from one end to the other. Keep an eye out just past the breakers for Bottle Nose dolphins, seals and an occasional whale.
This is not a swimming beach; the undertow is deadly and the current along the coast is very strong. Occasionally you will see surfers out there, but it is way too dangerous for the rest of us.
If you're not up for the steep climb down to the beach and back, there are flat paths along the tops of the cliffs with great views as well. Just head right from the parking lot.
The path starts out paved, turns to sand here and there, and rambles along the cliff top.
It then heads through a wooded area, and winds down to the lower level.
The World War 2 ruin, Battery Davis, has a tunnel that connects the main path with smaller ones nearer the sea.
The path winds around, heading towards Ocean Beach, but doesn't quite get there.
Right next to the parking lot there is a platform (with an old gun battery). From here you can look both ways, up and down the coast, and watch the hang gliders.
Fort Funston is the most popular of the "dog beaches" in San Francisco, beaches where dogs are allowed to run off leash.
Dogs love going to Fort Funston, judging by all the smiling faces and wagging tails!
The luckiest dogs in San Francisco come here to run on the beach, ears flying, and chase sticks in the surf. They even have their own faucet for water and a supply of litter bags for their staff.
Most of the dog activity is on weekends and after work.
The updrafts from the beach and the strong onshore airflow create the perfect lift for hang gliding when the conditions are right. The strongest winds off the ocean are usually blowing in spring and summer, so that's when you'll see the most hang gliders.
There is a flat area along the cliff covered with wood shavings which is set aside for take-offs and landing, just to the left of the parking lot.
The best spot to watch the hang gliders from is the viewing platform near the parking lot.
Interested in doing some flying? Contact the local hang gliding club at www.flyfunston.org.
There are usually a number of people near the parking lot flying their remote-controlled airplanes and comparing notes on their machines. From the cliff top they can fly the planes out over the water.
COVID-19 Updates: as of midnight Monday, March 16, San Francisco has been under a "shelter-in-place order.
The city has released a reopening schedule (tentative) starting June 1, 2020, with successive changes at later dates.
All residents were ordered to stay home, except for necessary trips to grocery stores and essential medical visits, and solo outdoor activities like hiking.
Now, there is a gradual reopening of certain businesses and activities.
See COVID rules for current SF status.
Highlights of changes: everyone in SF is now required to wear a mask when they are outside and within 30 feet of other people.
Parking lots for SF beaches are now open (as well as the beaches).
Starting June 15 customers can enter retail businesses (with a mask), religious services can resume, and restaurants can offer outdoor dining.
Opening dates for indoor dining, hair salons and barbershops have been postponed until an unknown date.
Mid August: gyms, playgrounds, swimming pools and indoor museums can possibly open.
For info on what's open in other cities and counties of California, see California reopening schedules.
See coronavirus news in the SF Chronicle for details and updates.
Also see site and parking lot closures for the National Park Service (Alcatraz, Muir Woods, etc.)
Plus helpful info on which parks and hiking trails are open in the Bay Area.
Get the latest tips on visiting San Francisco.