San Francisco's 49 square miles are among America's most densely populated urban spaces. Not to worry: They offer many ways to take in one of the most beautiful -- and eminently walkable -- cities in the world. Here are the eight best ways to trek San Francisco. Tip: Wear comfy shoes!
1. The shoreline, from San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park (below Ghirardelli Square), takes a paved path along some of California's most breathtaking miles. Along the way, note historic Fort Mason, the ship traffic passing Alcatraz and Angel islands, the yachts docked in the Marina, the Palace of Fine Arts, people flying kites on Crissy Field, the Presidio, the approaching Golden Gate Bridge, Fort Point (marking the trail's end) and of course, the ever-interesting human and animal passersby. You'll see why much of this area is protected by the National Park Service. www.nps.gov
2. The Golden Gate Bridge has a walking path; on its nearly two-mile span you'll get unparalleled views from more than 200 feet above the water. Tip: Wear something to protect you from wind.
3. The Barbary Coast Trail, a nearly four-mile walk through the heart of the city, heads from the Financial District to North Beach, tracing a path which was particularly colorful -- and bawdy -- during the late 19th century. Marked by bronze medallions in the sidewalk, the trail works its way through and past 20 notable sites, five local-history museums, and centuries-old sailing ships. www.barbarycoasttrail.org
4. The Presidio is the perfect place for a stroll through San Francisco's military past. The post served three different nations over a span of 218 years. Today, its gates are open to civilian explorers. Start by heading down Lyon Street and make a left into the instillation from Lombard Street. Wander west, past Letterman Army Hospital, through the old buildings and quarters, to the post headquarters. From there, you can continue west to the National Cemetery, the Pet Cemetery, and Fort Point; you can head north, toward Crissy Field; or you can head south to the forest, the Officer's Club -- and Lover's Lane. The latter, one of the city's oldest routes, is a mile-long jaunt that led on-post soldiers toward their city sweethearts. www.nps.gov/prsf/
5. Land's End refers to the rugged stretch of coastline along the city's northwest edge. The portion between Ocean Beach and Baker Beach makes for a great hike. To abbreviate this walk but still hit the most beautiful spots, start at the Cliff House, head to Sutro Heights Park, and end at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. www.parksconservancy.org
6. Golden Gate Park stretches some three miles from Haight-Ashbury in the east to Ocean Beach in the west. A variety of paths will bring you to museums, gardens, lakes -- even bison -- along the way. www.golden-gate-park.com
7. The Embarcadero is a waterfront thoroughfare punctuated by piers, skyscrapers, and people. The best experiences are between AT&T Park and Fisherman's Wharf. If the walk under the Bay Bridge, past the Ferry Building, and Pier 39 makes you hungry, stop in at one of the small restaurants along the way; it's hard to go wrong.
8. Pacific Heights is home to some of the city's wealthiest dwellers, so the Victorian architecture, parks, shops, and views are all first-rate. To see la crème de la crème, start your stroll of the charming neighborhood at Lafayette Park. Then walk west on Sacramento Street, turn right on Fillmore Street, right again on Union Street, and climb up curvy Octavia Street to get back to the park.
Additional reporting by Tim Andrews