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Ocean Beach

Often windswept, foggy and cold, San Francisco's main beach is nonetheless a respite from the bustle along much of the city's eastern waterfront. Ocean Beach is typically sparsely visited, though a warm weekend or special event can attract a crowd. When it's not fogged in, you can see from Montara Mountain and Pedro Point in the south, across...
Often windswept, foggy and cold, San Francisco's main beach is nonetheless a respite from the bustle along much of the city's eastern waterfront. Ocean Beach is typically sparsely visited, though a warm weekend or special event can attract a crowd. When it's not fogged in, you can see from Montara Mountain and Pedro Point in the south, across the mouth of the Golden Gate to the Marin Headlands and Point Reyes; on a particularly clear day you may catch a glimpse of the Farallon Islands, 28 miles offshore. The ocean here can be wild with huge breakers, and often the riptides are so powerful that even wading is unsafe. Nonetheless, experienced surfers and wind sailors ride these waves nearly every day, and hardy fishermen, beachcombers, and dog walkers brave the sands regardless of weather.

For many years, this four-mile stretch of beach was isolated from the rest of San Francisco by miles of sand dunes called "the Outside Lands," now the residential neighborhoods of the Sunset and Richmond districts. In the late 1800s, visitors came by horse, carriage, or trolley to enjoy such attractions as the Cliff House, Sutro Baths, the gardens of Sutro Heights, and other attractions. The Great Highway was built in the 1920s, and paved paths were eventually extended along most of the beach.

Visitor Center:The Golden Gate Park visitor center is across the Great Highway from the Ocean Beach Esplanade, nestled into the western edge of the park near JFK Drive. The visitor center occupies the ground floor of the Beach Chalet, a 1925 Spanish Revival-style building designed by Willis Polk, which originally housed a lounge and bathing facilities for Ocean Beach swimmers. You can view frescoes that Works Progress Administration artists painted on the walls in 1936-37 and pick up information about the park; there is also a small gift shop. On the second floor is the Beach Chalet Restaurant and Brewery; the Park Chalet restaurant juts into Golden Gate Park behind the visitor center.

Trail/Pathway Details

Ocean Beach Coastal Trail

Trailhead: Northern end: Entry to the Esplanade is provided by several ramps: one a short way up the hill leading to the Cliff House, and one each at stairwells 15, 21, and 27. Southern end: Sloat Boulevard near the Great Highway.

Length: 2-4 total miles

Typical Width: 4 ft. & above

Typical Grade: Level

Terrain: Hard

Obstacles: Blowing sand and overgrown vegetation may impede travel, particularly along the Noriega Seawall promenade.

Description

Wide, paved paths run the entire length of Ocean Beach, but they offer a wheelchair rider mostly visual access, and even that is limited. At the northern end is the Esplanade, which extends along the ocean side of the Great Highway from the Cliff House to Golden Gate Park. The Esplanade is protected from the wind and blowing...
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Accessibility Details

The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.

Beach Wheelchair: Yes

At the northern end of Ocean Beach, several accessible spaces are near the ramps to the sidewalk and Esplanade, west of the Great Highway: one just a short way up the hill toward the Cliff House, and several at stairwells 15, 21, and 27. Several, including some with access aisles, are in the Beach Chalet parking lot on the east side of the highway.At the southern end of the beach, two accessible spaces with access aisles are in the parking lot at the end of Sloat Boulevard, west of the Great Highway, and several are along Sloat Boulevard near the zoo. At the Sloat Boulevard parking lot and the ground floor of the Beach Chalet

Other Things of Interest

About two miles south of Ocean Beach on Skyline Boulevard is Fort Funston, once a coastal defense installation and now a windswept blufftop park favored by hang gliders and dog walkers. Wheelchair accessibility to the trails is limited by steep slopes, blowing sand, and crumbling pavement, but an accessible boardwalk leads to an overlook where on a clear day you can see many miles up and down the coast and watch hang gliders soar along the bluffs.
Looking south from a spot near the Cliff House
Looking south from a spot near the Cliff House (Eileen Ecklund)
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Features icon key

  • Beach Wheelchairs Available
  • hiking
  • swimming

Additional Information

View Map  
Website: www.parksconservancy.org
Managing Agency: GGNRA
Address: Point Lobos Avenue/Great Highway
Nearest City: San Francisco
Phone: (415) 561-4323
Hours: Always open
Fees: None
Dogs: On leash
From stairwell 21 south to Sloat Boulevard, dogs must be on leash year-round except from May 15 to July 1.Off-leash dogs under voice control are allowed on the beach north of stairwell 21 (across from Golden Gate Park)
Public Transportation: San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
Reviewed by Eileen Ecklund, March 20, 2013
Access Norhtern California This web guide is a project of Access Northern California.  
California Coastal Conservancy Thanks to our partner the California Coastal Conservancy

DISCLAIMER: Although the information contained in this web-guide was believed to be correct at the time of publication, neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy shall be held responsible or liable for any inaccuracies, errors, or omissions, nor for information that changes or becomes outdated. Neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy assume any liability for any injury or damage arising out of, or in connection with, any use of this guide or the sites described in it.

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Accessible Wheelchair Icon looks like a wheelchair with balloon wheelsBeach Accessible
Wheelchairs Available
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