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31 ways to exercise outside in San Francisco in 2024

A group practicing yoga on a sunny beach with mountains in the distance.
Outdoor Yoga offers classes at Baker Beach in San Francisco’s Presidio. | Courtesy Outdoor Yoga

Hate gyms? So do plenty of people who want to get fit.

As health clubs and weight-loss programs begin to bombard New Year’s resolutioners, some San Franciscans might find 2024 the perfect time to try a new tactic: Get outside.

“The pandemic taught people about the benefits of exercising outdoors,” said Kristina Schubert, fitness coach at Workout on the Hill, a boot camp-style cardio and strength training group that's been meeting in Bernal Heights since 2003. “Some people have learned that they prefer fresh air and nature to indoor gyms and studios.”

A line of people exercise in park in San Francisco.
Workout on the Hill holds strength and cardio sessions in Bernal Heights. | Courtesy Workout on the Hill

Fortunately, San Franciscans are blessed with countless opportunities to walk, hike, run, bike, climb, dance or skate in or near the city—and most activities are free or very affordable. 

To be sure, winter’s weather isn’t always perfect—but the pandemic helped with that too. “If it rains, we meet on Zoom,” says Schubert.

Check out The Standard’s list of 31 outdoor fitness ideas below. With one workout for every day in January, you’ll need a lot of excuses not to get out there.

1. Walk Ocean Beach

You’ll surely get sand in your sneakers, but you’ll also get thousands of steps walking Ocean Beach on the six-mile trip from the Cliff House to the zoo and back—just don't turn your back on the ocean.

2. Paddle It Out

You’ve heard the “pop-popping” and the controversy, maybe it's time to get in on the action? San Francisco's Recreation and Park Department opened eight new pickleball courts at Carl Larsen Park this month. And in September, the city opened the first padel courts in Northern California in the Embarcadero and on Treasure Island. The game combines tennis and squash into a sport played by 10 million people around the world. Need to learn the basics? Check the Rec and Parks catalog for lessons offered this winter.

A scene of a trail above the ocean with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.
Golden Gate Bridge views are nonstop from the Lands End Trail. | Smith Collection/Gado via Getty Images | Source: Getty Images

3. Reach Lands End

Offering what are arguably the most spectacular views in a city of spectacular views, the Lands End trail delivers nonstop vistas on its two-mile journey from Eagle’s Point in Sea Cliff to Point Lobos in the Sutro Baths.

4. Try Fresh-Air Yoga 

There’s nothing like downward dog with a view. Try one of Outdoor Yoga’s sessions in Baker Beach or Golden Gate Park.

5. Hike Glen Canyon

It’s amazing that San Francisco has a wild canyon hidden in its hills. From Diamond Heights, a nearly two-mile walk loops Islais Creek, connecting with other Glen Canyon paths and rest stops and making for an exhilarating way to start or end a winter day.

6. Dance in the Park

For 27 years, Lindy in the Park has held outdoor Lindy Hop swing dance sessions near the DeYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park. No idea how to swing? No partner? No problem. Head over to their beginner sessions on Sundays.

7. Bike the Bay Trail

There’s nothing like the views from a sunset ride on the Bay Trail from Emeryville to Point Richmond along the eastern shore of the bay. The 18-mile round trip delivers city, bridge and Mount Tam vistas the entire way. 

A rushing stream flows over rocky terrain, surrounded by rich greenery and moss-covered stones.
Cascade Falls is a seasonal waterfall just 20 minutes from San Francisco. | Maryann Jones Thompson/The Standard

8. Zoom to a Waterfall

Winter rain makes for wonderful waterfall hikes. Head to Marin County for two of the quickest and easiest wanders to waterfalls—or plan a day trip to one of the popular waterfall hikes around the bay.

9. Zumba Out in the Open

Rec and Parks holds drop-in Zumba cardio dance classes at Excelsior Playground, Golden Gate Park and other locations around the city. 

10. Journey Across the City

It’ll take one very long day or a few weekends of half-days to walk the 17-mile Crosstown Trail through San Francisco from bottom to top—or top to bottom—but its a trek all San Franciscans should have on their bucket lists.

11. Bird-Watch on Angel Island

Ferry over to Angel Island State Park for a stroll along the 6-mile Perimeter Loop trail. Bring your binoculars to get a glimpse of some of the dozens of avian species that call the island home. 

The sun hits a long tiled staircase with lush vegetation on either side.
The tiled steps on 16th Avenue in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Heights neighborhood are pictured at sunset. | Source: Gina Castro/The Standard

12. Climb the Stairs

Many of San Francisco’s famed hills are reached via almost-as-famous staircases—and they’re also where the serious outdoor fitness freaks burn their buns. Newbies can try out the Filbert Steps to Coit Tower, the Vulcan Stairway in Corona Heights, the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps in Golden Gate Heights, the mural-lined steps in the Excelsior or the Baker Beach Sand Ladder in the Presidio.​​

13. Loop the Lake

The trail surrounding Lake Merced provides a full 4.5-miles worth of biking, walking or skating terrain.

14. Enlist in a Boot Camp

Though the “boot camp” label may be past its prime, the phenomenon of taking cardio and strength classes in local parks continues to be popular. Workout on the Hill holds classes at Holly Park in Bernal Heights two mornings a week, while other boot camps meet in locations around SF. Check websites for classes and pricing. 

15. Stroll Among the Butterflies

There’s still time for a day trip to Santa Cruz to see the monarchs this winter. See the butterflies clumping in trees at Lighthouse Field State Beach and then get the lead out on its 3-mile West Cliff Drive path along the ocean. 

A road with cyclists, walkers, and a runner, with traffic lights overhead and foggy hills in the distance.
People walk and bike along Great Highway. | Gabrielle Lurie/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

16. Cycle the “Great Walkway”

The two miles between Lincoln Way and Skyline Boulevard make for an excellent beginner’s cycle track, providing a community atmosphere and fresh ocean air.

17. Kayak the Bay

Take a paddle along the surprisingly scenic eastern shore of San Francisco. Head to City Kayak for rentals near Mission Bay (and McCovey Cove) and Dogpatch Paddle for trips around Crane Cove Park.

18. Explore McLaren Park 

Walkers can follow the 2-mile Philosopher’s Way for a loop or two of McLaren Park, the city’s second-largest municipal park. 

19. Learn—or Relearn—Tennis

Maybe it's time for a classic paddle sport? Check out the wide variety of lessons offered by Rec and Parks, or simply reserve one of the 139 courts around San Francisco, grab your racket and get at it. 

20. Promenade in the Presidio

After centuries of being blocked by a military base and a highway, San Franciscans can once again walk from the bay up into the hills of the Presidio. The completion of Tunnel Tops park means visitors can connect parts of the Presidio Promenade with the Golden Gate Promenade for an hourslong loop, making stops at the Main Post, the Golden Gate Bridge, Fort Point, Crissy Field and, finally, back through the extraordinary Tunnel Tops park itself. 

People in colorful attire are roller skating on a vibrant outdoor rink under a clear sky.
Attendees roller skate on the freshly finished ground mural at Golden Gate Park’s Skatin’ Place on June 18, 2022, in San Francisco. | Morgan Ellis/The Standard

21. Skate the Park

Lace up your skates—or your blades—and explore JFK Drive on eight wheels. Start at the Skatin’ Place, ignore the “No Dancing” sign and roll up and down the Golden Mile for as long as your thighs can take it.

22. Bag SF’s Highest Peak

In just one mile, you can reach the top of 928-foot Mount Davidson, see its controversial cross and make your way back down. 

23. Join a Running Club

Like to jog but have trouble getting off the couch? There are dozens of running clubs in the city to get you motivated. Have a look at the Dolphin South End Runners (“the oldest and largest running club in the city”), the SF chapter of the Hash House Harriers (“a drinking club with a running problem”) or the Run Club SF (“a social club with a running problem”). Check the websites for beginner sessions and search Meetup for other running club meetings and events.

24. Move Mindfully

Jealous of the peaceful tai chi practitioners you see in parks around the city? Why not give it a try in 2024? SF Rec and Parks offers free introductory tai chi lessons—and kung fu lessons, too—at Jose Coronado Playground in the Mission. 


Three people overlook the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco skyline from a hill with hay bales.
Slacker Ridge rewards hikers with stunning views. | Maryann Jones Thompson/The Standard

25. Hike to a Golden Gate Panorama

Head up the steep fire road leading to Slacker Ridge in the Marin Headlands for 360-degree views of the bridge, the bay, the ocean and the city.

26. Hip Hop in UN Plaza

Rec and Parks is holding a variety of sessions in the newly revamped U.N. Plaza fitness area. Free hip-hop dance classes are currently offered every day of the week.

27. Time Travel Through a ‘Hippie Odyssey’

Reopened in early December after storm repairs, Olompali State Historic Park is a trippy trip back through Bay Area history. Follow the Miwok Loop trail for 3 miles through the oak woodlands where Native Americans lived for 1,500 years, locals battled the U.S. to keep their Bear Flag Republic and hippies built a commune that attracted luminaries from the Grateful Dead to Jack Kerouac.

A person walks on a beach towards a pier with a ship; signs warn about no lifeguards and humorously indicate animal crossings.
A swimmer enters the bay at the Dolphin Club on June 21, 2022 | Maryann Jones Thompson/The Standard

28. Swim the Bay

Only the toughest dippers can take on the bay in winter—or summer, for that matter. But the thousands of members of the Dolphin Club and the South End Rowing Club urge you to give it a try. For just $10 you can drop in to use their facilities and get some expert tips on how to join SF’s version of the polar bear club—or wimp out and dive into one of the public pools around the city.

29. Trek the Best of Tam

If you’ve not hiked the most renowned trails on Mount Tamalpais, set aside a Saturday to do the Dipsea or the Steep Ravine in 2024.

30. Climb the Walls

OK, climbing gyms are not, strictly speaking, an outside activity, but the ones around San Francisco are so cavernous that you almost feel like you're outdoors. Check for specials and classes around the city at Movement in Crissy Field, Mission Cliffs in the Mission, Dogpatch Boulders in Dogpatch and Benchmark Climbing on Van Ness.

31. Run the Redwoods

Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park is a gorgeous glen with a 4-mile trail for jogging, walking or simply gawking at the towering trees—or pick another place to forest bathe in the redwoods around the Bay Area or right in Downtown San Francisco. It’s a de-stressor you won’t find in any gym.