Hang Gliding and Hiking at Fort Funston

The bluffs at the Golden Gate National Recreational Area are popular with hang gliders, hikers and dogs.

The 200-foot bluffs and steep, sandy trails at Fort Funston in San Francisco make it a prime Daycation spot for hang gliders and hikers alike. Photo: Jessica Graham

SAN FRANCISCO – After last winter’s deluge, followed by record heat this summer, it’s anyone’s guess as to what fall will bring, so we might as well make the most of it and head outside to explore while we still can. Fort Funston is a former military harbor defense installation turned Golden Gate National Recreational Area. If you’ve never been, now is a perfect time to go. Just prepare to be swept away – literally!

The bluffs of Fort Funston provide windy conditions perfect for hang gliders. Photo: Welland Lau/Shutterstock

Located in the southwestern corner of San Francisco, Fort Funston is up in the bluffs. Because of this, it’s consistently windy. These 200-foot bluffs make Fort Funston a prime spot for hang gliding, especially in October and March when conditions are optimal. Even if you don’t hang glide, it’s a fun sport to watch. To catch up-close views, head to the launch area or wheelchair-accessible viewing deck. Be sure to stay in the designated areas and heed the posted cautions about the unstable cliffs.

Sand on the dunes is soft, with paths leading down to the beach. Photo: yhelfman/Shutterstock

If you prefer hiking to hang gliding, Fort Funston offers that also. There are paved trails as well as sand dune trails. If you want to be on the pavement, hike the Funston Trail, which is a 1.9 mile loop trail that’s popular with both man and beast. Dogs are permitted to be off-leash at Fort Funston, making it a prime destination for dog walkers. All the dogs I encountered while there were friendly and mostly well-mannered.

Dogs are permitted to be off-leash at Fort Funston, making it a prime destination for dog walkers. Photo: Photography by Adri/Shutterstock

Funston Trail is partly in the sun and shade, so prepare for both. The trail is considered wheelchair-accessible because of the pavement. Due to the wind, however, drifting sand covers portions of the pathway, which may cause difficulty for wheelchairs and strollers. Picnic tables are located along the shaded portion of the path.

There are also paths leading down the dunes to the beach. The dunes are steep and the sand is soft. Wear appropriate footwear and prepare, if necessary, to scramble. When you make it down to the water, be mindful of the surf and undertow.

Sunset as seen from Fort Funston, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Photo: yhelfman/Shutterstock

While the hang gliders give us something to gaze up at, Mother Nature encourages us to look down. The sand dunes are home to unique plants that can survive in the harsh conditions. It’s not every plant that can thrive in the sand. Additionally, swallows dig holes and nest in the sandstone cliffs. From March to June, these endangered species raise their young here. In the months of July and August, the chicks fly from the nest, with their parents trailing behind. You may want to bring binoculars for a closer look.

If you go: There is no fee for entry or parking, making this a very attractive Daycation. Park in the lot off Skyline Boulevard. Bring a lightweight coat or sweater as the wind can be chilly.  Visit ParksConservancy.org for more information.

Your Town Daycations is a series featured in the print edition of Your Town Monthly. This article was originally published in the October 2017 issues.