Phan Quoc Vinh
San Francisco has long been recognized as a favorite tourist destination. This location offers a variety of experiences, allowing visitors to explore a beautiful and quintessentially American city and surround themselves with nature.
Explore the forests
What interests me most about San Francisco is the abundance of national parks right on the coast. A bit further from the city lies Paradise Beach Park, where visitors can bike, feed the geese at the pier, and watch thousands of cars rushing over San Francisco Bay on the Richmond Bridge.
Visitors who enjoy hiking and climbing mountains should visit Mount Tamalpais State Park, which contains a redwood forest that serves as the city’s lungs. Trekking to the top of Tamalpais is not difficult. I got a bird’s eye view from a height of 2,571 feet after hiking to the peak, which stands nearly 800m above sea level. There are tens of thousands of old trees in the forest, with trunks wider than two or three arms’ span. To avoid getting lost on the forest trails, go to the service center to get a map, find places to camp and rest, and seek expert advice.
San Bruno Mountain State and County Park is another popular destination for hikers. Just looking at the trail signs is enough to make nature-lovers dizzy with excitement. Choices include Summit Loop Trail, Eucalyptus Loop, Dairy Ravine Trail, Ridge Trail, Old Ranch Rd Trail, Saddle Trail, Old Guadalupe Trail, and Bog Trail, among others.
While walking along these trails, I enjoyed picking ripe wild berries, marveling at many species of forest orchids, watching a family of weasels gather and occasionally gaze at the unfamiliar traveler.
After overcoming a few miles of difficult trails, upon reaching the highest peak, the path offered panoramic views of San Francisco. Visitors will see that their effort was well worthwhile.
On my way back, I met John, an employee of the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department. He told me that the department currently manages over 220 parks, playgrounds, and open spaces throughout the city. In 2017, San Francisco became the first city in the United States where all residents could walk to a park in under ten minutes. How admirable!
Relax by the sea
Visitors who want to explore a smaller forest right in the city center can go to Golden Gate Park at the intersection of Fulton and Lincoln Streets. I found this park “sweet” because, in the middle of a bustling city, the government created a spacious, sandwich-like square of park so that local residents can relax and breathe.
Golden Gate Park is over 400 hectares in size. I’d like to emphasize that that’s 412ha, not 4.12ha, so visitors can plan enough time for their visit. The paths are car-free so everyone can enjoy the clean, fresh air. Koret Children’s Playground is a fun place for families with kids where children can zoom down concrete slides on pieces of cardboard. They can also ride the SkyStar Wheel to see the city skyline or visit the California Academy of Sciences to learn about dinosaurs. Couples can stroll through the San Francisco Botanical Gardens or the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden, both of which have hundreds of blooming flower species. Meanwhile, older visitors might find the De Young Museum, which houses many diverse art collections, more appealing. A Japanese tea garden with Koi fish and many bonsai trees is also a lovely place to unwind.
Best of all, I could enjoy the briny sea by simply walking across the Great Highway Road from the park. I ran after children flying kites along the coast. When I needed to rest, I stepped onto the sand and listened to the seagulls calling for their partners.
Leaning back on a canvas chair next to the water’s edge, where the waves were gently lapping, I watched the sun slowly set as if it was clinging to these days spent by the sea and in the forests.