Where to run on the San Francisco Peninsula

A long time ago, I did a blog post about where to run if you came to San Francisco. It’s proved useful to a number of people and is one of my most popular posts (according to wordpress statistics). So I thought I’d do a similar post but about where I actually live!

IN ADDITION, I’ve linked up with a couple of other bloggers who, today, are publishing posts about where to run in THEIR homes!! The Sierra Foothills and El Paso, Texas are represented, see below for more details!! And you could contribute too!!

I live south of the city, on the peninsula. There are no spectacular sights to see (none, really!), it’s just relentless suburbia but there are still some great places to run! However, I’m not far from Silicon Valley –  we have big employers in the area (Facebook, Google, Linked In to name but a few) and therefore many people visit the area for meetings and may want somewhere to run…thus this post might be useful!

So…here’s where to run on the SF Peninsula.

First up, where am I talking about?

Anything south of San Francisco down south to about Mountain View.

Where should you run?

The Bay Trail

The Bay Trail is a total gift! In its entirety it goes 500 miles around the bay although realistically we’re not there yet. On the peninsula, it’s flat, paved and super-safe, and it stretches more or less uninterrupted for miles. The best stretch (I think) is from Coyote Point in San Mateo down through Foster City. You can run a 15-mile loop  (click on the link for the route) and it’s awesome, but you can also do an out-and-back from any point on the route. There is NO shade, which makes it tough in the summer, but there are now many well-placed bathrooms and water-fountains. If you start at Coyote Point, be sure to drive a mile over the 101 and eat brunch at Nini’s in Burlingame!!!

Lovely views today.
The view from Seal Point.

Sawyer Camp Trail

Another gem, the Sawyer Camp Trail stretches along 6 paved, flat/rolling, shady miles from Millbrae in the north to San Mateo in the south.  (12 miles out and back). It’s popular, so you’ll be dodging cyclists, hikers and thousands of kids at the weekend, but it’s also really pretty and there are markers every 1/4-mile. There are a couple of bathrooms at each end and two in the middle but not many! Eat at Millbrae Pancake House near the northern trailhead and Lily’s Creperie at the southern.



Huddart and Wunderlich Parks

Oh these parks!! These forested trails! I melt when I even think of them. These two parks are in the town of Woodside which is further south than the previous suggestions and along the 280 motorway. Huddart is my favourite and it costs $6 to get in. Wunderlich is nearly as pretty and the parking is free. My favourite trails in Huddart are Dean and Chinquapin, my favourite in Wunderlich is Madrone. Both are VERY hilly and tough, but so gorgeous it’s worth it. For a LONG 13 mile run, check out this route which links the two parks using the relatively flat but gorgeous Skyline trail. You will need a car to drive you back to the start point, or you’ll need to add on 3.5 miles. (If you choose to run the whole loop, be sure to start at Wunderlich). For brunch there are two great options. Alice’s Restaurant at the junction of the 35 (Skyline) and the 85 or Bucks  in Woodside. My tip…Alice’s. Always Alice’s!

Trails Huddart

Coastal Trail

Redwood forests not your thing? (Wierdo!) Try the coastal trail in Half Moon Bay over along the Pacific Ocean. Start either at Kelly Beach in HMB and head north or start at Moss Landing Harbor and head south. This route is about 8 miles, but it’s an out-and-back so you can make it as long or short as you’d like. For food, try Sam’s Chowder House by the Harbor and the HMB coffee company in downtown HMB.

An old photo but I never get tired of this view!
An old photo but I never get tired of this view!

Pacifica Trails

Further north along the coast is lovely Pacifica. You could run some trails at San Pedro Valley Park (6 mile loop here) or a hilly 8 mile loop along Sweeny Ridge for views, or try a shorter, also view-y run at Mori Point!

sweeney ridge
Sweeney Ridge

Stanford Dish

Palo Alto is a lovely town half way down the Peninsula. Home to Stanford University, it’s the most expensive place to rent in the whole of the USA. For a short but challenging run, try the Stanford Dish. The loop is only 3.75 miles with 415 ft elevation but it will KILL your legs and make you feel very unfit! BEWARE, NO BATHROOMS AT THIS PARK!!!  Palo Alto is full of great places to eat but I’d strongly recommend going straight for  ice-cream at Scoop! The Dude concurs.

The view from the dish

Shoreline Park

If you have meetings with any of the big Mountain View employers, try Shoreline Park. It has miles of flat trails along the bay. It’s very pretty. You can have lunch in the cafe on the lake!!

Where to shop

From north to south…

A Runner’s Mind (ARM) in Burlingame

A great, local, independent store that I’d heartily recommend. Friendly and fun, they’ll have everything you need and more! They do weekly group runs on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays and visitors are more than welcome.

Road Runner Sports, San Carlos

This store is part of a chain so it lacks the feel-good factor of the other stores I’m mentioning here but their range is excellent and their prices are good.

Zombie Runner, Palo Alto

Trail-focussed and cool, Zombie Runner is another great community store and best of all it has an AMAZING coffee store inside. Seriously, amazing coffee!

Fleet Feet, Menlo Park

Fleet Feet is a small chain but this is another great store with lots of community events and group runs! I bought shoes there once and was really impressed with the service and range! I wish I lived closer.

What to wear

The Peninsula divides into two distinct climates. The coast is much cooler – in the summer, I try to escape the heat and run there. Even on the hottest day, it can be cool and when the fog rolls in, it gets cold so take layers!!

The east side of the hills is much warmer. In summer, it’s all shorts and tanks. In winter, you could do capris OR shorts. Opt for long-sleeved tops (and sometimes an extra layer) early in the morning. Don’t forget sunscreen in the summer.


I can’t think of any iconic races for this area…our big races tend to be in San Francisco or San Jose. However there are a number of trail race companies who organize races along Skyline and these are worth checking out.

The Divas’s Half Marathon is a big event (June) if you don’t have a problem with one gender being marginalised. Clearly, I do!

The best bloggers, tweeters and ‘grammers on the Peninsula!

I’m sure there are more but these are my faves!

If you’re looking for running inspiration elsewhere, I’ve linked up with a couple of my blogging friends to do similar posts in THEIR towns!!! They’re great girls and cracking writers so please click through and read their posts.

A Runner’s Guide to El Paso, Texas – by Bean

A Runner’s Guide to the Sierra Foothills – by Alisyn

In addition, there are a few pre-written posts that might be useful.

Running around the Bay Area – by various people including Erin

Running in Portland, Oregon – by Sarah Bowen Shea

And now…over to you!

If YOU have a blog and want to do a post about where YOU live, I’d love that! Please feel free to do so using our format, and I’ll add you to the list!! If you don’t have a blog but you still want to write about where you live, drop me a note (myheartscontentblog at hotmail dot com) and we can publish it here! I’d love this to be a great resource for runners!

19 Comments Add yours

  1. Jen says:

    What a great guide! I promise to write mine up soon!!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thank you! Looking forward to reading yours when you do it.

  2. That’s such a cool idea!! I LOVE that. It’s so useful when you are on vacation or travelling for different reasons. You always have great ideas (just as your “Running The World” posts).

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thank you!! How do you feel about doing one for Camarillo and/or Montpellier? I’d love to see it.

  3. Nic J says:

    Makes me want to run all of them now!! Definitely need to head back your way at some point and run at least one of them!! xx

    1. Cathryn says:

      How do you think about doing a guide to running in Salisbury and publishing it here? 🙂

      1. Nic J says:

        I’ll give it some thought – will need to think the routes through and get some pictures for you. Might wait until more into spring so it makes Salisbury look prettier. Everywhere is looking a bit grey and knackered at the moment!

      2. Cathryn says:

        Yes…Spring photos please. But you should do this.

  4. gracechua31 says:

    What a wonderful idea! I’ve got to do one for Singapore! And I want to read a Boston insider’s guide to running in this area. I’ve got a few favourite routes but I really want to mix it up for longer runs.

    1. Cathryn says:

      Yes, do this for Singapore!

  5. Looks like I need to plan a trip to take in all these running adventure routes. Beautiful. I might have to think about doing one of these around here once the snow melts away and provides better pictures. 🙂

    1. Cathryn says:

      COME AND STAY!!! We love guests who are strangers from the internet!

      1. Bean says:

        This is true, they do 😉

      2. It is almost like we know each other but just not in person. 🙂

  6. Naomi says:

    I’ve lived on the Peninsula for so long and have yet to visit some of these places! Time to make my bucket list!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Yay, happy to help 🙂

  7. Bean says:

    This was such a fun idea. You are so good at coming up with fun blog ideas! I want to come run all these places with you!

    1. Cathryn says:

      I miss you – I need to invite myself to Texas.

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