The Sutro Bath Ruins of San Francisco

Exploring Nature in the Big City of San Francisco

If you’re like me, you like to explore out of the way places, along with some of the popular tourist attractions. This helps give us a more rounded approach to any place we visit.   While in San Francisco we contacted a photographer friend who lives just outside the city. Before driving us through downtown San Francisco, he took us to one of his favorite spots along the coast, the Lands End Trails. I hadn’t heard about it during my research of the city, but I’m glad we were introduced to it.

Snuggled inside the Golden Gate National Recreation area are the Sutro Baths and Cliff House. As we pulled into the parking lot I was immediately enthralled with the gorgeous Cypress trees that sit on the bluffs.  The fog encircled the branches and created a magical feeling.  The grove begged to be photographed, and I’m sure it lures many photographers to capture the ever -changing weather and light amongst the trees.


Beneath the trees were walking trails that wound through the groves and along the cliffs. People were visiting this area for many reasons that day; running, biking, photography, and exploring the ruins. There’s a 3-mile trail that loops back, but we didn’t have enough time to explore the whole thing. I definitely recommend allowing a few hours to explore the coastline and all the scenic views this area has to offer. Next time we come to San Francisco, we plan on allotting sufficient time to explore more in depth.

Once we we parked and adequately dressed for the cold, we headed down to the Sutro Bath ruins. There’s a steep staircase that took us from the bluffs down to sea level.

Note: It’s not a walk for the easily fatigued, or those with physical restrictions.


The concrete foundations and walls are accessible to walk on. Pets were allowed so it was great to take Lassie with us down to the waters edge.

san francisco sutro bath lands end

The waves were crashing on the rocks nearby, creating a picture perfect setting, in spite of the chill in the air.

Looking out at the mountains and trees beside us, the water and rocks in front of us, it felt peaceful.we could really sense the history of an era gone by- a time when this place entertained many more guests than the few of us that were there that day.

I can definitely see why in the 1920′s it was selected as a spot to put a bathing house. In it’s heyday it was a glass enclosure with 6 sea and fresh water pools indoors.

Off to one side of the cliffs is a cave, which the kids were thrilled to explore. I found out later that it’s where they housed a turbine to pump sea water into the 6 salt bath enclosures.


A dirt and asphalt path took us up the side of the cliff so we could get a panoramic view of the bay. If the weather had been clearer, I’ve been told you can see the Golden Gate Bridge from here.



It’s always great when I can find a place that everyone in the family enjoys, and hiking around Lands End was definitely one of them.

There were many photogenic spots, and Hannah & Avery had a great time practicing  their photography skills.

san francisco sutro bath lands end


Hayden loved hiking the boulders and throwing rocks out into the ocean. He climbed up the mountainsides and had a great time exploring.

I was pleased to see that it was a pet- friendly place as well. Our dog, Lassie, was happy to run around the ruins and enjoy the scenery.

We saw many great sites in San Francisco while we were there, but one of my favorite was definitely the Sutro Baths and Lands End.

I can’t wait to come back in warmer weather, with a picnic lunch and a camera, and spend the afternoon soaking in the scenery.

I recommend you check it out the next time you are in San Francisco. And if you’re looking for a great photographer or local “tour guide”, be sure to call my friend, Spencer Harris, and tell him Watts in the World sent you!


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