What’s Best: A hike or bike on the wild side of the park, with forests, lakes and room to roam.
Parking: From the Golden Gate Bridge, take Hwy. 1, which is 19th Ave. Go south on 19th Ave. and turn right, or west, on Geary Blvd. Near the coast, veer right on Point Lobos Ave, continue, and then go south on the Great Highway. Park at the Beach Chalet Visitors Center. From the south, take Hwy. 280 to Hwy. 1, go west on Lincoln Ave. Then go north on the Great Highway to the Chalet.
Agency: San Francisco Recreation and Park Department
Hike: Windmills loop (1 ml.); Windmills and Chain of Lakes loop (2 ml.)
For both hikes, begin at the Beach Chalet, the visitors center. Built in 1925, the Spanish Colonial-style building is known for its 1,500 square feet of frescoes depicting sights and activities of San Francisco, designed in the 1930s. The colorful murals were created by Lucien Labaudt as part of a WPA project. Upstairs is the Beach Chalet Brewery & Restaurant which offers commanding views of the Pacific.
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Dutch Windmill, Kennedy Drive Golden Gate Park West
Cross John F. Kennedy Drive, to the Dutch Windmill. Some 75 feet high, the windmill was built in 1903 to pump irrigation water to Stow Lake in the center of Golden Gate Park. The mill was restored in 1981, although electricity now provides the pumping power. The adjoining Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden’s 10,000-plus tulips provide a riot of color in the spring.
Walk across Kennedy Drive from the tulip garden and drop down to the path at the short tunnel that runs under the street. After about .5-mile on the path you come to Murphy Windmill. Now decrepit, it was the largest windmill in the world when built to pump water in 1905. For the windmill loop, turn left up Martin Luther King Drive and then veer left on a short path section that takes you up to Bernice Rogers Way a short road section between Kennedy and King drives. Take the path on the west side of the road, alongside Kennedy Drive, which takes you back to the Chalet.
For the Chain of Lakes loop, cross Martin Luther King Drive at Murphy Windmill. Take a short path that will connect with a multi-use path running along the south side of King Drive. After .25-mile on this path you cross Chain of Lakes Drive, where you turn left. Cross King Drive again, and pass South Lake, which will be on your right. Just past South Lake, get on the path on the east side of the road, with Middle Lake on your right. You then cross Kennedy Drive, just west of the Buffalo Paddock. Buffalo have roamed here since 1894, although the current herd was relocated from Wyoming in 1984. The path continues until reaching the north end of North Lake, where it goes west, or left, past the archery fields and back to the Chalet.
Bike: The Golden Gate Park loop covers about 8 miles through verdant forests on both roads and bike paths. Head east on John F. Kennedy Drive, which begins just north of the Beach Chalet. Follow Bike Route 30. Just past Portals of the Past at Lloyd Lake cross right over the street and pick up the bike path, Route 830. Take this path behind the de Young Museum and turn right on Middle East Drive, opposite the the Conservatory of Flowers. Veer right on Martin Luther King Drive. At Traverse Drive, turn right on Bike Route 75 for a short stretch, until you come to John F. Kennedy again. Pick up Bike Route 830 headed west. The path continues through the forests that takes you back out to the Great Highway, where you turn right back to the Chalet. Notes:
Bicycle rentals usually are available at the Beach Chalet. Bike Route 95 is at the west end of Golden Gate Park along the Great Highway. Northbound it takes you toward Lands End, the Presidio, and Golden Gate Bridge; southbound is toward Fort Funston, TH6.