Lands End Lookout and the Sutro Bath Ruins in San Francisco’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area seemingly brought us to the edge of the world and then into the mouth of a sea cave! It was an breathtaking stop on our way through the Bay Area to points north.
And guess what? It was sunny! In San Francisco! At the entrance to the bay!
We started at the Lands End Lookout Visitor Center which was newly opened in 2012. You can see from the view that it’s a hike down to the Sutro Bath Ruins site. You can make a whole trip out of standing in the cozy Visitor Center and looking out over the scene while browsing historic photos and grabbing a cup of hot cocoa. The white building in the photo below is The Cliff House Restaurant.
Or – you can do what we did – and hike down to the Ruins. We took the stairs, but there is an accessible path. Both are dirt and require some steady stepping with the wind blowing or moisture on the ground. It’s an adventure!
Look out for pelicans, sea lions, baby ducks and even river otters.
We even caught glimpses of spiderwebs in the ruins which made it all the more authentic.
After exploring the ruins, check the tides and head into the sea cave which lets you out to a peek-a-boo view of the ocean. This is the part of the trip that can get a little “iffy” with toddlers. Just make sure they stay behind the barriers and hold your hand. The steps are slippery and the fencing is not complete enough to hold back a squirmy child.
(I’m not showing photos inside the cave, because it’s just too cool! You need to go!) You go back through the cave the way you came. Climb above to stand at Point Lobos and get a peek-a-boo view of the bridge.
Take the Sutro Baths Upper Trail up another steep and slippery staircase with no railings to take in the full view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Mile Rock Overlook.
On a more somber note, up the stairs and behind you stands the bridge of the USS San Francisco which “sustained 45 hits in battle” during Guadalcanal in World War II. It serves as a memorial to the 107 Navy men who died in that battle.
From there, it’s a short walk among the wind-blown trees back to your parking spot.
Parking: Free parking in a large lot right outside the Visitor Center (off Point Lobos Avenue or along El Camino del Mar)
Restrooms: Nice, but busy restrooms to the left of the Visitor Center entrance (none once you start hiking)
Food: Everyone talks about neighboring The Cliff House clam chowder – and it turns out The Cliff House runs the Lookout Cafe inside the Visitor Center (see the Lookout Cafe menu)
Weather: Usually foggy, but on our visit brilliant sunshine and VERY windy! I mean, blow-you-over windy. Bring hair ties to keep knots out of long hair and windbreakers to keep you warm and dry.