Traveling to a big city you’re likely to visit the main tourist spots- picturesque landmarks, historical buildings, the center of downtown. In San Francisco, CA, some of the most popular spots include the painted ladies houses, Golden Gate Bridge, bright cable cars, Alcatraz, and Fisherman’s Wharf.
You know those pamphlet stands (often in gift shops) that feature all of the tourist attractions of an area? The tours, the local restaurants, the main scene. One type of attraction they nearly always lack is a map that focuses on nature.
Nature in the City is an exception. Based out of San Francisco, they have designed a double-sided map of the Golden City that highlights green spaces and where to find local wildlife.
As a lover of the outdoors, I am so excited to be working with Nature in the City to share their map with you and to tell you all about my experience using it!
For the past few weeks I’ve been road-tripping through Nevada and California. We spent a few short, but sweet, days in San Fran and the Nature in the City map was my guide.
On the main side of the map, there is a large nature map of the city which highlights spaces like beaches, campsites, lakes, parks, and trails as well as describes local wildlife such as the black-tailed jackrabbit, blue whale, coyote, and the California sea lion- plus where to find them.
The other side of the map includes 4 smaller maps which show soil types and waterways, tended landscapes, types of shorelines, and the seasonal migration routes of multiple species.
There is SO much information packed into this map (5 maps in 1). Even though I didn’t have time to visit every place, I enjoyed learning about San Francisco through a nature-focused lens. I’d love if there were maps like this for every major city!
The one minor recommendation I have for improving the map would be to laminate it to protect it against that strong San Fran wind and to make it more travel-friendly.
There were 3 spots we visited using the map. Scroll to check them out! 🙂
1. Pier 39
If you love wildlife, then you HAVE to stop by Pier 39 to see the California Sea Lions! These cute, rowdy guys are here year-round and are so playful- I could watch them all day!
Tip: If you take the stairs up to the upper level of shops, there is a sea lion educational center with information about seals and sea lions. This is also a nice, less-crowded spot to watch the sea lions.
You’ll also spot brown pelicans and other birds in the area.
2. Baker Beach
There are plenty of great spots to take in a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, but this was by far my favorite! I’m a beach bum at heart, so being able to walk in the warm sand and dip my feet into the waves while admiring the bright red bridge was perfect. I loved watching the ravens and massive brown pelicans fly overhead too. There were also some birds of prey (possibly hawks) flying over the nearby Presidio Hills. Surprisingly, the parking lot was mainly empty and the beach was not crowded at all.
This was my favorite beach in San Fran and I highly recommend it to those looking to catch a photo-worthy view of the bridge while avoiding the super popular areas.
Located in the middle of the city, this park surprised me with how many lakes it had (four) and the abundance of wildlife that we easily found. Being surrounded by trees and climbing on trails was such a wonderful escape from city life that I didn’t expect to find so close to downtown.
This seemed like the place to go for a morning run or an evening walk with your dog.
You can also find nature education centers, gardens, an aquarium, and even buffalo!
To see all there is to see here, I’d recommend either spending the whole day at this park or spreading the attractions out over mulitple days.
If finding nature in the city of San Francisco interests you, the map is available for purchase online and there are also volunteer opportunities for you to get involved and spread the word about appreciating urban wildlife.
In San Fran and elsewhere I encourage you to trade your usual routine for a nature escape and to switch your sights from electronic screens to wondrous wildlife that you may not have noticed before!
Thanks again to Nature in the City for collaborating with me!