Fort Funston, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, is one of the most famous areas for dog lovers in San Francisco. Located off Skyline Boulevard at the San Francisco/Daly City border, it offers cliff trails, stroll-friendly beaches, ocean views, and one of the most popular hang-gliding spots in the country.
The main parking lot is large, and there is no day use or parking fee. Pick a sandy trail and head west towards the cliff, where you’ll find the infamous staircase down to the beach. Although the staircase is very steep, it’s short and well maintained with sturdy hand rails.
Apartment-dwelling San Francisco residents have long considered Fort Funston an off-leash refuge, where pent-up pets can run free and use up their boundless energy. The beach at Funston is the perfect place, since it’s bordered by cliffs and water, providing a natural boundary that only the craftiest of canines could breach.
But technically, leash and voice control laws are in place. One beachcomber I spoke to said, “This is the place where the GGNRA looks the other way.” That may be the case, but every now and then the controversy brews, including threats of ticketing off-leash pet owners.
This year, to try and curb the controversies, the GGNRA is conducting a dog management study for the area. The call for public comments closed in May and proposed changes will be released online later this year.
The day I visited, I saw very few leashes. But there were no incidents and no tickets, just lots of deliriously happy dogs and their responsible pet parents picking up after them or intervening when the play got too rough.
To avoid looking like a “pet tourist,” I borrowed a little dachshund named Lulu from a friend. She was one of the smaller dogs on the beach, where larger mixed breeds and labs made up a large part of the pack. But she held her own and enjoyed running with the other dogs, playing in the surf and watching the frantic ball and Frisbee chasers.
But it’s not all for the dogs. I saw lots of petless beachcombers walking along the surf. And if you’re considering the sport of hang-gliding, or simply want to watch and see how it’s done, this is an exceptional place to be.
The cliff edge west of the parking lot is cordoned off by rope, and on the day I visited at least five gliders were parked near the launch area, awaiting the next jump. I spent some time watching on the sidelines, amazed at how deceivingly easy it looked.
Once the glider is prepared, they seemed to simply lean over the cliff’s edge until a strong breeze picked them up in its currents. From there, they used their body to steer and gracefully ride the gusts coming up off the ocean.
You don’t need a dog or a hang glider to enjoy Fort Funston. It’s a gem of a beach, tucked away to the south of the busier Ocean Beach, and it's a great place to spend some time exploring.
And of course, Fort Funston’s Green Team accepts volunteers to help conservancy efforts. For more information, call (415) 239-4247, or check out their website for more information.