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April 1999   

Kind: Hard rock cliffs with pocket beach.
Location: Trails begin at the Cliff House and Sutro Bath ruins off Point Lobos Ave. To start out deeper into the Lands End area, there is a large parking area at the end of El Camino Del Mar off Point Lobos Ave. It is also possible to access Land's End Beach from crossing the golf green at the Legion of Honor and finding the Coast Trail.
Facilities: None, restaurants adjoin area at Point Lobos Av.
Fee/Open: Free, Merrie Wy parking lot above Sutro Baths ruins. This lot is gated 1:30am - 7:00am.
Dogs: Good. Recommended are the Sutro Baths area and Lands End Beach area for their explorability and water play, and Fort Miley for nice open space. Keep on-leash for the Coast Trail.

Special attention is due to the rugged section of rocky cliffs between the Cliff House and China Beach, for it is clearly the best coastal access in San Francisco. This is due to a number of factors. First, the cliffs are dramatic, and relatively secluded. Second this harsh, wild environment supports a sensational ecosystem on the extreme cliff faces, both animal and plant. Third, the cliffs face directly across the channel to the Marin Headlands which is quite a view. From the Merrie Wy parking lot above the old Sutro Bath ruins, a section of the Coast Trail runs up above the cliffs and a small footpath scales the cliff faces. Along the cliffs, there are a few military remnants to found all along the way if you explore, and eventually a very small rocky beach, Lands End Beach deep in the area. Although beaches are not the strong suit here, Lands End Beach is quite beautiful and exists amidst a dramatic scattering of hard rock formations. The adjacent [Boulder Beach and Capitol Rock] are considered one of 15 selected highlight spots of San Francisco and feature amazingly textured rocks and a rock formation the size of city hall's dome which is climbeable. The upper Coast Trail encounters a few great views and some handsome tree skeletons, but tends to lack a sight line directly to the ocean below. It also tends to be crowded. A cliff scaling path runs just above waves crashing into canyons of rock between Sutro Baths and Lands End Beach. This is the most beautiful trail in the area. Cypress trunks twist like old women frozen in recoil from the blasting  wind. The area is phenomenal by any standard. That it can exist in the context of a large city is astonishing.

The Sutro Bath ruins are also interesting in their own right. All that remains of this once palatial salt water swimming hall are the crumbling footings and tiny fractions of the original structure enclosing a gigantic tide pool. On close inspection, these forms can be of great visual interest since the elements have melted their shape to an almost elemental state. For more on this area, see Parks: Lands End-Fort Miley-Lincoln Park.

Best Features:  Wild, beautiful area. Dramatic and unspoiled. Cliff faces can be scaled via footpaths. Incredible explorability via dozens of paths. Secluded areas. Beautiful tree and rock formations.

Worst Features: Cliff scaling footpaths are not maintained and may present some danger. High winds and cold most of the time.

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Lands End Beach