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Though many associate hiking with the wilderness, the modern adventurer may find the most interesting hikes are much closer to home than expected. In San Francisco, a former Google employee promotes urban hikes, promising that those who give it a shot will break a sweat, enjoy nature and learn something without even leaving the city.
Alexandra Kenin grew up in New Jersey and lived in New York, Philadelphia, and D.C. before a vacation to San Francisco prompted her to uproot and move to the West Coast in 2007. She worked as a product marketing manager for Google during the week, but on the weekends, she set about exploring her new home on foot. She was inspired in part by a book her father had gifted her before her move: Adah Bakalinsky’s Stairway Walks in San Francisco. The book detailed the hundreds of hidden stairways that could be found among San Francisco’s hills. On one particularly serendipitous trek, Kenin’s friend took her up to The Embarcadero by way of the Vallejo and Filbert steps, and a stellar view was the reward for their effort. This hike inspired her to seek out others. It became more than a hobby when she founded Urban Hiker San Francisco in 2012.
Urban Hiker offers several different guided hikes, each about five miles (or two to three hours) long. Hikers will conquer stairs, hills and trails, and should wear hiking or walking shoes and bring plenty of water. The bulk of the time is spent moving, but at least a portion of the journey involves learning historical or otherwise interesting facts about points along the way. Guests are guaranteed at least 7–10 secret spots per hike.
One hike is inspired by Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, a serialized work of fiction that began appearing in the San Francisco Chronicle in the 1970s. The story follows a group of friends, whom the reader meets when a young Ohio woman moves into their San Francisco boarding house. In the video below, we explore Urban Hiker SF’s “Urban Jungle” journey. This hike begins at the Castro Theater in the Castro District, then goes on a three-hour journey to Twin Peaks and back. The trek offers stunning viewpoints, a little bit of history and a walk through a eucalyptus forest.