Twin Peaks offers world-famous views of the San Francisco Bay, the Pacific, the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

Ring in the new year at San Francisco’s Rooftop

The hustle and bustle of the holidays is finally behind you. And so are the inevitable results of all that party hopping: celebrations where you indulged in one-too-many turkey dinners, platters of potato latkes and gift-boxed chocolates. While the average American gains only one to two pounds over the holidays, unfortunately, most of those pounds are never shed — leading to a slow but steady accumulation of weight.

Why not kick some of 2015’s unwanted baggage to the curb and start your new year off with a healthy habit? To paraphrase Lord Alfred Tennyson, “walk out the old, walk in the new” on Sunday, Jan. 10, with a refreshing hike to San Francisco’s second highest peaks. Join Walk San Francisco for its monthly members walk, with long-time resident and novelist Karen Allen.

Take an energizing climb to two of The City’s most beloved hilltops. Twin Peaks’ Noe, measures 922 feet in elevation (Eureka, its shorter, northern partner, tops out at 904 feet), and comes second only to Mount Davidson. Originally named “Los Pechos de la Choca” (Breasts of the Maiden) by early Spanish settlers, these sibling summits offer world-famous, 360-degree, postcard views of San Francisco.

To take in these vistas of the bay, the Pacific, the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands, and the coastal mountains of the Peninsula, most Twin Peaks visitors travel by car or bus. Those who do, however, miss the chance to discover the Maiden’s lesser-known riches of animal and plant offerings.

The coastal scrubs and grasslands of Twin Peaks provide a sense of San Francisco’s terrain before grazing, and then development, changed them forever. Although The City grew rapidly after the gold rush, building west of Twin Peaks lagged for decades after 1849. As a result, some of the vegetation here remains a mix of coyote brush, lizard tail, pearly everlasting, and lupine. These native plants provide a home for the endangered Mission Blue Butterfly, which feeds on the lupine, and also create habitat for brush-nesting birds like the white-crowned sparrow and animals including brush rabbits and coyotes.

Your two and a half mile walk will start at the Eureka Valley Recreation Center and wind its way through charming (mostly) car-free neighborhood streets in The Castro and Noe Valley. Stops will include Nobby Clarke’s Folly, Kite Hill, Acme Alley, and the Corwin Community Gardens — an open space carved out between Corwin and Seward Streets after a hard-won, ten-year-long struggle against overdevelopment.

As part of the moderately strenuous, but staged, ascent to the Twin Peaks summit, you take four separate stairways — practical engineering nods to the geography of the neighborhoods surrounding Twin Peaks, which were built on some of The City’s steepest inclines. The area is now home to some of San Francisco’s longest pedestrian staircases.

As you approach and then cross Twin Peaks Boulevard, get the scoop on the proposed “Figure 8” street redesign to create a dedicated, bike- and pedestrian-only roadway with better connections to the trails in this natural area managed by the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department. Next, it’s up the railroad-tie steps to scale the sandy soil summit of Noe to glory in its rooftop views (barring an appearance by Karl or El Niño). Finally, you head back down to end the walk with an optional snack at the Neighborhood Corner Café.

Start the New Year with a resolution to walk more — it will bring you health, happiness, and wellbeing in 2016.

If You Go:
Ring in the New Year at San Francisco’s Rooftop
When: Sunday, January 10, 10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Where: 100 Collingwood Street (near 18th Street)

Walk space is limited; $10 suggested donation to Walk SF; RSVPs required at

To learn more about Karen’s writings on energy, transition, and sustainable cities, visit

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