A one-of-a-kind hike and interesting thing to do in San Francisco is to visit the historic Sutro Baths. A Sutro Baths hike offers mesmerizing views of the pacific ocean and an up-close experience of the haunting ruins. The baths have become a unique part of San Francisco’s history.
In 1894, The Sutro Baths were once the largest indoor swimming pool complex in the world. Over a century later, the baths are now a historic landmark on the waterfront in San Francisco.
You can gaze from above at the glimmering pools of water and the remnants of the Sutro Baths. Or if you’re adventurous, descend the flight of stairs and walk along the edge of the baths to get a closer look.
Are the Sutro Baths Worth Visiting
The stunning view overlooking the rocky coastline alone will make a trip to the Sutro Baths worth visiting. Especially if you come during sunset, the Sutro Baths are known as one of the best locations to catch a gorgeous California sunset.
There is so much to do and see in San Francisco. However, the Sutro Baths are an incredible way to experience a different side of history and perspective of the city.
The first time I visited the Sutro Baths, I stood in awe over this magnificent location in San Francisco. It still blows my mind that this area on the coast exists in the city.
There are also many other things to do nearby. The entire area surrounding the Sutro Baths is beautiful and worth exploring. I have visited the Sutro Baths numerous times with family and friends. And even alone on a hike with my dog.
I am excited to share an ultimate guide to hiking the Sutro Baths and the top things to do nearby.
Sutro Baths Hike
A visit to the world-famous and historic Sutro Baths should be added to your San Francisco bucket list. The best way to explore the area is by partaking in a Sutro Baths hike. It is a short and easy hike down to the ruins. However, you should know. There are quite a bit of stairs and a dirt path that you will need to go up and down to see the baths.
The Sutro Baths hike is only a 0.5-mile hike there and back with an elevation of about 100 feet. If you want to extend your hike, there are many different routes you can take to discover more of the area that I will provide you with below.
The Sutro Baths hike will begin at the parking lot. Make your way from the parking lot to the lookout above the baths. The views here are stunning, but you are definitely going to want to get a closer look!
Take your time and descend the dirt path and stairs towards the bath pools. Along the way down, you will notice the dirt path splits. You can either continue down to the baths or go right to the Sutro Baths Upper Trail, also known as the Point Lobos Lookout.
I suggest going down to the baths first. And then, on your way back up, make the detour to the Sutro Baths Upper Trail.
Once you reach the bottom, you can wander freely and explore the remnants of the Sutro Baths ruins. Keep your footing and watch your balance as you walk along the edge of the baths. It is such a beautiful and peaceful view from here.
If the tide is low, there is a small beach in front of the Sutro Baths. If you are daring, climb down the rocky shoreline to the beach and dip your toes into the chilly pacific ocean. Another way to access this beach is from Ocean Beach, a popular locals beach next door.
Next to the ruins is a mysterious sea cave. Carefully walk through the large tunnel where you can hear the sound of waves echoing throughout the dark cave.
Sutro Baths Upper Trail
After you have thoroughly explored the ruins, make your way up the path back to where the dirt path splits to the Sutro Baths Upper Trail.
The Point Lobos Lookout juts out towards the ocean and showcases panoramic views of the pacific, jagged rock formations, and the Sutro Baths. And on a clear day, you can even catch a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge.
From the lookout, you can take the stairs up and continue on to the Coastal Trail or head towards the parking lot. If you have time and the energy to spare, I suggest hiking the Coastal Trail, also known as Lands End Trail. It has some of the best views in San Francisco!
Nearby Attractions to Sutro Baths
Continue your adventure at the Sutro Baths by discovering the nearby beach, a hike with insanely gorgeous views, and the iconic Cliff House.
Lands End Trail
Lands End Trail is one of my favorite hikes in San Francisco! It is a 3.4-mile loop that runs along the coastal bluffs. Even at the entrance, I love walking under the canopy of cypress trees and the sweeping coastal views. It really is a special piece of San Francisco.
The Lands End Trail is rated as moderate on AllTrails, but I think a beginner hiker could easily complete this hike. Even if you do not finish the entire loop, there are still many opportunities for admiring beautiful views, especially of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Also, for all my fellow doggy parents, Lands End Trail is dog-friendly, and dogs may be off-leash in some areas.
Ocean Beach is a well-known and local favorite beach found on the west side of San Francisco. The beach is located next to the famous Sutro Baths and the Cliff House.
The long sandy beach is popular for surfing and windsurfers because of the wild waves and strong currents. It is a dog friendly beach, and dogs are allowed off leash if under voice control.
Ocean Beach is also great for bonfires. Burn season on the beach is between March through October.
Sutro’s Cliff House
The iconic Cliff House sits perched on a bluff overlooking Ocean Beach and the Sutro Baths. The Cliff House was built in 1896 and served as an elegant restaurant for many years. After a fire, World War I, The Great Depression, and many new owners and renovations, the Cliff House sadly closed in 2020.
There are rumors that they may reopen it sometime in the future, but for now, it remains vacant. You can admire this historic building from the beach or explore the perimeter of the grounds and take in those amazing views from the Cliff House’s balcony.
History of Sutro Baths
The Sutro Baths were opened in 1894 by the former mayor of San Francisco and wealthy entrepreneur, Adolph Sutro. At the time, the Sutro Baths were the largest pool establishment in the world.
The baths could accommodate up to 10,000 people at one time. It quickly gained popularity when it opened because it was an inexpensive swimming facility for thousands of people. Also it didn’t hurt that the baths boasted impressive views of the coast as well.
However, the popularity of the baths dwindled due to many hardships. Such as World War I and The Great Depression. Over the years, there were different owners of the Sutro Baths. One tried to convert the baths into an ice skating rink, which ultimately failed.
Later, the baths were planned to be replaced by condos. However, before that could happen, a fire broke out in 1966 and destroyed the building of the Sutro Baths.
In 1973, the remnants of the Sutro Baths became a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The Sutro Baths and the Cliff House remain a part of the GGNRA today.
Helpful Resources & Tips for Hiking the Sutro Baths
- Sutro Baths Address: 1004 Point Lobos Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121
- Map of Lands End Here: This includes the Sutro Baths, Coastal Trail (Lands End Trail), & Ocean Beach
- Cost: Free
- Lands End Visitor Center: Open Friday through Monday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Restrooms: Located inside of visiting center
- Dog Friendly: Yes
Lands End Lookout Visitor Center
The Lands End Lookout Visitor Center is located next to the parking lot for Lands End and the Sutro Baths. If you want to learn more about the baths and history of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the visitor center is a great place to begin your adventure.
Inside the visitor center you can discover numerous exhibits and historic displays, a recorded audio tour, a cafe, and a souvenir shop.
Is There Parking at Sutro Baths
You can find parking for the Sutro Baths at the Merrie Way parking lot at Lands End outside of the visitor center. On weekends the parking spots in this lot fill up quickly. You will want to arrive early in the morning or late afternoon.
There is also a lot of metered street parking surrounding the Lands End Trail and Ocean Beach. As a precaution, do not leave any bags or valuables in your car to avoid break-ins.
How Do I Get to The Sutro Baths
If you are not traveling by car, the next best way to get to the Sutro Baths is by bus. You will want to take the 38 Geary Muni bus and get off at Point Lobos Avenue and 48th Avenue. From there is just a short walk to the Sutro Baths.
What to Wear on a Sutro Baths Hike
You will want to wear layers that you can easily take on and off throughout the day. It can get very chilly and windy on the coast. Even on a sunny day, you will want some type of pullover or coat to keep you warm.
I also suggest wearing comfortable sneakers that you don’t mind getting a little dirty. You will want sneakers or hiking shoes to help you get down the dirt path and stairs to the baths. The ruins by the baths can also be slippery and uneven.
Can You Go in The Sutro Baths
The collection of pools of salt water that are left of the Sutro Baths are not safe to or recommended to swim in. And honestly, when you get a close up view of the pools you would not want to swim in them either.
The water looks stagnant and there are a lot of seagulls floating in the pools. Also, there is not a safe way to get in and out of the baths.
Can You See Golden Gate From Sutro Baths
On a clear day, you can see a small glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Sutro Baths Upper Trail. However, if you are looking for a better view of the Golden Gate, there are numerous vista points along the Lands End Trail. Throughout the hike, you will experience some of the best views in the city of the Golden Gate Bridge.
More Day Trip Ideas for San Francisco
However, if you don’t have a car or little time to see all of these amazing locations, a tour is a great way to explore as much of the Bay Area as possible.
The One Day in San Francisco Tour with Alcatraz tour offers the opportunity to visit three top Bay Area locations all in one day. Including Alcatraz, Muir Woods, Sausalito and a tour of San Francisco, where you will make stops along numerous well known and historic locations.
✅ Book the One Day in San Francisco Tour with Alcatraz here
In Conclusion: Sutro Baths Hike
Going on a Sutro Baths hike is an incredible way to spend a day or afternoon exploring a unique part of San Francisco history. You will not be disappointed seeing these ruins and jaw dropping views in person.