A labyrinth of informal trails through the dunes and stunning ocean vistas make Fort Funston a favorite for equestrians, hikers and dog lovers. Keep in mind that it can get very busy on weekends, and it is not advisable for dogs that are not well socialized or for small children.
The main trail, Sunset, is paved and wheelchair accessible, while the decent to the beach and various other paths are suitable for dogs and humans on foot. The southern beach thoroughfare begins at the parking lot and descends roughly 200 vertical feet to the shores below. The approach is in the sand ladder style and can be strenuous.
Once on the beach, one can continue south or head north to loop back to the main trails and the parking lot. The broader southern route is popular for those on horseback, though an out-and-back is necessary to return to the lot. Completing the circuit north when the tides are in can become challenging, if not impossible, due to structures and rock formations that jut out into the sea.
Storm drains wrapped in murals stand as a reminder that Funston is an urban park, resting on the border of San Francisco and Daly City. The geological history of the region is evident in the sedimentary cliffs above. A vein of white volcanic ash from an ancient eruption in the Lassen Peak area, nearly 200 miles northeast, dominates the cliff face. Ribbons of sedimentary deposits and constant erosion reveal an ever changing shoreline. It’s imperative to stay on the trails as the cliffs are vulnerable to landslides and collapse.
Continuing north on the beach, one will find a well blazed path back to the main trails through a channel cut into one of the lower cliffs. While it has no staircase, the climb is much easier than the sand ladder and will link up with Sunset Trail at the top. From there, a right will lead past Battery Davis, which are the remnants of a WWII military installation, and back to the parking lot. A left will take you over the crest of the dunes toward Ocean Beach and the Great Highway.
A secondary trailhead that connects runners from nearby Lake Merced is located along Skyline Boulevard at John Muir Drive. Half a dozen cars are usually parked along the road, but no official lot exists at John Muir Gate.
Top landing and reliable winds establish Fort Funston as a Bay Area hang gliding mecca. The notorious Funston Shear provides high adrenaline flying for veteran pilots, but it can be quite dangerous for the unprepared. In order to fly at Fort Funston, you must have a helmet sticker, issued by Fellow Feathers Gliding Club, and be a USHPA member rated H3 or higher. Commercial flights are not allowed at Funston, though a nominal donation to the club qualifies experienced pilots to strike out on their own.