Covering San Francisco's third tallest hill, Mount Sutro, Sutro Forest is a large blue gum eucalyptus forest offering San Franciscans a quiet network of trails to escape the city's hustle and bustle. Thanks to both UCSF and the the city of San Francisco, Sutro Forest is open to the public to enjoy for nature walks, trail running, and mountain biking.
Located within the fog belt, Sutro Forest is commonly referred to as a cloud forest. Resident eucalyptus trees draw the majority of their moisture from fog that blankets Mount Sutro much of the year. On a foggy day the atmosphere here can feel surreal. Listen for the calls from any of the 40 bird species inhabiting the area - you just might hear the hooting of the great horned owl or spot a red tail or Cooper's hawk. In addition to eucalyptus you'll find the occasional coast live oak, pine, and an understory filled with sword fern, blackberry, and ivy.
UCSF has done an excellent job marking trail junctions and providing distances with signage. With only 2.5 miles of trail network, it won't take long to become familiar with the area. The Historic Trail begins/ends at the 17th and Stanyan entrance in Cole Valley and contours around the north and west slopes of Mount Sutro. It offers the longest continuous trail and the best view to the north (don't sweeping open vistas, as the the thick canopy keeps views to a minimum). Other trails include Fairy Gates, North Ridge, Mystery Ridge, West Ridge, South Ridge, East Ridge and the Edgewood access trail.
Sutro Forest is surrounded by residential neighborhoods to the east, west and south; UCSF's Medical Center/Parnassus campus is adjacent to the north. Seven entry points shared among UCSF, Clarendon Avenue, Cole Valley and Forest Knolls provide access. Most trails follow the uphill grade and wind their way towards Rotary Meadow, a native plant meadow, and Mount Sutro's summit.
Parking is available street-side near one of the many entry points. Mountain biking is permitted throughout the majority of the trail network, where trails can be combined for longer laps. Keep an eye out for poison oak, which is common along trail edges. Dogs are permitted throughout the forest provided they remain on leash.