San Francisco has been named the healthiest city in the U.S. for 2021 by WalletHub. Throughout the city there are great places for walking, hiking, and other outdoor recreation. Overlooking the San Francisco skyline south to the Mission District is Bernal Heights, a residential neighborhood that offers a cozy retreat from the city’s hustle. Those who embark on the Bernal Heights hike are rewarded with a jaw-dropping view.

Discover the appeal of Bernal Heights and learn why it might the perfect place for hikers, dog lovers, and anyone seeking an “only in San Francisco” adventure.

Bernal Heights History

The urban village of Bernal Heights has exploded in popularity and continues to be in demand. After receiving a land grant from Mexico in 1839, rancher José Cornelio Bernal owned a large part of what is now modern-day San Francisco, including the area around Bernal Heights. Ownership transferred to François Louis Alfred Pioche in 1860 and Civil War Army Engineers began laying out streets as the foundation for the neighborhood. In those days, the area was rural and was home to immigrants from Sweden, Germany, and Ireland. When the arrival of the railroad and horsecar linked it to a growing San Francisco, Bernal Heights began to expand.

The 1906 earthquake was a turning point in Bernal Heights’ history. As the earth rumbled and fires erupted below, the structures atop Bernal Hill were safe. This alerted San Franciscans that Bernal Heights as an area ripe for development. Today a few of these “earthquake shacks” are nestled amongst the cottages, and Edwardian and Victorian homes that line streets built on solid Bernal bedrock.

A Quaint Haven

Today a quiet and quaint district with a bohemian feel, Bernal Heights has a diverse mixture of tech workers, artists, families, activists, writers, and other creatives. The area has maintained a small town feel with cafés, locally-owned shops, and other small businesses. Part of Bernal Heights’ universal appeal is its great artistic vibe and the fact it’s a haven from the bustling metropolis it towers above. But aside from its quaint nature, there’s another reason Bernal Heights is so popular with residents and visitors: the park.

Bernal Heights Park

The centerpiece of Bernal Heights is the 475-acre high Bernal Hill, the home of Bernal Heights Park. Here you’ll find a tranquil piece of heaven on earth perched above San Francisco. The 26-acre park offers envy-worthy Instagram views and is one of the largest in the city. A former quarry, the land is a grassland community teeming with wildlife. In the spring, the hills bloom with hundreds of wildflowers. Even in the fall or winter when the grass is bare, the park is a scenic retreat. It’s not uncommon to see red-tailed hawks soaring overhead, while California alligator lizards bask in the sunlight. When it comes to viewing the sunset or sunrise, Bernal Heights Parks is beyond compare. Any resident must experience it at least once. Dogs love Bernal Heights as well. The area is a large “off-leash” dog park so bring along a furry friend for your hike. You may opt to bring a picnic as well.

Hiking Bernal Heights

Hiking to Bernal Heights Park is easy for any experience level and well worth the effort. There are a couple of routes for the hike, just pick the journey you like. The first is to follow the road winding around Bernal Hill. Once the road ends, it’s a short walk to the park. The shorter yet more demanding way is to use one of the trails that goes directly to the peak. Park along Bernal Heights Boulevard and any of the side streets to get to the paved access and dirt trails. When you finish the Bernal Heights hike, you’re rewarded with one of the best 360-degree views of San Francisco. The windswept peak offers a stunning vista of the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, Sutro Tower, Oakland, Berkeley, and the rest of the city. Bernal Heights Park also features a rope swing heavily photographed on Instagram. Feeling brave? Swing out and look at the gleaming Golden City below. You’ll quickly see why it’s a popular spot for the ‘gram!

No matter where you look in San Francisco, you’ll find a gem of a neighborhood in this amazing city. Take time to explore all Bernal Heights and all of the other must-hike spots in San Francisco. Danielle Lazier + Associates is here as your trusted guide to the best spots in the city so reach out to discuss how we can help your dream home today.


In 2018, Danielle Lazier + Associates sold over $104,000,000 in SF Bay Area residential real estate selling more homes than any other SF Realtor (per MLS). We specialize in listing marketing and home buyer representation and Bernal Heights real estate. We work with a diverse clientele in terms of budget, property type, and location, but one thing remains consistent: our clients have a clear goal to maximize their San Francisco real estate investment and want us to help them because we deliver both results and an enjoyable experience.

Are you buying or selling a home in San Francisco? Reach out to us for a consultation!

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