The Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in San Francisco - Best Tips and Tricks

San Francisco is one of the most travelled destinations on the western coast of the United States and is also one of the most loved backpacking sites in America. The Fog City is famously known for tourist attractions such as Golden Gate Bridge, Union Square and Alcatraz Island just to name a few. From adventures treks to city lights, San Francisco is truly a backpacker's paradise. Here's a short guide on everything Backpacking in San Francisco!

Best Time to Travel to SF

Summer in San Francisco

The ideal time for a backpacker to visit San Francisco is in the fall season (late August through early November). During this time, one can experience the perfect temperature with highs of 21°C to lows of 13°C with blue skies and very little rainfall, fewer crowds, and better deals everywhere in the city. With cheaper flight options and to feel the moderate summer heat, June is another best time to visit the Golden Bridge City.

Ideal Duration when Backpacking in San Francisco

San Francisco is an inevitable destination to come across as you enter the western coast. We recommend a backpacker to spend at least 3 days exploring the city's hilly vibe, however, any traveller can feel at home spending over a week covering major tourist locations travelling through the city's historic cable car systems.

Travelling Within the City

Cable Car System In San Francisco
For travelling within the city, public transportation is the best option, however, most of the public attractions are within walking distance from the city centre. Renting bikes can be another economic option to travel over the Golden Gate Bridge. Public transportation includes the Muni (municipal transportation system) operated buses and the historic cable car system and ferry for visiting nearby islands.
One way trips on a Muni bus or cable car costs $2.25 for adults.

Must-Try Food When Backpacking in San Francisco

Cafe Table in San Francisco
With diverse culinary options, San Francisco offers a variety of cuisines, however, there are a few must-haves like abalone, Dungeness crab, sand dabs, bay shrimp and crusty sourdough French bread.

Best places to eat and explore SF's diverse cuisines:
  • Street Chinese in Chinatown
  • Italian in North Beach
  • Mexican at The Mission

Accommodation for Backpackers

Hostel in San Francisco

Most preferred accommodation locations for backpackers in San Francisco are localities near the city centre or the Fisherman's Wharf waterfront as these locations are very well connected to the tourist attraction and adventure sites.

Where to stay:
  • Pacific Tradewinds Hostel
  • Green Tortoise Hostel
A dorm bed costs between $30-70. An Air BnB costs between $40-100.

Things to Do When Backpacking in San Francisco

1. Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge at Night

The main attraction of the fog city is the Golden Gate Bridge which connects the city's northern suburbs and is one of the largest suspension bridges in the world. Walking or cycling across this 1.7mi bridge is the best way to explore the modern wonder.

2. Mt. Sutro

Sight from Mt. Sutro

Waterfront hiking through wildflowers, with shipwreck views & access to the Sutro Baths ruins located in the south-east corner of the Golden Gate Park, is a quick 30 min hike that gives a majestic view of fog city. The hike might seem easy but these 30mins will get your heart pumping.

3. Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks is a half-day hike to the second-highest point in the city to get a view of almost all the major landmarks of the city. Twin Peaks is a day and night trek where adventure enthusiasts suggest one should experience both. This 922m high trek is of moderate difficulty.

4. The Presidio Of San Francisco

Palace of Fine arts (Presidio)

The Presidio of San Francisco is a former military base that is now converted into a recreational park. This park is located in the north of the city which provides another fantastic view of the Gate Bridge.

5. Coit Tower

Coit Tower

The Coit Tower is located at the top of the Telegraph Hill which has a modern-day 360-degree viewing deck which gives an astonishing view of the surrounding bay.

6. Red Wood Trees
Muir Wood National Monument is situated on mount Tamalpais covering an area of over 554 acres. This location stands out due to its vegetation of redwood trees covering an area of about 240 acres. This park has a variety of hiking trails of varying difficulties.

Things to Remember When Backpacking in San Francisco

Unreliable weather: The weather in San Francisco can change at any time. Be sure to carry layers you can remove and put on immediately. Also, be sure to carry an umbrella handy.
Keep your documents safe: Be sure to keep your identification documents safe but handy to display them at any time.
Keep your money safe: Be aware of beggars and thieves in San Francisco. There are many tourist traps laid around the city, so be sure before you pay for anything.
Insure yourself: Ensure to secure travel insurance irrespective of your trip duration.
Backpacking in San Francisco is among the best journeys one undertakes, bringing you closer to nature, tranquillity and self. Get ready to explore the Fog city!

This post was published by Preyansh Shah

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