The Trailfit Guide to San Francisco
From the coolest hikes to watch the fog roll in to the best place to buy fresh flowers, photographer Meg Haywood Sullivan has the city dialed
Meg Haywood Sullivan picked up her first 35mm camera at eight years old and has been shooting photos of adventure and the environment ever since. A third-generation Nikon shooter, she spent much of her childhood road-tripping around the country in the family’s ’87 Westfalia van with her father, a photographer, and mother, an internationally renowned pastel artist. Meg went on to study photography at Pratt Institute in New York and then headed to Montana to pursue environmental studies at Montana State University. After college, she kept heading west. En route to Los Angeles, she broke down in her cherry-red ’97 F150 north of San Francisco and settled into a surf bungalow with its own photo studio, heirloom apple trees, and a kale garden.
In addition to shooting for environmentally-minded companies like KEEN, Patagonia, and Clif bar, Meg says, “I constantly have projects in the works that use adventure as a way to engage people and teach them about the importance of our natural landscapes.” She recently did a shoot following John Muir’s footsteps to document the last-remaining and fastest-retreating glacier in Yosemite and has plans to do a surf shoot in Morocco this spring. When not on the road, she’s an expert at finding hidden gems to shoot, great places to eat and surf, and picturesque paths to hike in and around San Francisco.
Hikes and Sights
“There are a ton of hidden gems right near and in SF,” says Meg about hiking in the city. The Presidio (see #1 on the map above) is her favorite spot inside the city center. “Throughout the trails winding through the lush northwest corner of the city, you can find sculptures by one of my favorite artists, Andy Goldsworthy.” She always takes first-time visitors to Coit Tower, (#2) the equivalent of New York’s Empire State Building, located on the other side of the peninsula up Lombard Street from North Beach. “It’s touristy but has one of the better views of the city.” Because you can’t do San Francisco without the Golden Gate Bridge, Meg prefers the view at Cavallo Point (#3) in Sausalito. “This is a gem right underneath the Golden Gate Bridge with unreal views of the bridge and one of the better spots to watch the fog roll in from the sea.”
For longer hikes and a quick venture outside of the city proper, Meg loves hiking near Stinson Beach, (#4) about an hour north from the city up scenic Highway 1. “The loop from Steep Ravine to the Matt Davis Trail ending at Stinson Beach is a few hours long and weaves its way up the mountain through groves of redwoods and waterfalls,” she says, adding that on a clear day, you can see the Farallon Islands, one of the largest great white shark breeding grounds on the west coast. From Stinson Beach, Meg suggests continuing north about 30 minutes for a stop at Point Reyes National Seashore (#5). It’s where the Tule elk, North America’s smallest elk species, walk alongside the steep cliffs overlooking the ocean. “During the fall, you can watch the elk bugling during their rut. It’s unbelievable that it’s just a stone’s throw from the city,” says Meg. The Chimney Rock hike is one of her favorite hikes there. “It’s a great, short hike inside Point Reyes with beautiful views of the coastline and tantalizingly close sights of migrating whales.” Meg's locals tip is to swing by Cowgirl Creamery (#6) at Point Reyes Station to pick up wine and cheese for a picnic on the point before heading out.
Surf and SUP
Aside from hiking, San Francisco is known for its heavy surf, and Meg likes to venture north of the city for waves. “North of the bridge there's no shortage of coastline to explore,” she says. If you're looking for a more mellow adventure, Meg suggests renting stand-up paddleboards in Sausalito. “You can take paddleboards through the historic houseboat community that’s been there for over 100 years,” says Meg, who, having lived briefly on a sailboat there, knows the North Bay well.
When it comes to dining, San Francisco is a foodie heaven. “Toast and coffee are big deals in San Fran,” says Meg. “The Mill (#7) in the city has a hearty gluten-free toast with nut butter and amazing coffee.” If headed hiking or paddleboarding north of the city in Sausalito or in the Marin Headlands, Meg says Cibo (#8) is a must. “This place also offers great coffee and delicious breakfast hashes. I usually get the Autumn Hash with poached eggs and kale sautéed with sweet potatoes."
If you're on the go or in the city during the day, The Juice Shop (#9) is a great place to stop for healthy fare. “My good friends, who are brothers and surfers, own it,” says Meg. “They make a range of juices, but my favorite is the Deep Green, an all-veggie juice." In summertime, she says The Juice Shop also offers a watermelon juice made with the rind on, which Meg loves as an afternoon pick-me-up.
Sushi is another staple in Meg’s must-eats inside the city, and there’s no shortage of sushi spots near San Francisco. She prefers Ryoko's (#10) sushi in Lower Nob Hill, near Union Square. “It’s a hole-in-the-wall spot with great sushi and some serious Lost in Translation vibes going on,” she says. If you're looking to grab a drink with a view, there are plenty of spots to pick from. Tosca Cafe, (#11) located in North Beach near the Embarcadero and Financial district, has great drinks with an old-school Italian vibe. Or, like Meg often does, you can always venture north of the city. “Presidio Yacht Club (#12) on Cavallo Point north of the Golden Gate Bridge is one of my favorite dive bars located right on the point with one of the best views of the city. After a drink, you can walk over the Golden Gate Bridge to soak in all that San Francisco magic.”
Also north of the bridge, she suggests the Pelican Inn (#13) on Muir Beach, which she describes as a "cozy, English-style pub to grab dinner and a drink on the sand."
For a nicer dinner, especially after viewing Point Reyes, Meg loves the farm-to-table dining experience at Sir and Star (#14). “It’s on the upscale side, so I’d ditch the hiking boots, but the food is all local, and the aesthetic is on point. It’s also got a cool hunting-lodge vibe to it with lots of taxidermy on the walls.”
Movies and Museums
As a photographer, Meg is big on museums. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (#15, better known as SFMoMA) is the largest modern-art museum in the country. “I’m a member, so I try and head over for some creative inspiration every time I am in the city, and there’s an incredible exhibit right now on Japanese post-war photography.” The Kabuki Theater (#16) in Japantown is another spot she likes to take friends. “You can grab some sushi in Japantown before and order a drink in the theater while watching a movie.”
When it comes to shopping, Meg prefers going to places a little off the beaten path. “The SF Flower Mart (#17) is where florists go to buy flowers from all over the world at affordable prices. If you love fresh flowers, this is a great spot.” She also suggests Britex Fabrics (#18). “Even if fabric isn’t your thing, this place is like a walk back in time. It's five-stories high with everything from cool canvas to the poshest fabric you could ever want tucked away in the middle of the city. It would never be in a tour guide,” says Meg. Across the bridge about 45 minutes north, the farmers' market in San Rafael (#19) is her favorite market in the country. While you are there, Meg suggests a quick stop at Proof Lab Surf Shop (#20) in Mill Valley. “It’s such a hub for the Marin outdoors community, and they have an extensive selection of surfboards as well as camping gear. And it’s right next door to a native California plant nursery.”
What is TrailFit?
KEEN's TrailFit is a movement. It's about staying fit and finding your fit. It's about getting out, pushing yourself, and reaching new heights. It's about earning a better view, whether it be of the world or of yourself. TrailFit's best match yet? The new Terradora: a boot designed for those days you can't pick between walking in the city or hitting the trail. Cue the mid-city workout, the post-work hike, or a weekend of playing tourist on your home turf.