Driven San Francisco's 49 Mile Scenic Drive

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The 49 Mile Scenic Drive is a tour of San Francisco, and even though I was born here, I’ve never driven it, but it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do since I first noticed the blue and white seagull signs (designed by an artist named Rex May for a 1955 contest). 

The drive was opened in 1938, only a few years after the
Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge were built.  It starts and ends at San Francisco’s Civic Center.  I thought it was in front of City Hall, but it’s actually on the other side of the lawn on Larkin Street (between Grove and McAllister).  J and I drove there today, armed with just a crude route map (not the guide that I reference below).  Both of us are native San Franciscans that have never done this trek before.

It was a really fun route to explore.  It takes you from Civic Center, to Japantown, to Union Square, to Chinatown, to Nob Hill, to North Beach, to Telegraph Hill, to Fisherman’s Wharf, to Russian Hill, to the Marina, to the Presidio, past the Golden Gate Bridge, to Sea Cliff, all along Ocean Beach, around Lake Merced, through the Sunset, then Golden Gate Park, up Twin Peaks, through the Mission, north to China Basin, through the Financial District, and finally, back to Civic Center.

There were a few setbacks though.  It would’ve helped to plan out the route a bit more before starting as just trying to follow the signs leads to two issues:
  • -Human errors could relate to missing a turn or sign
  • -There are numerous missing or stolen signs; there really should be signs at every turn.

We counted 115 signs along the drive, although we could’ve missed a few because a section of road in the Presidio is currently closed due to construction (Sheridan and Lincoln are shut off with a detour sending you in a different direction).

I told J during the route that if I were the mayor, I’d paint a fat green line on the road.  That way, drivers couldn’t miss it.  Granted, I don’t think many people care about the drive, but I felt like it was a worthwhile way to experience the city I love so much.

J was the official photographer for this trip, and I’ve included a gallery of images - all taken from a moving car:
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Cool Stuff:
San Francisco’s 49 Mile Scenic Drive: The Guidebook by Joe Lubow and Laurel Rosen

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