Barbary Coast Trail
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The Barbary Coast Trail connects sixteen of San Francisco’s most important historic sites. Designated with a series of bronze medallions and arrows embedded in the sidewalk, the 3.8-mile trail, which is almost entirely flat or gently sloping, guides you through the heart of historic San Francisco. And each end of the trail is connected by the Hyde-Powell cable car line. Along the way, you’ll see the birthplace of the Gold Rush, the oldest Asian temple in North America, the headquarters of the Pony Express, the largest fleet of historic ships in the world—sites that reveal San Francisco’s unique heritage and confirm its reputation as the City of Golden Dreams.
Walking the Trail
The southern end of the Barbary Coast Trail begins at the Old U.S. Mint in the heart of downtown, near hotels, BART, cable cars, bus stops, and MUNI Metro lines. The trail then heads north across historic Union Square and travels into the oldest Chinatown in North America. At the street of the painted balconies, a quaint lane of herb shops and colorful banners, you'll find the first Asian temple established in North America.
Further along in Portsmouth Square, an American flag marks the spot where Captain John B. Montgomery raised the Stars and Stripes over San Francisco for the first time. It was also here in 1848 that Sam Brannan dramatically sparked the California Gold Rush. The trail then follows the city’s original shoreline past a graveyard of Gold Rush ships, the Pony Express site, and into the old Barbary Coast. Here you'll find a 19th-century shanghaiing den, a Barbary Coast saloon, and and the last cluster of Gold Rush-era buildings in San Francisco. From a little-known park on Telegraph Hill a vast panorama of the Bay comes into view. At the trail’s north end, Hyde Street Pier offers the largest collection of historic ships in the United States, including the square-rigged bark Balclutha.
In addition to its twenty historic sites, the trail connects several local history museums, including the Wells Fargo History Museum—which features an excellent Gold Rush exhibit, the Chinese Historical Society Museum of America, and the Maritime Museum.
Trail Guides and Tours
The Barbary Coast Trail is primarily a self-guided experience, though private tours are available. The entire trail can be covered in a leisurely day of walking, or you can plan a shorter itinerary by walking part of the trail. Two printed trail guides are available and can be purchased at several bookstores in San Francisco or by mail order. To purchase a guide, check out our Trail Guides page. Private tours can also be arranged by appointment. For more information go to our Tours page.
The Barbary Coast Trail is a project of the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society. The Society preserves, interprets and presents the historical heritage of San Francisco from its variegated natural history to its lively human history.
The San Francisco Museum and Historical Society offers free guided tours of the Barbary Coast Trail to San Francisco public schools. Other schools may arrange tours for a fee. To schedule a tour, please contact us at 415 454-2355.
- * Birthplace of the Gold Rush
- * Largest collection of historic ships in the U.S.
- * Pony Express Headquarters site
- * WWII submarine
- * Oldest Asian temple in the U.S.
- * Barbary Coast-era shanghaiing den
- * Old Mint, once the Fort Knox of the West
- * Last cluster of Gold Rush-era buildings in San Francisco
- * Oldest Catholic cathedral west of the Rockies
- * Gold Rush Museum, featuring stagecoaches and Gold Rush mining implements
- * Mansion built by Silver King James C. Flood
The southern end of Barbary Coast Trail begins at the Old U.S. Mint at Fifth and Mission streets in the heart of downtown San Francisco. The northern end of the trail is located at Aquatic Park near Fisherman's Wharf. Along the way, the trail passes through Union Square, Chinatown, Jackson Square, North Beach, Telegraph Hill, and Fisherman's Wharf.
The Barbary Coast Trail is primarily self-guided, however, guided tours are available by appointment. Printed guides can be purchased at various SF bookstores. Our pocket guide is $8.95 and our book guide is $15.95. For a list of a bookstores or to make an appointment for a guided tour, visit our website at www.barbarycoasttrail.org.
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