Tom Rates Hills: Corona Heights
I think Corona Heights gives San Franciscans the biggest return-on-investment of all hills. With a half mile, ten minute walk from a bar like Twin Peaks Tavern, they can enjoy a panoramic, rocky view of downtown, Twin Peaks, Bernal Heights, and so much more. The near-total lack of trees makes makes almost the entire top of the hill a prime viewing spot.
There simply aren’t trees on Corona Heights: like Bernal Heights and the top of Twin Peaks, it was never half-transformed into a European-American ideal of a hill. It didn’t escape untouched - around the turn of the century, there was a brick factory and quarry on the hill, but today it feels raw and natural again - which in San Francisco means that the flora is sparse and scraggly.
Corona Heights isn’t a great running destination, but it holds a lead over Buena Vista in that you can include it into a run and make a sort of loop with the trails provided. That’s assuming that you enter from the Roosevelt Way / Museum Way entrance. The route through 15th street is much more exciting, but not runnable for me - its slippery, canted path is tricky even for a smooth-shoed hiker.
The most interesting thing about Corona Heights, for me, is the geology. More than any other park, it looks like and is a rock. It’s mostly made of Franciscan Assemblage, but there’s also a sheer wall of radiolarian chert which is popular with climbers. Also, the Corona Heights neighborhood that surrounds the hill is dense, entirely residential, and stunningly expensive.
Corona Heights has quite a few good natural spots to eat a sandwich, or at least a clif bar. But it’s less ideal for the task than Buena Vista, mostly because the total lack of trees means that it’s almost always windy and often very bright. It’s a pretty popular spot for couples and tourists, so maybe it has some romantic power that also makes it good for sandwiches.
Corona Heights is dense, accessible, and raw. I greatly appreciate its proximity to the city - a stark contrast from hills like Twin Peaks that have been shamefully excluded from any sort of public transit plan. I highly recommend including this hill in your ‘friends from out of town’ tour, and disemarbarking to, perhaps, Lucky 13 or The Woods Cervecería afterwards.