The Great Walkway – Miles of Car-Free Open Space on the California Coast
What is the Great Walkway?
In March of 2020, city officials closed 2 miles of San Francisco’s Great Highway to traffic—and opened up boundless possibilities for safe recreation with an oceanfront view.
In the absence of cars, people have flourished. The smooth, flat road plays host to thousands of children riding scooters, parents pushing strollers, and seniors taking walks. Cyclists and runners whiz by birdwatchers and street artists. Peaceful protesters have marched its length, calling for racial justice. Today, nearly 4,000 people each weekday and more than 12,000 each weekend enjoy car-free activity along the Great Highway, the roar of traffic replaced by crashing waves and chirping birds.
Photo Credit: Joshua W. Carter
Who can use this route?
Run, stroll or roll--- anyone, including bikers, joggers, pedestrians and skaters, can use this route and enjoy nature while adhering to social distancing guidelines. Along with the Golden Gate Park Slow Streets, the Great Walkway provides a continuous, family-friendly path from the Panhandle to the San Francisco Zoo.
Why the Great Walkway?
The Great Walkway will be in effect seven days a week throughout the City’s COVID-19 response. As the pandemic stormed across the globe, the reclaiming of public space served as one of the few breaks in the clouds. Paris did it, easing pollution and its accompanying COVID-19 risk. So did London, New York and Milan. A Great Walkway of people walking, jogging, and biking brims with potential for preserving biodiversity, connecting the Coastal Trail, and limitless recreation. It is one of the most breathtaking stretches in a city famous for its beauty, and ripe to create pioneering uses of public open space.
Working with the Neighborhood
Transforming the Great Highway from a place for cars to a promenade has affected traffic in the Outer Sunset, including more cars on the Lower Great Highway. Rec and Park is coordinating with the SFMTA to address the traffic changes to slow traffic in the neighborhood while still providing the promenade to people walking and biking. Improvements include installation of speed tables and stop signs. More can be found on the SFMTA Great Highway and Outer Sunset Traffic Management web site.
The San Francisco Transportation Authority, in collaboration with Recreation and Parks, and SFMTA is examining alternatives for a future Great Highway configuration. Alternatives range from returning to a four lane vehicular roadway, a promenade with two-lanes of traffic, to a full promenade closed to traffic. You can view the alternatives from the presentation here, and get more information at the D4 Mobility Study website.
Getting to the Great Walkway
To visit the Great Walkway by car there are parking lots with ADA accessible parking located at the north and south ends. The Great Walkway is also accessible by public transit, bike and foot.
- The northern parking lot is located off the Great Highway between Lincoln Way and John F. Kennedy Drive across from the western end of Golden Gate Park.
- The southern parking lot is located at the Great Highway and Sloat Boulevard.
- Current bus and train lines to the Great Walkway include the N Judah, N Owl, L Taraval. For more information, visit SFMTA's trip planning page.
- To bike or walk, there is a virtually car-free route through Golden Gate Park that connects San Francisco with Ocean Beach and the Great Walkway. View these routes and maps at the Golden Gate Park slow street page.
Alternate Driving Routes
With the Great Walkway closed to automobile traffic, the best way to travel by car between Lake Merced and Golden Gate Park is to utilize Sunset Boulevard or 19th Avenue. For more information, visit SFTMA's Great Highway and Outer Sunset Traffic Management page.
Great Walkway in the News
- SF Gate: How the Great Highway became San Francisco's most unexpected promenade
- SF Examiner: Could the Great Highway become a great city park?
- KTVU: Petition calls for Great Highway to permanently ban traffic and be turned into park
- Streetsblog SF: Great Highway vs. Great Walkway
- SF Chronicle Letters to the Editor: Keep Great Highway free of cars
Learn more about the future of the Great Walkway with important links from our partner government agencies below.
- Ocean Beach Climate Adaptation Project
- San Francisco Planning: Ocean Beach Adaptation
- San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency: Great Highway and Outer Sunset Traffic Management Project
- San Francisco County Transit Authority: District 4 Mobility Study Page
- San Francisco County Transit Authority District 4 Mobility Study Concepts
- SPUR: Ocean Beach Master Plan
- San Francisco Public Utilities Commission: Ocean Beach Climate Change Adaption Project
The Great Walkway is between Lincoln and Sloat and is also known as the “Upper Great Highway”. This is not the “Lower Great Highway”, the smaller neighborhood street.
I have questions. Who can I contact?
If you have any further questions, please email RPDinfo@sfgov.org or if you need immediate assistance please contact Park Ranger Dispatch at (415) 242-6390.