Exploring dead ends and alleys in San Francisco
Hiding in plain sight: new walks in your neighborhood and beyond
My husband and I were on a walk to nowhere in particular recently, during the pandemic, and we noticed a dead-end street a few blocks from our house that we’d never been on. We both had the same reaction – how could we have never really noticed this street? It was new to us, despite having walked seemingly every street in a mile radius of our home in the last decade. We went down and discovered it had another alley off if it! What a reward for taking the time to explore.
Instead of having a destination and making a beeline to get there, why not go down the length of every dead end street and alley you normally would pass by? Each neighborhood in the city has dead ends and alleys – I defy you to not find one near you!
Here are a few areas with good alleys I’ve explored recently.
There’s a sweet pedestrian-only alley in West Portal. Google labels it “Pub Park”, so we call it the Pub Park Alley. You can make a nice loop in conjunction with the Ulloa Street back alley:
- Starting at West Portal Station, walk up Ulloa to Granville.
- Turn right on Granville then left on the alley serving Ulloa, along the Portola side.
- Turn left to follow the alley up to Kensington.
- Left on Kensington. After passing Vasquez on your right, look for the pedestrian-only “Pub Park” alley on your left.
- Follow until the alley ends at Dorchester. Turn Left to return to Ulloa.
If you like dead ends, this is the place to be. There are simply too many to list!
- Head for the Svenson’s at Union and Hyde and radiate out from there, going down every alley and dead-end street.
There are many lovely alleys in the area of Seacliff. Take a detour from your next coastal walk.
- Check for alleys inside the blocks bounded by 28th and 32nd Streets and El Camino Del Mar and California
You can spend at least an hour walking around and never get very far from your starting point!
The Precita Park Side of Bernal
The streets here are so cute, it’s almost a whole neighborhood of alleys. Here are a few of note:
- Unnamed alley off of Treat Street: So secret, so magical, it doesn’t appear to have a street name! Access it via this entrance near 1600 Treat.
- Waltham Alley: Maybe you’ll find its secret path through the woods up to Bernal Hill.
- Norwich Alley
South of Market (SoMa)
I used to live on an alley near 7th and Folsom. For kicks, I’d just choose a SoMa mega block and walk every alley in it. The cool thing about walking SoMa alleys is you don’t need a map. Every block south of Mission is full of alleys.
- Check out my old home alley, Hallam, with its dead-end companion, Brush Street.
- Lafayette Street: the heart of a tree-lined network of alleys
- Ringold: Check out its San Francisco SoMa Leather History plaques and artwork
- Traffic-calmed blocks of Minna and Natoma where they intersect with Russ
Alley Explorer’s Pro Tip
If it looks like an alley, it probably is, so check it out! Worst thing that could happen is you end up looking at someone’s recycling bins.
Nancy Botkin is a longtime Walk SF volunteer and walk organizer. Nancy is part of “Walk Lab”: a group of knowledgeable and creative volunteers who research routes for Walk SF. Nancy would like to thank her walking companion and note-taker, Julianna Gallin.