BARTable Walk: 16th Street Mission to Glen Park
On a nice day
BART Station:16th St. Mission (SF)
Walk Time:1.75 to 2.5 hours
What do big burritos, an adobe building, a towering mural, ghostly skeletons, a street with two names and tropical fruit ice cream have in common? They’re all found on this BARTable walk in San Francisco down the Valencia Corridor in the Mission District to the Glen Park neighborhood.
Walk Time: 1.75 to 2.5 hours | Distance: 3.4 miles | Terrain: City sidewalks
Exit the 16th Street Mission station past the station agent booth and through the main faregates. With any luck, there will be a street musician to serenade you as you start your walk. Climb to the top of the stairs or escalator and take a right on to the ground level plaza and then a left on to 16th Street, heading away from Mission Street.
At the intersection with Valencia Street, take a quick detour to the left (less than 100 feet) to Taqueria La Cumbre. It’s said the first “Mission-style” burrito was created here in 1969 by Raul and Michaela Duran in their meat market that they later converted into the taqueria. But there is debate to this as others give credit to Febronio Ontiveros from El Faro over on Folsom and 20th several years earlier in 1961. Whoever it is, there’s no doubt that these super-large, super-stuffed “little donkeys” wrapped in foil are a San Francisco culinary treasure.
Taqueria La Cumbre is one among the dozens of burrito shops in San Francisco. Which is the best? You got to decide that one for yourself.
Head back to the intersection and take a left to continue on 16th Street. Along the way, check out what’s playing at the Roxie Theater. Built in 1909, it’s the oldest movie theater in continuous operation in San Francisco. Originally called the C.H. Brown Theater, it changed to The Roxie in 1933 and added its neon-lit marquee (but, strangely, with no space for displaying current showings).
Following a neighborhood decline in the 1960s, The Roxie changed over to an adult theater before becoming an indie film venue in 1975.
At the intersection with Dolores Street, cross over and take a left to Mission Dolores. Officially named Misión San Francisco de Asís, it was founded on June 29, 1776, just a few days before the U.S. Declaration of Independence. If you went to elementary school in California, you’ll surely remember that the building is one of many outposts of the mission system, established by the Spanish Empire in its push into the Americas. A visit inside to see the spectacular wooden ceiling painted in an Ohlone design and also the adjacent cemetery and gardens is a must.
Built of adobe bricks, Mission Dolores is San Francisco’s oldest standing building and No. 1 on its list of historical landmarks.
Continue on Dolores Street to Dolores Park (aka the Mission’s backyard). Inhabited by an Ohlone tribe before the arrival of the Spanish, the land later became a Jewish cemetery before becoming a park in 1905. Soon after, it was used as a refugee camp for families made homeless by the 1906 earthquake. Carpeted with a vast lawn and dotted with palm trees, the park has multiple sport courts, off-leash dog zones and one seriously huge children’s playground. On sunny days and during festivals and performances, so many locals and visitors flock to the park that the lawn can just about disappear underneath their feet (or beach blankets and coolers).
From the top of Dolores Park (at the corner of Church and 20th streets), take in one of the best views of the city skyline and bay.
Walk down 18th Street back towards Valencia Street. At the corner with Lapidge Street, take in the larger-than-life mural on the exterior of The Women’s Building. Go over to the left side of the street for the full effect. Named MaestraPeace (a play on “masterpiece”), the work depicts the contributions of women throughout time and the world. It was completed in 1994 by a group of seven local muralists with help from volunteers. In 2010, it was extended into the interior of the building and then underwent a major restoration in 2012. To check out more murals, take a detour down nearby Clarion Alley off of Valencia Street (between 17th and 18th streets).
Covering about 12,000 square feet, MaestraPiece is crowned with four heads representing female ancestors of African, Asian, European and Native American origin.
Continue down 18th Street and take a left on to Valencia Street. Cross 19th Street. and brace yourself to be mesmerized by the wonderfully odd, bizarre and unique at Paxton Gate. Founded by two landscape designers in 1992, the store sells animal skeletons and fossils, preserved insects, taxidermy specimens, carnivorous plants and more. It’s a place that really has to be seen to be believed. For kid-friendly games, books, toys and art, Paxton Gate’s Curiosities for Kids is on the preceding block at 766 Valencia St.
Filled with curiosities from the natural world, Time Out London described Paxton Gate as “Martha Stewart meets David Lynch.”
Keep heading straight through the Valencia Corridor all the way to Cesar Chavez Street. Like so many streets in San Francisco, this one holds many stories. It was built over Precita Creek around the turn of the last century. In the 1940s, it was to funnel traffic to the long-proposed, but never-built “Southern Crossing” transbay bridge over to Alameda. In 1968, it was the starting point of the epic car chase scene in the movie classic “Bullitt” with Steve McQueen. And then in 1995, the street was renamed from Army to Cesar Chavez, in honor of the American labor leader and civil rights activist. The change was a divisive one for the surrounding neighborhoods (some long-time residents still call it Army), but we’ll let that sleeping dog lie.
Looking across to Bernal Heights Hill from the intersection of Valencia and Cesar Chavez (Army) streets.
At the intersection, take a right on to Cesar Chavez Street and then a left on to Guerrero Street. Cross over to the right side and follow the street as it turns into San Jose Avenue to Mitchell’s Ice Cream. A truly old-school San Francisco institution, it was founded in 1953 by brothers Jack and Larry Mitchell. They’re known for introducing many tropical fruits to the Bay Area through their ice cream, such as mango, lychee and avocado. A magnet on sunny, warm days, customers have had to queue up out the door long before waiting in line was even a “thing” in and of itself.
Mitchell’s Ice Cream also offers ube (purple yam), macapuno (coconut sport), langka (jackfruit) and other flavors familiar to Filipino food aficionados.
Take a right on to 30th Street and then a quick left on to Chenery Street. Keep straight through to the Glen Park neighborhood, tucked away between Diamond Heights, Noe Valley, Bernal Heights and Interstate 280. Glen Park is often described as having a village vibe because of its charming homes and compact retail area with “mom-and-pop” stores and small restaurants.
Canyon Market is an independent grocery store in Glen Park that also houses a deli, coffee bar and wine tasting space.
To wrap up the walk, take a left on to Diamond Street and cross Bosworth Street to the Glen Park station.
Variations and options
- Extend the walk: Start from the Civic Center/UN Plaza station. Exit to Market Street and head southwest away from downtown. (Drop by The Market food hall between 9th and 10th streets for coffee or provisions.) Take a left on to S. Van Ness Avenue and then veer right on to Mission Street to the 16th Street Mission station (add 30 minutes, or 1 mile). Or end at the Balboa Park station. Continue straight on Diamond Street, take a right on to Monterey Boulevard and then veer left on to Circular Avenue (be careful as this street is not well-warked). Take a left at Baden Street across the freeway overpass and then take a right on to San Jose Avenue. Walk pass Balboa Park and take a right on to Ocean Avenue up to the station on the left side of the street (add 45 minutes, or 1.3 miles).
- Join a walking tour: For a deep dive into the Mission murals, sign up for a guided walk with Precita Eyes that also covers the history of murals, San Francisco’s mural movement and the painting process. San Francisco City Guides offers a mural tour, too, and many others throughout the city – all free, though donations are accepted.
- Add a sidetrip: Visit Glen Canyon Park. Instead of turning on to Diamond Street, keep straight on Chenery Street to its end at Elk Street (add 15 minutes, or 0.3 mile). There are miles of hiking trails in the park and even boulders to rock climb. A fairly easy hike is a loop around Upper Islais Creek, which starts just past the recreation building. If you could use a bite, pick up a sandwich at Canyon Market and grab picnic table at the park.
What to bring: Sturdy walking shoes and a daypack with water, bag lunch or snacks (or pick up along the way), sun protection (hat, sunscreen), extra layers or rain gear (just in case). A smartphone is handy for maps and looking up information, or taking photos. And, of course, your BART ticket or Clipper card.
About the stations
16th Street Mission Station first opened in November of 1973 and like its twin, 24th Street Mission, is positioned underground. The station’s two ground level plazas are often used as gathering spaces for public meetings and street performances. Below ground is the mezzanine level with ticket vending machines and faregates and then an island platform level for the Pittsburg/Bay Point to/from SFO/Millbrae, Dublin/Pleasanton to/from Daly City, Daly City to/from Warm Springs and Richmond to/from Daly City/Millbrae lines.
Glen Park Station also opened in November of 1973. It is the only station in San Francisco with parking spaces and was co-designed by Bay Area architect, Ernest Born, with marble floors, murals and natural stone walls. (Born also designed the original BART signage.) The station handles the same lines as 16th Street Mission and also has direct access to the J Church line of the Muni Metro via a pedestrian bridge. Along with the 19th Street/Oakland station, it was used for a scene in the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness” with Will Smith.