Barbary Coast Trail Walk

Take San Francisco’s 3.8 mile historical walk along the Barbary Coast

Most people don’t notice the shiny medallions and arrows in the sidewalks in San Francisco that announce the “Barbary Coast Trail.” Generally, we march by the markers without stopping to read them or think about the story they are trying to tell us.

Barbary Coast Trail medallion in front of the Old Mint.

I decided to stop and notice what is written on these bronze medallions set in the sidewalks around the City’s downtown area. When I look closely at the illustrations in the markers, I notice a miner with his pan of gold, a sailing ship, a woman with her young child who seems to be waving goodbye to someone dear, a hillside, a main street and a horse-drawn wagon that reminds me of the Wells Fargo stagecoach.

After gold was discovered in 1848, and the Gold Rush was announced in 1849, San Francisco was about to be transformed from a quaint village to a lively town.

The Barbary Coast Trail marker near the Old Mint is a project of the San Francisco Historical Society.

The Barbary Coast Trail name came from the maritime district that San Francisco would soon become. In the later-half of the 19th century to the early 20th century, the Barbary Coast was a red-light district featuring saloons, dance halls, clubs and brothels as the city had many more men than women working in the new, bustling maritime industry.

In 1913, the San Francisco Examiner newspaper, owned by William Randolph Hearst, printed an editorial page suggesting that the Barbary Coast “should be wiped out.” Today, we celebrate the name the “Barbary Coast” for it’s moment in our history.

Barbary Coast Trail medallion near the San Francisco Chronicle building.

The San Francisco Historical Society created the Barbary Coast Trail Walk through the heart of San Francisco with its inauguration in 1998. The 3.8 mile trail extends from downtown to Aquatic and it is a delight for visitors who want to enjoy a world-class walking city.

There are 180 bronze medallions and arrows in San Francisco sidewalks that mark the Barbary Coast Trail and inform people about San Francisco’s rapid transformation from a small village to a major West Coast port city.

Some of the highlights along the trail are the Wells Fargo History Room, the birthplace of the Gold Rush at Portsmouth Square and each end of the Powell-Hyde cable car line. The Old Mint is considered the start of the Barbary Coast Trail and the trail ends at Aquatic Park.

The Old Mint (right) on 5th Street with the Chronicle building (left) in the background.

For those who enjoy both history and walking, the Barbary Coast Trail Walk can give you a sense of San Francisco’s colorful history and its transformation from quiet village to bustling urban area. Enjoy your walk!

Barbary Coast Trail



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