San Francisco Geography

By | October 1, 2021

San Francisco is located on the west coast of the United States, at the tip of the San Francisco Peninsula and includes important stretches of the Pacific Ocean and the San Francisco Bay within its borders. Several islands such as Alcatraz, Treasure Island, the neighboring island of Yerba Buena, and small parts of Alameda Island, Red Island and Angel Island are part of the city. Also included are the uninhabited Farallones Islands, 27 miles from the Pacific Ocean coast. The part on the mainland within the city limits forms roughly a “square seven by seven miles”, a colloquial term used to refer to the shape of the city, although its total area, including the area covered by water, is close to 600 km².

There are more than 50 hills within the city limits. Some of the neighborhood names belong to the name of the hill on which they are located, such as Nob Hill, Pacific Heights, and Russian Hill. Near the geographic center of the city, to the southwest, there are a series of less densely populated hills. Twin Peaks, a pair of hills that sit at one of the highest points in the city, is a popular vantage point. The highest hill in San Francisco, Mount Davidson, is 282 meters high and on it is a 31 meter high cross built in 1934. See topschoolsintheusa for best high schools in San Francisco.

Dominating this area stands the Sutro Tower, a large radio and television transmission tower.

The San Andrés and Hayward Faults are responsible for great seismic activity, although neither of them physically passes through the city itself. It was the San Andrés fault that slipped and caused the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes. Minor earthquakes occur frequently, but the threat of major earthquakes plays an important role in the development of the city’s infrastructure. The city has constantly updated its building codes, requiring major modifications for older buildings and higher engineering standards for newer ones. However, there are still thousands of small buildings that remain potentially vulnerable to damage from earthquakes.


The climate of San Francisco is the characteristic Mediterranean climate of the California coast, with mild wet winters and dry summers. Since it is surrounded on three sides by water, San Francisco’s climate is strongly influenced by the cold currents of the Pacific Ocean, which tend to moderate temperature swings and produce a temperate climate, with very little seasonal temperature variation. The dry period, from May to October, is slightly hot, with average high temperatures of 18-21 ° C and minimum temperatures of 11-13 ° C. The rainy season, from November to April It is cool with maximum temperatures of 13-19 ° C and minimum temperatures of between 8 and 11 ° C. On average, temperatures exceed 24 ° C only on 28 days a year.

The combination of cold ocean water and the heat of the California peninsula creates a characteristic fog in the city that can cover the western half of the city throughout the day in Spring and early Summer. In fact, a quote incorrectly attributed to Mark Twain is “the coldest winter I have ever had was a summer in San Francisco.” Fog is less pronounced in eastern neighborhoods in late summer and fall, which are the warmest months of the year. Due to its topography and strong maritime influence, San Francisco features a multitude of different microclimates.

The high hills in the geographic center of the city are responsible for variations of up to 20% in annual rainfall between different parts of the city.

These annual precipitation levels are around 510 mm and these take place during the rainy months, from November to April. On average, the city experiences 67 rainy days a year. Snow is extraordinarily rare, having only been recorded in the city 10 times since 1852.

City Planning

San Francisco is distinguished by the fact that some of its parks and practically all of its beaches within the city limits are part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which is one of the most visited units of the National Park system in the United States, with more than 13 million visitors a year. It is also one of the largest urban parks in the world. The beaches and parks that make up this area include Ocean Beach, which is situated along the coast of the Pacific Ocean and is frequented by surfers; Baker Beach, which sits on a cove west of the Golden Gate and is part of the Presidio, the former military base. Inside the Presidio is Crissy Field, a former airfield that was restored to its natural form to revert to being a marsh ecosystem. The Area also manages Fort Funston, Lands End Park, Fort Mason, and Alcatraz. The National Park Service also separately manages the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park – a fleet of historic ships and coastal properties around the Aquatic Park has been restored to its natural ecosystem. All of these locations, along with others like Alcatraz and Fort Funston, are part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, a regional collection of beaches, parks, and historic sites managed by the National Park Service.

San Francisco Geography