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America’s Most Walkable Neighborhoods: Northern California

Bernal Heights
Let's take a walk in San Francisco, California, and visit NorCal's most walkable neighborhood—Bernal Heights.

Living in a place made for walking is important. If you have a kid, pushing a stroller to the park is essential to staying sane. And if you’re not quite done being a kid yet, being able to stumble home from a bar late at night is a major plus. We dug into hundreds of neighborhoods in our quest to find the most walkable across the country. We looked at the ratio and location of grocery stores, parks, and restaurants to single-family homes to identify five neighborhoods around the country where a car is truly optional. This list in hand, we took our research to the streets, interviewing locals in these and using Instagram photos from real people who live—and walk—there to bring it all to life.

Bernal Heights by the Numbers

A cozy, family-centric neighborhood in the Southern part of San Francisco, Bernal has become one of the hottest places to buy. Single-family home prices have nearly doubled in the last five years, with the median price towering at over $1.2 million. Despite those high prices, Bernal holds fast to its low-key vibe, where the local dive bar hosts a Sunday bluegrass jam, and kids trick or treat at all the neighbors’ houses.

Dogs and kids like to run around, and they have ample space to play in Bernal Heights, which is home to several great parks. Bernal local David Knopp, a retired chef, walks both his dogs around Holly Park each morning and then takes his older dog up Bernal Hill. The latter is a wild, scenic mini-mountain with awe-inspiring 360-degree views of the city and its own coyote sightings. Knopp feels like he knows everybody in Bernal Heights, if not by name, definitely by their dogs’ names. “I’ll say ‘Oh look it’s ‘Oso!’ and then I’ll say, ‘and what’s Oso’s mom’s name?’”

a view that heals ?

A post shared by ⚓️ Vicky (Victoria Inoue) ( on

Bernal’s main drag, Cortland Street, is flat and full of the stuff you need. The Good Life grocery and local library act as hubs, and trendy third-wave coffee shop (Pinhole) and nose-to-tail butcher shop (Avedano’s) cater to the foodie crowd. Fancy sundries store, Epicurean Trader, sells Tartine country bread, a sourdough with its own cult following. “We buy a loaf every week,” says Knopp.

METHODOLOGY: Trulia identified the top 5 most walkable neighborhoods in America as ZIP codes with at least 500 homes that were in close proximity to grocery stores, restaurants, and parks. Only ZIP codes with at least with more than 200 homes per square miles and where at least 50% of the homes were made up of single-family homes were considered.

Other Stories in the Series

Have you ever lived in Bernal Heights? Tell us about it in the comments.