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McLaren Park

Date: (Sun.) Mar. 10, 2013
Location: San Francisco, CA
Event Director: - 510.681.6181
Course Setter: Tapio Karras
Type: C; Middle-distance courses

Please note that fees and time limits apply, unless otherwise mentioned below. Events are typically not canceled due to bad weather.

*** Remember that Daylight Saving Time starts early Sunday morning. Turn your clock forward one hour and prepare to arrive early. ***

John McLaren Park ( is San Francisco's second-largest city park. It has only been used a few times for orienteering, so no one should be bored with it. SF Rec & Park recently added a new trail, the Philosopher's Way (, so we have made several updates to the map, which is provided to us by Get Lost!! Running, Racing ( There are great views of San Francisco and beyond from all over the park.

The COOL awards will be presented at this event at 1:00 PM. Be sure to cheer the winners!

Tapio Karras has designed five courses for this event: White, Yellow, Orange, Green/Brown, and Blue/Red. These are middle-distance courses, emphasizing quick decision-making and constant contact with the map.

Be sure to read the Course Setter's Notes below for more information.


Please preregister if you are interested in coming (you can specify "pretty sure," "probably," or "possibly.") Knowing that you may come helps us with map printing and organizing our volunteers, thanks!

Preregister me! (

If you did not preregister, please still feel welcome to attend our event!


09:30 – Registration Open
10:00 – Starts Open
12:00 – Registration Closes
12:30 – Starts Close
01:00 – COOL Awards Ceremony
02:00 – Finish Closes (please finish before 2:00)


Beginner (White and Yellow) courses are $6 for adults and $3 for juniors. Intermediate (Orange) and Advanced (Green/Brown and Blue/Red) courses are $10 for members and $15 for nonmembers. Discounts apply to teams of more than one individual.

E-punch rental for timing your course is $3, and compass rentals are $1. A compass is not necessary for this event, but can be helpful.

To see a complete breakdown of costs, see the registration form (PDF/78KB) (


If anybody is willing to be an early runner for the Blue/Red course, we can start you around 9:00 AM. We've had controls "disappear" at McLaren in the past, so someone running early would allow us to fix these problems before the Start opens.

For those doing control pickup, please bring wire cutters or a pair of scissors to cut cable ties that will be used to secure e-punch units to the stands.

Driving Directions

Carpooling or public transit is recommended, as parking will be along the street.

The meeting place is on John F Shelly Drive. There will be signs set out starting at Mansell Street.

There's a map here that shows the location of the event. (Drag the map to center San Francisco, and then click on the "+" symbol to zoom in.) Or use your favorite navigation software to get to 37.7220,-122.4203.

Driving North on 101

From the peninsula on U.S. Highway 101, take the Paul Ave exit and make a left onto Paul Ave. Cross over the freeway and make a left onto San Bruno Ave. Take the second right turn onto Mansell St. Drive about a half mile to turn right onto John F. Shelley Drive. Take this road past Cambridge St, then look for the large meadow on the right-hand side, and park along the side of the road. We will meet on the left (south) side of the road.

Driving South on 101

Those coming from the north or San Francisco on U.S. Highway 101, join us here after taking the Paul Ave exit — it will dump you straight onto Mansell St — do not turn. Drive about a half mile to turn right onto John F. Shelley Drive. Take this road past Cambridge St, then look for the large meadow on the right-hand side, and park along the side of the road. We will meet on the left (south) side of the road.

Public Transit

Transit information is available from ( There are several SF Muni bus lines that can get you to the park. The closest BART station, Balboa Park, is about a mile and a half walk ... or just get on either the SF Muni 54 or 29 bus from Balboa Park BART.

If you take the 54, get off at Felton and Madison, walk east on Felton one block to Gambier St, then south to the park and on to John F. Shelly Drive.

If you take the 29, get off at the second John F. Shelley Drive stop, and take this road past Cambridge St, then look for the large meadow on the left-hand side. If you get of at the first Shelley Dr stop, you will have to walk through the course area and that wouldn't be fair.

Course Setter's Notes

By Tapio Karras

The Courses

The advanced courses are designed to be standard Middle-distance courses testing technical map reading at high speeds in difficult terrain. Even if McLaren Park is not the most technical terrain, the courses should provide navigational challenges to all. The estimated winning times are 30–35 minutes.

Here are the course statistics.

    Course        Length   Climb  Controls  Difficulty
    White         1.6 km    90 m     15     Beginner
    Yellow        1.9 km   110 m     16     Adv. Beginner
    Orange        3.2 km   170 m     15     Intermediate
    Green/Brown   3.6 km   180 m     18     Advanced
    Blue/Red      4.5 km   245 m     23     Advanced

The Start and Finish are very close to the assembly area. Only the open lawn around the assembly area can be used for warmup; do not enter the woods until you start your course.

All the courses share a common first control, a short trail run from the Start.

There is no water on the courses other than a drinking fountain marked on the map. Each course goes near the drinking fountain roughly halfway into the course. If you expect to take a long time to complete your course, you should consider carrying your own water.

Please remember that courses close at 2:00 PM. Even if you don't complete your course, be sure to download your e-punch stick so that we know you have returned. Since McLaren is an urban park within the city of San Francisco, we will not initiate a search for you even if you fail to report back — but we will sleep better if we know everyone has returned safely.

The Map

McLaren is a semi-wooded park with excellent runnability. The map is an ISSOM (International Specification for Sprint Orienteering Maps) standard Sprint map created by Get Lost!! Running, Racing (Vladimir Zherdev, Vladimir Gusiatnikov, and John Fredrickson) in 2009, with 2010 updates by Jay Hann. Since then several new trails have emerged and old ones have disappeared. I have updated the map accordingly.

Note that on a Sprint map, three different symbols are used to map individual trees and bushes:

This can be a bit confusing, especially as the distinction between a bush and a tree is not always obvious.

The map scale is 1:5000 and the contour interval is 2.5 m.

Restrictions and Cautions

McLaren Park has a no-off-trail policy, for which we have been granted an exception for thanks to our well-run events in the past. Remember to respect all natural areas and other restricted areas so that we may return to this priceless outdoor space in the future.

McLaren is a very popular dog walking park with sections where dogs are allowed to run free. There are a lot of dogs! Use common sense when approached by a dog.

The advanced and Orange courses cross the park loop road (John F. Shelley Drive) several times. While it's mostly a quiet road, watch out for that occasional car when crossing the road. The White and Yellow courses stay inside the park loop road.

Happy Routes!

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