Its boundaries are usually considered to be Arguello Boulevard and Hillway Street to the west, Carmel Street to the south, Clayton Street to the east, and Golden Gate Park and Waller Street to the north. The main commercial strip is condensed into two blocks along Cole Street, between Parnassus Avenue to the south and Frederick Street to the north.
It is very close to Haight-Ashbury, and is sometimes considered a sub-area of that district. It is also close to the Inner Sunset.
Cole Valley grew up around the streetcar stop at the entrance to the Sunset Tunnel at the intersection of Carl and Cole Streets. That intersection is still the center of the neighborhood's small business district, and the N Judah light rail line still stops there.
Cole Valley was popular with dot-commers during the late 1990s dot-com bubble. Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, is a recent former resident, and still an habitué of Cole Valley's cafes. Today the neighborhood is home to a mix of young professionals, some University of California, San Francisco residents and staff, and the African American and working-class families who have lived in the neighborhood since the early 1960s.