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    Presidio of San Francisco: beaches, viewpoints and trails in the green heart of the city

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    Lluis Enric Mayans

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    Before San Francisco developed into a full-fledged city, this area was home to the Garrison, a military fort erected by Spanish soldiers in 1776. The United States army kept this site active as a military base until 1994 when the whole area was placed under the auspices of the National Park Service becoming a real National Park that every year it attracts more than 7 million visitors.


    • Where is it and how to get there
    • Timetables and useful info
    • To see
      • Main Post
      • Panoramic points
      • Trail
      • beaches
      • Historical sites
      • Natural sites
      • Other attractions
    • Where to eat
    • Accomodation

    Where is it and how to get there

    Presidio Park spans a very large area of ​​San Francisco between the Marina District and the Golden Gate Bridge. It can be reached in many ways both independently and by public transport. Here are the main solutions.

    Il PresidiGo Shuttle is a free and widespread shuttle service that connects the city to the most important points of the park. There are three different routes that run every day of the week and have their own terminus at Presidio Transit Center near the Main Parade Ground.

    • Presidi Go Downtown: connects the Embarcadero (the stop is in the immediate vicinity of the famous Ferry Building) with the park. Keep in mind that the shuttle usually takes about 25 minutes to complete the route. Most rides are free, but some will require a PresidiGo Pass or MUNI Passport. The times that are subject to this limitation are the trips indicated with the red letter P in this pdf of the official website.
    • PresidiGo around the park: once you arrive you can also use these free shuttles to move around the park. A line moves the line near Crissy Field and the other that of Presidio Hills. The frequency is good, it is a run every hour or 30 minutes depending on the time of day. You can find the detailed itinerary and timetables on the official page of the service.

    As for other public transport, there are many MUNI lines that stop at the Presidio Transit Ceneter or in its vicinity (among all 1, 28, 29, 41, 43, and 45). Which one to use, however, basically depends on the area of ​​the city from which you come or that you want to reach. This is why I invite you to consult the official MUNI website directly to check the best solution for your needs.

    If for some reason you have chosen the car to get around San Francisco, and you want to travel to the area with it, unfortunately it will not be very easy. THE parking lots, despite being close to the main destinations, they are not very capacious and fill up quickly, moreover most of them are at payment every day of the week with rates that can reach 2.5 $ for every hour or 11 $ for the whole day.

    If time and your energy allow it, perhaps the most comfortable way to visit the park and move from one area to another is to use a bicycle (here you can find our article dedicated to how to rent a San Francisco bike). However, not all paths allow you to use the two-wheeled vehicle, so I suggest you take a look at this pdf with all the routes that can be traveled.

    Timetables and useful info

    The Presidio park is always open every day of the year, 24 hours a day. Without any restrictions related to closing times (except for the attractions, visitor centers and museums inside) you will therefore have the convenience of inserting it more easily into your itinerary .

    The other positive news is that the entrance to the Presidio park is free, only to access some attractions it is necessary to pay a ticket.

    To see

    Given the size of the park and the many attractions it contains, I have grouped the things to see at the Presidio by thematic areas instead of by area. If you are interested in finding out what a particular area of ​​the park has to offer, then I invite you to consult the interactive map you find in the article.

    Main Post

    This is the central area of ​​the park where the visitor center and many other attractions related to the history of the park but not only. Let's see which are the main ones:

    • Presidio Visitor Center: if you want to collect information material, brochures, maps and suggestions to organize your visit, this is definitely the place to start. Like all self-respecting visitor centers, it also hosts an exhibition space with the history of the park and its mission.
    • Presidio Officers’ Club: it is one of the historic buildings in San Francisco made with the characteristic Adobe material, which once housed the officers' club, and which today is a real museum and cultural center that not only traces the history of the Presidium, but hosts live music events and theatrical performances.
    • Andy Goldsworthy’s Earth Wall e Andy Goldsworthy’s Tree Fall: two of the 4 works by the famous American artist are housed in this area. The first is located inside the Officers' Club Presidium while the second is housed in the building that was once used as a gunpowder warehouse.
    • Walt Disney Family Museum: this is perhaps the most famous attraction among those present in the park. It is, as you can guess, a museum entirely dedicated to the figure of the legendary Walt Disney. Given the importance of the place, we wrote him an in-depth study entirely dedicated to the Walt Disney Family Museum.
    • Main Parade Ground: it is a large green space located in the heart of the Presidium. The red buildings that stand on one of its sides once housed the barracks from which soldiers came out for military exercises and parades. This is the place where the most important outdoor events such as the Presidio Picnic and the Twilight Presidio dedicated to food, stargazing and live music take place today.
    Main Parade Ground
    Walt Disney Family Museum

    Panoramic points

    Surely these are one of the main reasons to visit this area, if you are walking one of the many paths in the park, you will certainly have the opportunity to cross even more than one and use them as a rest area to catch your breath while observing the spectacle that stands out in front of you. Many of these viewpoints also have a small car park or bus and shuttle stop in their immediate vicinity.

    View from Torpedo Wharf
    Vista da Immigrant Point
    View from the National Cemetery Overlook
    View of Crissy Field Overlook
    • Battery East Vista: if you are in the Crissy Field area this is one of the most popular and popular viewpoints. The name of this place derives from the fact that a military post once stood here to defend the San Francisco Bay.
    • Golden Gate Overlook: this vantage point will allow you to observe the Golden Gate Bridge from an unusual frontal perspective and not a lateral one as you are more used to seeing and photographing it. Here, in fact, you can observe the two towers that support the bridge facing each other, almost perfectly set among the trees in the area. This viewpoint together with the neighbor Pacific Overlook they were recently built to commemorate the 75th year since the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge.
    • Torpedo Wharf: This is a dock that extends a short distance into the San Francisco Bay area in the Crissy Field area. You can then have a virtually 360 ° view of the surrounding area, including the San Francisco skyline. Pay attention to the weather as this area is particularly windy.
    • Immigrant Point Overlook: the spectacle of the Pacific Ocean unfolding in front of you. This is what awaits you from this famous panoramic point which, thanks also to its height, will give you the opportunity to take beautiful souvenir photos, especially during the beautiful sunny days. The name derives from the fact that this place was dedicated to all those who, after leaving their country of origin, crossed the Golden Gate in search of fortune. In this regard, the words that you will find carved into the stone of the parapet are a quote from American President Woodrow Wilson: "Let all men who want to be free come to us and they will be welcome". Recommended to come here to watch the sunset.
    • Inspiration Point Overlook: this viewpoint, unlike the previous ones, is oriented towards the interior of the San Francisco Bay. From here you can see Alcatraz Island and Angel Island among other things.
    • National Cemetery Overlook: along the section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, which runs above the great expanse of the San Francisco National Cemetery, where thousands of American soldiers and prominent figures linked to the city find rest, more than a single vantage point you will find numerous pairs of benches with which you can see the San Francisco Bay and the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge rise in the distance above the canopy of trees.
    • Crissy Field Overlook: one of the most popular observatories since it is located directly on the road you will have to travel to reach the Golden Gate Bridge. In addition to realizing how big the Crissy Field area really is, you can see the spectacle of the bay, Alcatraz and the San Francisco skyline without having any kind of obstruction.
    Inspiration Point Photo of terraplanner
    Golden Gate Bridge
    Battery East Vista Photo by wikiphotographer


    Inside the Presidium they are located 12 trails, most of which are easily walkable even if they are long. The advice is to rent a bicycle, which will allow you to move from one part of the park to the other while also managing to reach most of the attractions and viewpoints. Just be careful to take the roads specially designated for cycling because not all of them are, and some paths are only accessible on foot.

    Here is a selection of the most famous trails. Of course, you can also decide to make only a part of it depending on the time you have available and your aptitude for walking.

    • Batteries to Bluffs Trail: with just over a kilometer in length, it is one of the perfect paths for those who want to reach and visit the famous beaches that overlook the west side of the park. Obviously the best time to take this trail is during sunset when you can enjoy exceptional views.
    • Bay Area Ridge Trail: one of the longest trails in the park (4 kilometers) that connects the southern part of the Presidio with the Golden Gate Bridge. It combines some of the highest points of the park and offers a lot of variety among the attractions that can be found along the way such as the World War II Memorial to the Missing, Andy Goldsworthy's Spire and the National Cemetery Overlook.
    • California Coastal Trail: More than a park trail, this is the part of the very long trail that runs along the entire California coast. The stretch that develops inside the Presidio has a length of almost 4 kilometers and connects Baker Beach with the Golden Gate Bridge.
    • Golden Gate Promenade: perhaps the most famous walk in the park that runs along the Crissy Field waterfront overlooking the San Francisco Bay until it reaches the Golden Gate Bridge.
    • Lovers’ Lane Trail: it is a one kilometer route that connects the southern part of the park with the Main Post. It is the oldest path in the whole park as this was the road that the Spanish soldiers traveled to go from the Presidio to Mission Dolores, also known as Mission San Francisco de Asís, one of the many that were built along the famous Camino Real. This trail runs parallel to Andy Goldsworthy's Wood Line artwork.


    Baker beach
    • Baker beach: one of the most famous beaches in San Francisco, from which you can also photograph the Golden Gate Bridge and enjoy a great sunset. It can also be reached thanks to the Presidio Hill line of the park shuttle, or by bus 29 of the MUNI. If you want to stretch your legs a little, walk the Sand Ladder until you rejoin the California Coastal Trail and explore the Battery Chamberlin area (when accessible) and the other smaller but picturesque beach of Marshall's Beach. If you happen to be in these parts with the fog do not be sad because the atmosphere will be even more special.
    • Marshall’s Beach: as mentioned earlier this is a much smaller beach than the previous one. Thanks to its slightly more complicated position to reach than Baker Beach, it has the advantage of being less crowded (so much so that it is rumored that occasionally some nudists come to sunbathe here). It can therefore be considered the perfect spot to watch the sunset surrounded by greater calm and tranquility.
    • Crissy Field East Beach: this is the large beach that overlooks the San Francisco bay, and is one of the largest and most popular in the city. Those who have already been to San Francisco will almost certainly have a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge taken from here, since it is also a practically obligatory point of passage for those who want to reach the famous bridge on foot or by bicycle (the path that also touches this area not by chance it is called Golden Gate Promenade). Given the presence of many picnic tables it is also a perfect stopping point for refreshing yourself outdoors while observing a beautiful view.
    Crissy Field East Beach

    Historical sites

    Having previously been a military base, there are many historical sites that can be visited within the Presidio Park.

    Battery Chamberlin
    Fort Point National Historic Site
    • Fort Winfield Scott: it is surrounded by a fascinating forest of cypress and eucalyptus trees from which you can see in the distance the two red pillars that support the Golden Gate Bridge. The buildings, which once housed barracks, are made with a recognizable and appreciable Mission Revival style and form a sort of enclosure inside which today there is a large green area where today there is also a baseball field.
    • Fort Point National Historic Site: another symbolic place not only of the park but of the city itself. Built between 1853 and 1861 to protect the port of San Francisco during the years of the Gold Rush, the gold rush that attracted thousands of fortune seekers from all corners of the nation like a mirage. This imposing building could accommodate up to 500 infantry soldiers but did not have the opportunity to play any kind of military role for all the years of its existence. For this reason the fort began to be gradually abandoned until it fell into disrepair. It was not until the 70s that a revaluation and restoration work was undertaken when it was designated as a National Historic Site. Here, as well as reliving a piece of history, you can admire truly particular views of the Golden Gate Bridge that will stand out above you in all its grandeur.
    • Battery Chamberlin: it is located just above the famous Baker Beach, and it is useful to understand the strategic importance of this place along the Pacific Ocean coast. The disappearing guns or 50-ton mobile guns are still kept here. The name derives from the fact that the weapon, while being loaded or not active, lowered itself thus disappearing from view and making it less vulnerable to attack. If you're curious to see how the deployment of these weapons worked on the first weekend of each month from 11am to 00pm, National Park Service rangers put on a hands-on demonstration. If desired, it is also possible to visit a small museum housed in the rooms once used as an ammunition warehouse.
    • World War II Memorial to the Missing: it is a memorial dedicated to the soldiers who lost their lives in the waters of the Pacific during the years of the Second World War. On a large curved granite slab are also inscribed the 413 names of those who are officially missing at sea since their bodies or remains have never been found or identified.
    • Korean War Memorial: it is located in the Main Post area and here are honored the Americans who died fighting the Korean War which many have nicknamed the forgotten war despite the fact that more than 40.000 US soldiers did not return.
    Korean War Memorial's photo in Photo at Wayne Hsieh
    World War II Memorial to the Missing

    Natural sites

    • Crissy Marsh: along the promenade that will take you from Crissy Field to the Golden Gate Bridge you will find what at first sight may seem like a simple lake. In fact, this marshy area is the natural habitat for more than 100 different species of birds. If your passion is birdwatching you will surely have to find some time to pass by here.
    • El Polín Spring: the spring found here was used to supply water to the military camp. There is also a curious popular legend linked to this place. In fact, it is said that if a woman drinks from this spring on full moon nights, she will be rewarded with a long life and numerous offspring.
    • Mountain lake: This is one of the last remaining natural lakes in the San Francisco area, and is the original nucleus around which the natives of the place camped. It can therefore be said that the development of what would become one of the most important cities in California began right here. The path to take to get here is dedicated to Juan Bautista de Anza, the Spanish general who concluded his exploratory expedition here in 1776.
    Crissy Marsh

    Other attractions

    • Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center: it is certainly an almost obligatory stop for those who intend to walk or cycle the Golden Gate Bridge. It is a real visitor center entirely dedicated to the history of the famous bridge and its construction. Also if you are looking for a themed souvenir this is the place for you. There is also a restaurant with a very particular architecture: the Roundhouse Cafe.
    • Andy Goldsworthy’s Spire: the works of this artist are not limited to those hosted in the Main Post. For example, one of the most famous and appreciated, is located in the southern area of ​​the park called Southern Wilds. It is a gigantic sculpture made up of 37 trunks of the same trees that grow in the area joined together to form what looks like a real spire emerging from the ground.
    • Andy Goldsworthy’s Wood Line: here is the other outdoor work of the famous artist, once again the protagonists are tree trunks but instead of being positioned vertically they are placed horizontally so as to form a sort of path that, zigzagging, goes into the woods .
    • Military Intelligence Service Historic Learning Center: from the outside this building may seem like a simple warehouse, since there are not many distinctive signs that help to understand what it hides inside. Once inside, however, you will find yourself immersed in a museum dedicated to one of the most important, and perhaps less known, aspects of the Second World War, namely military intelligence services. In order to access this museum, you need to pay a $ 10 admission fee.
    • Letterman Digital Arts Center – Yoda Fountain: surely Star Wars lovers cannot miss a stop in this place. In a wing of the building (Building B) there are the offices of LucasFilm. Before the entrance to show off you will find a fountain with a statue of Yoda. If you pass by when the offices are open you can also enter the lobby and admire a lot of memorabilia dedicated to the most famous series of cinema, including a life-size statue of Darth Vader and Boba Fett.
    Andy Goldsworthy Wood Line
    Yoda Fountain
    Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center

    Where to eat

    Within the Presidio area there are many restaurants and refreshment points where you can refresh yourself. Most of these are located in the Main Post area here are the most important ones:

    • The commissary
    • Arguello Restaurant
    • Coffee RX
    • Presidio Palms Café
    • Presidio Social Club
    • Sessions at the Presidio
    • Starbucks

    Other solutions outside this area are the Round House Café, a characteristic circular venue built in art deco style which is located near the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center, and from which you can therefore admire a beautiful view of the famous bridge, and the Warming Hut Café ideal resting place in the Crissy Field area and its beach.

    Inside the park there are numerous picnic areas where you can have the lunch you have already bought, and if you are visiting the Presidium on summer Sundays, you should know that the large green area of ​​the Main Parade Ground literally fills up with people for the biggest picnic in San Francisco.


    If you want to sleep inside the park there are three solutions you can choose. One is the campsite Rob Hill Campground open only during the summer season, which can only be accessed via a lottery which can be entered via this page. The other two are real hotels that offer all the comforts you will need.

    • Inn at the Presidio: this hotel was built in the elegant building dating back to 1903 which previously housed the officers' quarters. The rooms are well-kept and welcoming, some of which also offer a nice view of the surrounding area.
    • Lodge at the presidio: it is a "rib" of the previous hotel which was recently inaugurated. It too was not built from scratch but stands in one of the buildings that were part of the Montgomery Street Barracks designed to house the soldiers of the US army. The style of the furnishings is a little more modern than the previous one.

    If you want to stay near the Presidio you could consider the structures reported in the Marina District and Cow Hollow neighborhoods in our in-depth study dedicated to where to sleep in San Francisco or click on the link below.

    Find accommodation in the area

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