San Francisco Top Trails

The Presidio
By David Weintraub
Key Info

0.0 – West on Mason Ave. to Crissy Field Ave., then left
0.1 – Right on McDowell Ave.
0.3 – Cross Lincoln Blvd., take Park Blvd. uphill, then right on dirt path
0.5 – Cross Park, straight on Kobbe Ave. past Officers Row
0.8 – Right on Upton Ave.
0.9 – Enter Fort Scott, go left around parade ground
1.1 – Left on Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail
1.2 – Cross Lincoln Blvd., go straight on Langdon Court, then through parking area
1.3 – Right on Coastal Trail
1.4 – Left at fork on hiking-only trail
1.6 – Left on paved path under Golden Gate Bridge
1.8 – Left on trail signed for Fort Point; Battery East is left
2.0 – Right on Golden Gate Promenade beside seawall
2.1 – Pass Warming Hut, right
2.5 – Right on trail across Crissy Field
2.6 – Back at parking area

Trail Use:
Hike, run, bike
2.6 miles, 1 to 2 hours
Vertical Feet:
1 2 3 4 5 +
Trail Type:
Surface Type:
Dirt, paved

Dogs allowed, child friendly, shore, wildflowers, birds, great views, photo opportunity, historic


Excerpted from Top Trails: San Francisco by David Weintraub

THE ACCESSIBLE ONE: Take a (hopefully) fog-free autumn walk back through time as you explore this historic military base near the Golden Gate Bridge, first established by Spanish colonists more than 200 years ago. Now a unit of the National Park Service, the Presidio is a model for future reclamation and restoration of formerly developed lands.

Finding the Trail
From the Presidio's Marina Gate entrance at the west end of Marina Blvd., go west on Mason St. 1 mile to a paved parking area, left.

Trail Description
From the west end of the parking area, head west several hundred feet on Mason Avenue to its junction with Crissy Field Avenue. Turn sharply left and follow Crissy Field Avenue uphill, passing under Doyle Drive/U.S. 101, to a junction with McDowell Avenue. Here you angle right and climb moderately past the Presidio stables and the [Golden Gate National Recreation Area's] archives and records center.

Carefully crossing Lincoln Blvd., you take Park Blvd. gently uphill to a junction. Here you angle left on a dirt path that rises steadily through a forest of Monterey cypress and eucalyptus, both planted here. Meeting Park again and crossing it, you take Kobbe Avenue past Officers Row, a set of beautiful homes built in 1912. Climbing gently, you pass Barnard Hall, an imposing brick building named for John G. Barnard, Chief Engineer of Construction of Fortifications of San Francisco Harbor and Fort Point, 1853-1854.

At a four-way junction, you turn right on Upton Avenue, following a sidewalk on its left side. Some of the officers' homes in the Presidio are quite lavish, with spacious lawns and exotic landscaping. Where Upton veers right, you continue straight across Ralston Avenue, and then enter Fort Winfield Scott.

Turn left and keep the parade ground on your right. As you walk along the left side of the parade ground, views stretch to the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island, and Mt. Diablo. With a sports field on your right, you turn left on the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, also part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. You walk on pavement between two buildings (numbers 1207 and 1208), cross Ralston, and then come to Lincoln. Cross carefully, and then follow Langdon Court about 50 feet to a trail post. You jog left, then veer right through a parking area, heading toward the Pacific Ocean.

At the west end of the parking area, you follow a paved road that soon changes to dirt and gravel. Turning right at a trail post, you get on the Coastal Trail, a wide dirt-and-gravel path that is part of the Anza/Bay Area Ridge Trail. The low concrete bunkers beside the trail were built from 1891 to 1900 for coastal defense. At the end of World War II, the guns in these bunkers were removed. Near the bunkers the trail forks: hikers stay left, bicyclists stay right. You follow the rocky and eroded hiking trail to another fork, where the left branch is signed for the Anza/Bay Area Ridge Trail.

Staying left here, and right at the next fork, where a trail goes left to a viewpoint, you skirt the coastal cliffs and descend via wooden steps. Now on level ground, you merge with the trail for bicyclists, which joins sharply from the right. Ahead is a paved path which goes under the Golden Gate Bridge. You get on it and angle left. Use caution: The paved path is shared by bicyclists, joggers, walkers, and others.

Beyond the bridge the trail forks, and you stay left, enjoying a view that reaches from the Golden Gate to the East Bay hills. You pass a trail, left to Battery East, which dates from 1876, and a picnic area. A brick path goes right and uphill to the Golden Gate Bridge gift shop. You descend to a junction with a trail, left, signed for Fort Point.

Here you turn left and in a clearing come to a four-way junction. Battery East is left, and a trail to a parking area is right. You continue straight and descend steeply over rough ground, passing a trail, right. Aided by steps, you soon reach Marine Drive, the paved road to Fort Point.

Cross the road, and when you reach a seawall, turn right on a paved path, part of the Golden Gate Promenade and the San Francisco Bay Trail. Nearby are restrooms, water, and a warming hut with food, drinks, books, maps, and other information. Beyond the warming hut, the path changes to dirt and gravel. Information boards along the way tell you about the geology and history of the Golden Gate. A path cuts sharply right, going back to the warming hut. You pass a picnic area, right, and then reach a five-way junction beside Long Avenue.

Here you continue straight on the dirt-and-gravel path. An historic Coast Guard station and the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary visitor center are left. You are passing through an area that has been extensively restored and landscaped with native plants. Several hundred feet past the visitor center, you turn right, climb a few steps and then cross Crissy Field, formerly a landing strip for planes. After about 100 yards you reach Mason, which you cross to return to the parking area.

Article © Wilderness Press. All rights reserved.

Published: 4 Oct 2004 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

Best Hotels in San Francisco


Hotel Abri - Union Square

Fairmont San Francisco

White Swan Inn

InterContinental SAN FRANCISCO


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »