Hiking The Presidio - PART 1
October 17, 2013
page 1

(click on any image for an enlarged view)  

Recently I discovered that San Francisco's Presidio, made a national park in 1994 after the Army decommissioned it as a military base, has been developed into a spectacular tourist destination, yet with respect for the environment, the history, and the overwhelming natural beauty of the area. One of its major attractions is the hiking trails, some still rather primitive and sometimes challenging, but all affording opportunities unmatched in any other urban environment.

From its website:

In 1972, the Presidio of San Francisco - then an active installation - was included within the boundaries of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. On October 1, 1994, after the post became excess to military needs, it was transferred to the National Park Service.

In 1996, Congress created the Presidio Trust, a federal agency charged with preserving the natural, cultural, scenic, and recreational resources of the Presidio, and transferred administration of the park's interior lands and more than 700 buildings to the Presidio Trust. Today, the Presidio welcomes local, national, and international visitors and is home to a community of residents and diverse organizations.

After several recent visits to the Presidio to attend lectures (This was the one that caught my attention initially), I started to notice how much it had changed since I first saw it almost fifty years ago. I knew that some of the buildings had been leased to private companies, but not that the housing had been converted to rentals, nor that there were free shuttles to and within the Park, nor that a major program of restoration and face-lifting was underway. Sometime in the past year or two it has crossed a boundary from dreary old army base to vibrant semi-urban community. Thus far they have not permitted private development (most of the structures were inherited from the Army base), and the commercial enterprises are still low-key. Let's hope that continues. But I consider it already one of the great undiscovered marvels of San Francisco, and fear it won't be long before it's overrun with visitors. So let's try to keep it a secret.

Determined to explore the Park before it gets crowded, I decided my first adventure had to be a hike along Baker Beach and the cliffs north of it, ending at the toll plaza of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I started at my home in Concord, 30 miles inland from San Francisco.


Traveling via BART, our local rapid transit system, I debarked at Embarcadero Center to connect with the Presidio's Downtown Shuttle.


The shuttle runs from the corner of Washington and Drumm to the Transit Center in the Presidio. At peak hours ridership is restricted to those who live or work in the Presidio, but otherwise it's available to anyone.


From the transit center I caught the Presidio Hills shuttle, which makes a circuit around the upper (southern) side of the park, stopping at

Inspiration Point,
whence one can have a spectacular view northeast over the Palace of Fine Arts and Alcatraz.


My destination was this parking lot at the southwestern corner of the park.


Right across the street, what looked like a road leading into the woods. According to the map I had, it led to Baker Beach. What could go wrong?


The road degenerated into a path, then a smudge. But on the left was this extraordinary terraced back yard with faux pagoda.


I wound up crushed between a fence and a jungle, but saw light ahead.


Baker Beach, looking northwest to the Marin Headlands on the other side of the Golden Gate.


Looking north. (The fence surrounds a water treatment plant.)