Presidio of San Francisco
Presidio was designated a National Historic Landmark and the site has been part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area since 1994
Wanderin' the Presidio: A Fun Guide to San Fran's Military Past and Present
Are you ready for some San Fran-tastic fun? Look no further than the Presidio, a hidden gem nestled in the north-western corner of the city.
First off, let's talk history. The Presidio has been around for centuries, starting as a Spanish fort in 1776 before being taken over by the Mexicans and then the U.S. Army in 1846. Over the years, the Army transformed the grounds from barren dunes to a lush, picturesque military post. And in 1962, it was even designated as a National Historic Landmark. Talk about a storied past!
But enough about the history lesson, let's talk about what the Presidio has to offer today. For starters, there are a ton of hiking trails and scenic overlooks that will take your breath away. Whether you're a seasoned hiker or just looking for a leisurely stroll, there's something for everyone. And the views from the overlooks? Oh baby, they are something else. Want to see the Pacific Ocean? Check out Immigrant Point Overlook. Want to see the city skyline? Head over to Inspiration Point.
And if you're feeling adventurous, check out the Lobos Creek dune habitat. It's like taking a mini trip to the beach without having to leave the city. Plus, you might spot some of the Presidio's furry residents like raccoons, foxes, and even coyotes. Just make sure to keep your distance and let them be wild.
But hiking and wildlife spotting aren't all the Presidio has to offer. There's also the House of Air, where you can jump on trampolines to your heart's content. And if you're a Disney fan, check out the Walt Disney Family Museum. It's like taking a trip down memory lane with all your favorite animated characters.
But wait, there's more! The Presidio is also home to the iconic Yoda Fountain, a must-see for any Star Wars fan visiting the Letterman Digital Arts Center. And let's not forget the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge is anchored at the northernmost point of the park. So not only will you get to enjoy the natural beauty of the Presidio, but also the iconic view of the bridge.
Getting Here and Getting Around
Getting to the Presidio is a breeze too. Just hop on the 28 MUNI bus or the free PresidiGo Shuttle and you'll be there in no time. And once you're there, you can hop on and off the shuttle to explore all the different areas of the park.
- The Presidio of San Francisco was originally a Spanish fort established in 1776.
- It was later controlled by Mexico for 24 years before being taken over by the U.S. Army in 1846.
- Over the next 148 years, the Army transformed the Presidio from mostly windswept dunes and scrub into a verdant, preeminent military post.
- In 1962, the Presidio was designated a National Historic Landmark and in 1994 it became part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
- In 1989, the Presidio ceased operation as an active military installation and was transferred to the National Park Service in 1994.
The Presidio of San Francisco originated as a Spanish fort in 1776 before Mexico gained ownership of the territory. In 1848, the United States took ownership of the land and it became a military outpost designed to protect the United States from naval threats.
Under American ownership, the Presidio was transformed from sparse dunes and shrubbery into a regional military post with roads, apartments, batteries, and more. The military even planted trees, many of which still stand today.
In 1989, the Presidio ceased operation as an active military installation. On October 1, 1994, ownership was transferred to the National Park Service, which operates and maintains the Presidio today.
The Presidio’s main draw is its multitude of hiking trails and scenic overlooks. Every morning, dozens of cyclists, joggers, hikers, travel through the Presidio. Locals and tourists alike enjoy this beautiful public park, which offers free transit via the PresidiGo Shuttle Around the Park.
Presidio hiking trails lead throughout the entire park, from the high tree-covered hills to the Lobos Creek dune habitat. The highlights of these trails are their overlooks, which offer breathtaking views of the bay, Pacific Ocean, city, and more. Visit Immigrant Point Overlook for panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. Inspiration Point offers views of the Presidio, Palace of Fine Arts, Alcatraz, and the bay. Find out more about Presidio Trails and overlooks at Presidio Experiences.
The Presidio is owned and operated by the National Park Service, which manages restoration and maintenance of the grounds and historical buildings. Officer housing has been converted into single- and multi-residential homes leased to the public, while other military housing and buildings are leased to nonprofits.
The NPS also manages the Presidio’s native plants and wildlife, removing invasive species and organizing volunteer projects to maintain existing trails. Visitors may notice tree removal in progress, enacted under a controversial plan to encourage the spread of the endangered native San Francisco Lessingia and Raven’s Manzanita.
Fauna & Flora
Now, let's talk about the flora and fauna. The Presidio is home to a variety of birds, from red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks to wild parrots. And if you're lucky, you might even spot some dolphins and porpoises swimming by Baker Beach.
But it's not just the animals that make the Presidio special. The park is also home to a variety of native plants and the National Park Service works hard to remove invasive species and maintain the trails. You might notice some tree removal in progress, but it's all part of a plan to encourage the spread of endangered native plants like the San Francisco Lessingia and Raven's Manzanita.
The Presidio is home to red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks, ravens, pelicans, juncos, and other native birds. Wild parrots, whose true origins are now lost, frequent the sunnier end of the Presidio near Letterman Digital Arts Studio. Their brilliant green and red plumage make them easy to distinguish from local songbirds, and their laughter-like vocalizations make them easy to locate. Raccoons, foxes, and an estimated 12 coyotes also live in the Presidio area. Visitors often spot these larger animals at dawn or dusk.
Dolphins and porpoises often swim past Baker Beach and are visible from the heights of the Presidio coastal bluffs. A tip for nature enthusiasts: if you spot pelicans, they are a good indicator that dolphins are nearby (both feed off the same schools of fish.)
The bedrock of the San Francisco and Marin Headlands is made up of serpentine, California’s state rock. Serpentine soils lack certain nutrients, so the plants in the area are specifically adapted to deal with the nutrient-poor soil. One such plant is the native Presidio Clarkia, a slender herb flower, which exists only in the San Francisco Bay Area and is endangered due to increased foot traffic in its native habitat.
The Presidio is usually foggy in the summer, even when the downtown Financial District is sunny. Depending on the time of year, fog either lingers or blows over to reveal sunny skies. Visitors should note that, as with all locations in San Francisco, the weather can change unexpectedly in a very short time. Layer in warm clothing that you can remove as the weather warms up. Walk, bike, or drive San Francisco’s most iconic landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge!!
Whether the sun is shining or fog is streaming through the bridge’s awe-inspiring arches, the Golden Gate Bridge is a must-see.
What to See and Do in the Presidio
Are you ready for an adventure? Look no further than the Presidio in San Francisco! This historic military post turned national park is chock-full of fun and exciting things to do.
First up on the list is Baker Beach. This sandy oasis is perfect for a relaxing day by the water. Keep an eye out for sea glass and sea gooseberries that wash up on the shore, and be sure to avoid the northern end if you're not into nudism.
Next, head over to the Walt Disney Family Museum for a trip down memory lane. Take a peek at pictures and stories of Walt Disney's life and check out materials from his early films.
Feeling patriotic? The San Francisco National Cemetery is a must-see. This 30-acre cemetery is the final resting place for over 30,000 military veterans and offers serene views of the bay through the Presidio trees.
Golfers, grab your clubs! The Presidio Golf Course offers 18 holes with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, the San Francisco Bay, and the Golden Gate Bridge. Make a reservation up to 30 days in advance or try your luck with a same-day spot.
Feeling hungry? Transit Cafe has got you covered with casual dining options and everyday essentials. Plus, the outdoor patio offers views of the San Francisco Bay that can't be beat.
Don't miss the Presidio Visitor Center, located at the heart of the park on the Main Post. It features interactive exhibits about the Presidio's history and a calendar of all the park's events.
Last but not least, stop by the Letterman Digital Arts Studio, owned by none other than George Lucas himself. You might catch a glimpse of movie industry professionals sipping lattes at the nearby Starbucks or even overhear Lucasfilm employees discussing characters (with names carefully omitted, of course). And be sure to check out the Yoda Fountain, paying tribute to the beloved Star Wars franchise.
So pack a picnic, lace up your hiking boots, and get ready for a day of fun in the sun at the Presidio. Happy adventuring!