Enjoy San Francisco's Hidden Treasure at Presidio

Trip length

A few hours

Metropolitan area

San Francisco, CA

SF Bay Area Trip Highlights

Accommodations

Culture, history

Food & Drink

Getaways

SF Bay Area Neighborhood

Presidio

Overview

For anyone who wants a relaxing and exuberant family weekend getaway without leaving city limit of San Francisco, Presidio is the best bet. Hands down!

Presidio San Francisco is a military based turned park located in the northern tip of San Francisco, it's filled with nature, incredible views, 800+ historical building, miles of trails, beaches, and wildlife.

And it's BIG! In fact, it's 50% bigger than golden gate park!

80% of presidio park is managed by presidio trust, a distinctive federal agency of US government who transferred presidio military base into an extremely interesting national park in less than 20 years of time (1995 to date), the other 20% (most are coastline part of the park) is managed by The National Park Service.

Here is what you and your family can do at Presidio:

1. Picnic at Presidio with OfftheGridsf.com
Check out Twinight at Main post, a weekly event organized by OfftheGrid who brings together the best food trucks in San Francisco; The cabanas are free but first come first serve, so make sure you plan ahead and come early, there will be a crowd! In fact, this event is drawing bigger crowd, is probably the most popular outdoor family/friends event in San Francisco, the experience is unbeatable. Kudos to Presidio Trust and OfftheGrid, who work together to make this happen. (FYI: Main post is the center stage of the "formal" presidio experience: You can explore newly renovated historical buildings, Walt Disney Family Museum, and 2 football field sized meadow with the view of Golden gate bridge and the entrance of San Francisco bay. Beloved Presidio Inn is tucked away in a southwest corner, at the foot of a cozy ecology trail with lots of giant redwoods!)

2. Wild blackberry picking at Fort scott
Fort scott is on the 'hidden' west side of highway 1 that goes right in the middle of park, it's just a stone throw away from golden gate bridge, but very few people know about this beautiful campus, which used to be dedicated to defending San Francisco Bay, introduced Mission style architecture to the Presidio. Fort Scott offers amazing views and is situated near several trails and scenic overlooks to the pacific ocean's entrance into San Francisco bay. It is also the backdrop for popular volunteer stewardship activities that take place at Presidio Nursery and in the surrounding landscapes. Fort scott field is filled with native wild blackberries, during the foggy summer time, blackberry is everywhere for you to enjoy! There are a diamond baseball field that is very popular among local kids sports team, you will often see kids playing soccer and softball on the field while parents watch and chitchat with each other, with San Francisco downtown and bay view in the background.

3. Camping and sleep under the star at Rob hill campground nearby Fort scott field. There are many trails around and a stone throw away from "immigration point overview" point that opens right up to the pacific ocean.

4. Bird watching and light hiking at Tennessee Hollow and El Polin Spring

El Polin spring is a small stream from the presidio hills high ground flowing into crissy field, its crooked boardwalk takes you up to Julius Kahn Playground, and southern border of Presidio park and magnificent mansions district in pacific height district. You can even walk to Presidio golf course to the west, or walk to the lover's lane and lyon street steps which is the beginning of so called "billionaire row" mansions neighborhood. Or you can simply enjoy the quiet bird watching and listen to stream flowing.

"Six plant communities overlap at El Polín Spring: coastal prairie, serpentine grassland, freshwater marsh, willow riparian, coastal scrub, and oak woodland. Each one provides valuable habitat for wildlife with many important microhabitats that provide shelter, nesting sites, forage, and water for a variety of wildlife species. This diversity of habitat in such a small area contributes to the ecological richness of El Polín." - presidio.gov

5. Take a walk on Lover's lane.
Lover's lane starts from southwestern entrance of presidio park bordering Broadway and Presidio street. It's 0.6 miles long flanked with giant eucalyptus trees, among which sits the infamous Andy Goldsworthy’s sculpture Wood Line! Lover's lane is a light hike you can enjoy the residential red brick buildings that makes presidio oh so special. And as the name points out, there were lots of lovers stories in the past, you will have to walk it to find them!

6. Playing golf at 18 holes Presidio Golf Course
The grass so green, ocean breeze so comforting, ever changing natural lights so illuminating, playing at Presidio golf course is a fine treat. You have to do it at least once!

7. Pay respect at National cemetery, which appeared in many movies and have incredible views of the bay. There a few woody/leafy trails on its overlook point adjacent to some residential buildings on Presidio, Coyotes are sighted in the area!

8. Letterman district: Check out the China Brotsky Art
Gallery at the Thoreau Center for Sustainability, restaurants, most comfortable Starbucks in the world, Yoda statue and meadow at the Letterman Digital Arts Center

9. Sun bath at baker beach
Baker beach is the go-to-beach for San Franciscans in a good sunny day, as it's tucked in a little harbor surrounded by tall cliff. Hence the harsh pacific wind doesn't blow quite here, unlike 4 miles long ocean beach which is always windy. You can easily walk to baker beach from immigrant point overlook on the moss coated trails in about 10 minutes. Immediately adjacent to baker beach are the old gun stations commissioned in the 19th century till second world war, though there was never one single canon shot fired in the history of San Francisco bay, isn't that something?!

10. Walk, jogging, play, picnic, windsurfing, kitesurfing, dog walking/running on Crissy field. It is popular among all visitors to San Francisco and true people's recreational area. Rich or poor, mansion dwelling snobs or working class, everyone has a spot in Crissy field.

11. Explore the magnificent Fort Point national historical site at Golden Gate Bridge.
Make sure to walk on the rooftop admiring the way Pacific ocean enters Golden Gate, or how Golden Gate embraces the massive Pacific ocean, and look up, down and around. You won't be disappointed!

Also, Read this on WikiPedia: Fort Point is a masonry seacoast fortification located at the southern side of the Golden Gate at the entrance to San Francisco Bay. This fort was completed just before the American Civil War by the United States Army, to defend San Francisco Bay against hostile warships.

12. Volunteer opportunities are available daily except Monday, it's a great way to help restore the natural beauty of Presidio.

13. Hangout with Yoda at LucasFilm office housed at Letterman Digital Arts Center. LucasFilm is not open to public but with some hacking, you can get in for a sneak peek at
creative genius of George Lucas and his crew.

14. Stay at Inn at the Presidio
Awarded as "Inn at the Presidio is located at historic Pershing Hall on the Main Post, the “heart of the Presidio." In 2011, the Presidio Trust completed a historic rehabilitation of Pershing Hall, transforming it into the park’s first lodge, Inn at the Presidio. The interior design celebrates the Presidio’s rich past referenced with Americana, artisan details, and memorabilia. The Inn’s daily operations are conducted with environmentally sensitive practices in mind. features an inviting front porch with rocking chairs, a dining room for breakfast and evening receptions, and an outdoor deck with a fire pit. The Inn is an ideal starting point to experience the history and beauty of the Presidio, including miles of hiking trails, public events, cultural destinations, and wild open spaces.

15. Tracking down wild coyote
Wild coyotes live on presidio's massive wilderness. They can be spotted at dust near more remote places like Fort scott field, dense woods near cemetery overlook or places with stream like El Polin spring.

16. Workout with locals on Lyon street steps
Lyon street steps are super popular among locals who love exercise. It's located at the end of Broadway street near Billionaire row mansion neighborhood, with incredible view of Alcatraz.

17. Admire Apple Chief Designer Jony Ive's newly purchased mansion at Broadway/Lyon street entrance of Presidio.

18. Visit and volunteer at Presidio nursery
The Presidio Nursery nurtures not only thousands of plants, but also hundreds of volunteers and youth from throughout the Bay Area. Founded in the spring of 1995, the nursery is a vibrant collaborative effort of three agencies: the Presidio Trust, National Park Service, and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. Together they support the nursery’s goal of restoration within the Presidio. In 2012, the nursery grew 120,000 plants—twice its usual number!

In addition, the Presidio Nursery grows many trees to support the Presidio reforestation effort, including about 300 Monterey cypress trees each year. The nursery also nurtures native trees such as Coast live oak, Wax myrtle, and California buckeye.

The nursery is a lively complex with greenhouses and shade houses filled with plants, an educational garden, the Habitarium where volunteers meet, and a lab for more detailed study. Visitors to the park can stop by to volunteer on certain days or to explore. For those just passing through, there are educational signs as well as staff and interns on site.

The nursery is located at 1249a Appleton Street, in the Fort Scott District.

19. Spot an owl or two, or red tail hawks
Owl and red tail hawks are residential birds at Presidio, you can see them fly atop tall eucalyptus trees nearby main post and lyon street steps.

20. Get married at "chapel for our lady"
Presidio's "chapel for our lady" was a popular wedding venue dating back to 100 years ago for many service men and women. Today, its charm still attracts modern day couples. It sits next to Inn at Presidio.

21. Planning your events at 12 spectacular venues on Presidio campus.
The Presidio is a magnificent place to gather, no matter what the occasion. Intimate chapels, elegant reception sites, and conference facilities provide a beautiful backdrop for weddings, celebrations, meetings, and retreats.

Following are the venues:
Golden Gate Club
The Observation Post
Chapel for our lady
Log cabin at Fort Scott
Officer's club (under renovation in 2013/2014 season)
Inspiration point
Presidio chapel
Presidio institute at Fort Scott
Presidio golf course club house
Presidio social club
Presidio film center

22. Bowling at Presidio bowl!
What can be more All American family living than going bowling on an old military base's bowling alley? Presidio bowl is such a classic. It also serves food and drink. For some bowling inclined, you can spend half day there if you want.

23. Workout at YMCA at Presidio.
YMCA at Presidio is a gym of its own class, working out there make me feel classy, which is kind of weird but in a good way. Maybe it's the building itself that is full of history? Maybe its the nearby Lucas film's yoda blessing? Or maybe it's the old canon decorating the grass field outside?

24. Batterys to Bluffs Walking Trail to Marshall beach.
Batteries to Bluff’s walking Trail goes up and down the bluffs & past Marshall Beach. It eventually ends up about .7 miles away at Battery Crosby. This little trail is the best place to see how pacific ocean and San Francisco bay meets at Golden Gate Bridge, the bridge itself is at its most crisp, sharp when viewed from here and Marshall beach below. Crashing and sharp rocks create a little heaven for nude inclined. Don't be surprised if you see something dangle!

25. Get most expansive views in one weekend
Presidio park has many famous overlooks, vista points, following are the main ones with $10 million view each.

Inspiration point overlook to Palace of fine arts, Alcatraz and SF bay

Immigrant point overlook for Pacific ocean sunset

Marshall beach trail for best eye level closeup of Golden Gate Bridge

Crissy field overlook: get a nice view of historic Crissy Air Field, Crissy Field marsh, Golden Gate Promenade (Bay Trail), SF Bay and the City skyline.

Cemetery overlook for serenity and incredible bay view

Main post grand parade grounds with view SF bay with Alcatraz is in the background. You will see many kites flying on daily basis as Kite surfers love crissy field.

Fort Scott softball field with view to city's sky line and Alcatraz

26. Off the Grid: PICNIC + TWILIGHT at the Presidio
The Presidio Trust has partnered with Off the Grid, San Francisco’s largest organizer of street food markets, to host two spectacular outdoor events on the Presidio Main Parade Ground, Every Sunday, April 6 to October 26, 11 am to 4 pm, with Artisanal Food, Bubble Bar, DJ, Yoga, Family Fun; All to "celebrate evenings in a relaxed and immersive manner – complete with lantern-lit dining cabanas, cabana-side cocktail service, Adirondack chairs, fire pits, live music, and views of the sun setting over San Francisco Bay. Twilight is a prime "meet up" location for a family outing, a first date, or simply a memorable dinner with friends." - prisidiosf.gov

27. Eye forage wild food in the woods
There are lots of wild edible plants in presidio park, however Commercial foraging is illegal in all California state parks.

Foraging is getting more popular thanks to Iso Rabin, founder of foragesf.com, who is considered as one of pioneers in the foraging area. Iso himself foraged presidio grounds for wild radish, wild mushroom but he has since stopped due to violation of law. But it never hurt to just watch, or "eye-forage".

For me, I only forage wild blackberries for personal enjoyment.

28. Check out "dead sailor society"
Did you know that the Marine Cemetery Vista overlooks a Marine cemetery where hundreds of sailors from 30 states and 43 countries were buried between 1881 and 1912. A memorial stone plaque at the vista pays tribute to the seamen who died at the nearby hospital. Come check it out next time you're strolling through the area!

29. Attend events at the Walt Disney Family Museum
First thing first, check out its full calendar of interesting events and exhibits hosted at the 40k-square-foot museum located in a historic brick building on the main post of San Francisco’s Presidio. Visitors can also enjoy our Museum Store, Learning Center, and Fantasia-themed theater, which shows Disney classics six days a week. Co-founded by Walt’s daughter, Diane Disney Miller, and his grandson, Walter E. D. Miller, the museum is owned and operated by the Walt Disney Family Foundation, a nonprofit foundation.
- See more at: http://www.waltdisney.org/about-us#sthas h.lBEOeu43.dpuf

30. Sitting on the chain near Fort Point and get romantic
Get romantic near Fort Point, you have seals and surfers and golden gate bridge and crashing waves as witness for your romance.

31. Check out the goats garden at Upton corner right off Fort Scott field, these goats are so agile and cute! They were just brought over here on May 1, 2014!

32. Indulge your taste buds at the newly opened (May 20, 2014) California Spanish cuisine restaurant by celebrity chef Traci Des Jardin.

How to get there and get around

Most of the entrances to Presidio park are not obvious and often out of the beaten path.

1. Most "tourists" usually drive to crissy field first, then they will ask people how to get to "main post". Most people will never explore further than main post, which is a pity.

2. Unless living on Presidio (there are total 3000 residents living and working there), locals usually drive into Presidio from richmond entrance, their first stop would be baker beach, although fort scott is just minutes away, most locals don't know where it's at and never had chance to go. Pity again.

3. Trend setter and true locals like me, hehe, will enter Presidio from Lyon street steps entrance, first visit will be lover's lane, then drive along pacific ave wall passing Presidio golf course, stop by Inspiration point. I often grab a cup of hot coffee on an early Saturday morning, look out onto the bay from inspiration point. Ecology trail is great for a light hike and bird watching/listening.

4. If you are at insider level, again, like me, you will drive straight from inspiration point to fort scott field, stopping by immigrant point overlook. Of course, to enter presidio you will drive into presidio from Presidio ave entrance. Easy.

5. Marina residents usually enter Presidio from letterman digital arts center entrance and lyon street, that is probably the most proper way to enter Presidio...

Best Restaurants (or places to eat) in the area

1. The Commissary
Crown jewel of Presidio food program is the The Commissary at the Presidio, a 112-seat restaurant featuring California cuisine with Spanish influences, offered by Top chef contender celebrated Bay Area chef Traci Des Jardins serving park visitors, residents, and employees. The Commissary is housed on the first floor of a former barracks building on the Presidio’s Main Post.

2. Presidio social club
3. Beach hut cafe
4. CafeRx
5. Kitchen39
6. Presidio bowling center
7. Presidio cafe
8. Warming hut
9. Starbucks
10. Transit cafe
11. Disney Museum Cafe
12. Golf course general store Cafe
13. Off the Grid food truck at main post: PICNIC + TWILIGHT at the Presidio

SF Bay Area Neighborhood Characteristics

Inn at the Presidio.
Rob hill campground.

Local hangouts, Shopping spots

1. See Where to eats
2. Main post
3. Baker beach
4. Julius Kahn play ground
5. Starbucks at Letterman digital arts center
6. Presidio social club
7. Fort scott tennis field

 
Pic by @manmom

A typical presidio residential building

 

Immigrant Point Overlook

 
Pic by @carollerdal

Wild coyote can be seen in many parts of the presidio park.

 
 
Pic by @themarlfox

People enjoy all kinds of activities on crissy field adjacent to Presidio.

 
 
Pic by @presidiosf

Main post of presidio, red brick building is the signature presidio style.

 
 
Pic by @presidiosf

Bird watching is a popular activity at Presidio, bring the binoculars!

 
 
Pic by @presidiosf

Look what I found!

 

El Polín Spring

 
Pic by @presidiosf

This is El Polin spring boardwalk, see the willow trees in the middle? Birds love to drink from the stream underneath it.

 
 
Pic by @presidiosf

OfftheGRID family picnic on main post campus. Yet, few of them know about the other side of Presidio park: fort scott! Let's go see it!

 
 
Pic by @presidiosf

A new art work sign is being put up at my favorite spot in the park: the pine tree woods on the way from main post to fort scott. Its very quiet most of time, yet it's so close to the beach. The highway in the background is highway 1, fort scott is just a minute of drive from it.

 

Presidio of San Francisco

 
Pic by @presidiosf

Morning with Sunlight's echo, oh so presidio!

 
 
Pic by @presidiosf

Fog and lights.

 
 
Pic by @presidiosf

Yes, this is the fort scott field, the building around the field is spanish style which is quite different from the rest of Presidio park. You can walk to golden gate bridge from here in about 10 minutes. But why bother? It's perfectly quiet, beautiful and relaxing here. You can run, play softball, soccer, or best yet, eat some wild blackberries, they are everywhere.

 
 
Pic by @presidiosf

Fort scott in the summer fog.

 
 
Pic by @presidiosf

You can often see these good looking folks in the park.

 
 
Pic by @presidiosf

When this happens, you know your heart will be left in San Francisco forever.

 

presidio urban watershed

 
Pic by @guotime

Watershed near Fort scott

 
 
Pic by @guotime

Kids playing at fort scott's soccer/baseball field.

 
 
Pic by @guotime

Oh so spanish!

 
 
Pic by @guotime

This is how typical stairs at Fort Scott's building look like: those lines!

 
 
Pic by @guotime

These guys have a good life in the park!

 
 
Pic by @guotime

Where is Kate Upton? This is the Upton ave leading to Fort Scott field. Many old military officer's mansions nearby are now occupied by wealthy families.

 
 
Pic by @guotime

Massive pacific ocean outside of golden gate bridge bay, viewed from immigrant point overlook at Presidio.

 
 
Pic by @guotime

During the summer time, @Karlthefog is one of permanent resident at Presidio.

 
 
Pic by @guotime

Wild Blackberries are seen everywhere. They are delicious!

 
 
Pic by @guotime

Summer fog knows how to dance.

 
 
Pic by @guotime

Walking down to the beach from presidio. It's long stairs covered with thick sand, not sure how sand got all to the top! Isn't it amazing?!

 
 
Pic by @guotime

Trail stairs lightly coated with moss.

 

Presidio of San Francisco

 
Pic by @guotime

This is the view from the inspiration point.

 
 

Geek out in front of Yoda at Lucas' film office housed at letterman digital arts center.

 
 
Pic by @cyn_mtz

Lucasfilm ltd!

 
 
Pic by @mysa_g

What do you see Yoda?

 

Lovers Lane

 

Take a walk on Lover's lane, which used to be the fastest shortcut from presidio military base to city life of San Francisco, some 100+ years ago for many military service men and women.

 
 

Andy Goldsworthy’ wood line next to lover's lane.

 
 
Pic by @fadrmartin

Andy Goldsworthy’ spire next to inspiration point and Presidio golf course provides a spot for solitude, meditation. Many locals enjoy jogging on the wooded trails there.

 

San Fran

 

Lyon street step is very popular among locals who love exercise, but the location is a bit hidden and hard to get to.

 
 

Presidio's fort scoot field is immediately adjacent to Golden Gate Bridge, yet not many people know about and its perfect for a walk for solitude.

 
 

Presidio national cemetery overlook

 
 

Iconic Presidio woods in morning lights. The air is oh so fresh, great place for a quiet walk.

 
 
Pic by @heatheretty

Inn at the presidio was the 2012 winner of "one of kind experience in San Francisco" of Fodor's Hotel's trendsetter category.

 
 
Pic by @jbowen72

Military history is what you can feel and touch (don't touch though;) at Inn at the Presidio.

 
 

Apple's chief designer Sir Jony Ive's newly purchased house (2013 for $17.5 million) on Broadway street's prestigious billionaire row neighborhood near Lyon street entrance to Presidio.

 
 
Pic by @presidiosf

Another view at Lover's lane.

 

Presidio of San Francisco

 

The entrance to the short ecology trail at the inspiration point.

 
 
Pic by @rattanasamy

Volunteers organized by Presidio nursery are frequent sighted on almost daily basis, they are very important for reforestation of Presidio.

 
 
Pic by @marco_young

Presidio's charming chapel of our lady is a popular wedding venue.

 
 
Pic by @uglyogre

Girl who bowls.

 
 
Pic by @katieayers

A light dance at Presidio social club

 
 
Pic by @offthegridsf

Family fun at main post

 
 
Pic by @sofftcor

Kids love this primitive hideout at Andy Goldsworthy’ wood line next to lover's lane.

 
 
Pic by @honestnoj

Another view of Andy Goldsworthy’ wood line next to lover's lane.

 

Crissy Field

 
Pic by @myssterri

Sailing, windsurfing, kitesurfing are popular sports happening daily near crissy field

 
 
Pic by @chadupham

Lucas film at letterman digital arts center

 
 

Off te grid twilight picnic.

 
 
Pic by @presidiosf

Rainbow meets rainbow girl at Presidio.

 
 
Pic by @philkirouac

Big swing on presidio golf course.

 
 

The changing natural lights at pres

 

Presidio of San Francisco

 

Get in the time machine!

 

Fort Miley

 

Watch sunset at Immigrant point overlook

 
 
Pic by @hannahgd

Crissy field overlook: get a nice view of historic Crissy Air Field, Crissy Field marsh, Golden Gate Promenade (Bay Trail), SF Bay and the City skyline.

 
 
Pic by @mwintriss

The Presidio starts with history.

 

Presidio of San Francisco

 
Pic by @thewoodlands

Eye-Forage wild mushrooms at presidio: Commercial foraging is illegal in all California state parks.

 
 
Pic by @presidiosf

Uncover the secret of "dead sailor society": the Marine Cemetery Vista overlooks a Marine cemetery where hundreds of sailors from 30 states and 43 countries were buried between 1881 and 1912. A memorial stone plaque at the vista pays tribute to the seamen who died at the nearby hospital. Come check it out next time you're strolling through the area! - @presidiosf

 

The Walt Disney Family Museum

 

The Walt Disney Family Museum has a full calendar of events.

 

Fort Point National Historic Site

 

Red and Rad fort point right underneath Golden Gate Bridge

 

Fort Point National Historic Site

 
Pic by @juliamehler

Get romantic near Fort Point, you have seals and surfers and golden gate bridge and crashing waves as witness for your romance.

 
 
Pic by @guotime

A family of goats are very recently (May 1st, 2014) introduced to Upton corner at Fort Winfield Scott on west Presidio. They are so adorable!

 

presidio urban watershed

 
Pic by @guotime

This is the family who is giving us a portrait!

 

presidio urban watershed

 
Pic by @guotime

Notice toward the end of the clip: the baby coats are drinking mommy goat's milk, how adorable!

 

Off the Grid: Picnic at the Presidio

 
Pic by @guotime

It's 3pm, the Folks at @Offthegrid are getting ready for a busy twinight at Presidio food truck/family/friends time every other Thursday and Sunday afternoon. These white comfy cabanas are FREE to use, but first come first serve. So, plan ahead and come early!

 

Off the Grid: Picnic at the Presidio

 
Pic by @guotime

OfftheGRID: Cabana time on Presidio!

 

Off the Grid: Picnic at the Presidio

 

OfftheGRIDsf at Presidio with best food trucks and cocktails for your outdoor enjoyment! #RAD

 

Presidio of San Francisco

 

The sign was up a few weeks before the opening of the highly Anticipated restaurant by top chef contender Traci Des Jardin.

 

The Commissary

 

Some of the artwork here at the commissary at the presidio.

 
 
Pic by @presidiosf

Here is a good photo of Chef Traci Des Jardin and Chef Robbie Lewis at the presidio's preview party a few weeks back before the May 20, 2014's grand opening of "theCommissary" restaurant.

 

Presidio of San Francisco

 
Pic by @thehils

Ladies are already liking the classic good looks of "theCommissary" at Presidios.