Easy 2.9 mile hike through the historic Presidio.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 2.9 mile loop hike is easy, with only a few hills. Presidio
elevation varies only slightly; the trailhead sits at about 265 feet, and
this hike's lowest spot is about 50 feet. Total elevation gain for the hike is 454 feet.
Mix of shade and sun.
Dirt trails and paved sidewalks.
1 1/2 hours.
Nice any time. Spectacular in early spring.
From CA 1/Park Presidio Boulevard in San Francisco, turn east onto Lake Street (if you're arriving
from the north, you can't turn left onto Lake, so go one more block and
turn right on California, then turn right on 15th Avenue, and right again
on Lake). Drive east on Lake about 0.75 mile, then turn north (left) onto Arguello Boulevard.
Drive about 0.3 mile on Arguello, through the Arguello Gate and into the
Presidio. Proceed on Arguello about 0.2 mile, to the Inspiration Point trailhead
on the right side of the road.
Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
(* based on Google Earth
data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
Not much within walking distance of the trailhead. Further north in the
Presidio, Crissy Field Center has a small cafe with sandwiches and coffee,
and the Warming Hut serves food as well. Gas, stores, and more restaurant
options on California Street. No camping.
Small parking lot, with one designated handicapped spot. No restrooms
or drinking water (there are restrooms along the hike). There are maps on an interpretive panel, but none to
take with you. No parking or entrance fees. The trails departing from this
trailhead are not well-suited to wheelchairs. This trailhead is accessible
by public transportation: several Muni bus lines run along California Street,
a short distance from the trailhead, and there's a Presidio shuttle bus
stop at the trailhead. Gas, pay phones, stores, and restaurants in surrounding
neighborhoods. Read some cautions about urban
Trails are multi-use, although equestrians are unlikely. Dogs are permitted
on leash only. Trails are open from dawn to dusk.
The Official Story:
William J. Mott, Jr. Visitor Center 415-561-4323
NPS's Presidio page
The Presidio Trust
website has a wealth of information regarding the Presidio.
The Walker's Map of San Francisco, by Pease
Press is perfect for this hike.
Use a detailed San Francisco street map to get there, and navigate
the hike. AAA's San Francisco map is good.
photos from this hike (old, out of date route -- included here for historical purposes).
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
first glance the 1,480 acres of the Presidio may seem to
blur the boundary between town and country, but in the time I've spent rambling here, I've found sharp contrasts. Hiking paths that
terminate at paved street intersections. Patches of native plants mixed
throughout acres of invasive and non-native vegetation. Pigeons and seagulls,
hummingbirds and hawks. History, views, tourists and locals. The Presidio
seems to have it all; some would say it's the park that couldn't say no. This former military installation
is home to an astounding inventory, including a golf course, human and
pet cemeteries, early San Francisco historical buildings, stables, tennis
courts, playgrounds, bunkers, batteries, forts, houses, offices, memorials,
exhibition halls, restaurants, beaches, a lake, forests, and fields. Residential
and business tenants have moved into the Presidio, and this section of
San Francisco has become a perfectly
planned community, where residents can stroll from their
rental units along shaded wildflower-lined paths to a lecture, movie,
or even back and forth from work. Somehow, this place just plain works.
It's unusual to hike in the
Presidio without spending some time walking along or near roads. Coastal Trail, departing to the north from Baker
Beach, offers the best views of the ocean, the Golden Gate Bridge, and
Marin Headlands. The out-and-back Bay Area Ridge Trail segment cuts a
broad swath through the Presidio, beginning at the Arguello Gate and meandering 2.5 miles
(one way) to the Golden Gate Bridge, on its way to Marin. Juan Bautista
de Anza National Historical Trail is just one tiny part of a massive historical
trail stretching from Mexico to San Francisco. The path, which begins
in the Presidio near Mountain Lake, is kind of an organic monument to
de Anza's expedition from Mexico to the Bay Area. The hike described on this page is a mix of old and new, city and wild.
Start at Inspiration Point, where
a parking lot and interpretive area were built in 2001. You'll likely
be drawn to the viewpoint -- on a clear day there are great views of the bay, Angel
Island, and Alcatraz. Native plants rim the overlook,
including California coffeeberry, coyote brush, and bush lupine. Look for
signed Ecology Trail departing downhill on the south side of the parking lot,
and walk down the stairs. After a short descent through ceanothus shrubs, you'll reach a T
junction. Turn left.
Fences protect serpentine grassland on the
right. According to an interpretive sign, this small grassy area is the
last San Francisco home to the native wildflowers tidytips, Presidio clarkia,
and Marin dwarf flax. Plan a visit in April for the peak of the bloom. As the wide trail angles across the hillside, you'll pass through a restoration area, where you might see park staff and volunteers
working to replenish the grassland with native plants. Ecology Trail descends to a junction at 0.13 mile. Turn left.
There's a thick
stand of redwoods on the right and a few toyon shrubs, but as the trail exits grassland most of the
vegetation is non-native, with eucalyptus,
Monterey pine, acacia, and broom dominant. Monterey cypress, a California
native, is also present, but like the imports, these cypress trees were
planted. Unsigned paths cross and
depart from the trail, but it's easy enough to stay on course as the trail
gently descends. At 0.41 mile, the trail reaches a junction with a substantially-sized
trail leading right to Barnard. Stay to the left. Fennel, nasturtium,
and blackberry, all edible plants, are common along the trail. At 0.51
mile, you'll reach an unsigned multiple junction. Bear right, and
at 0.52 mile, you'll reach the end of the dirt trail, and a paved street,
Funston. Continue right (straight) on Funston.
After just a few yards, before the junction of Funston and Moraga, turn right down a set of steps. At the base, turn left and walk along the side of Barnard. At 0.6 mile, just before the junction with Presidio, turn right onto Lovers' Lane.
The path squeezes between some towering
eucalyptus with blackberry in the understory, then crosses a tiny creek on an old bridge (circa 1885) and
enters Tennessee Hollow, a broad grassy, bowl-shaped meadow. The path, straight as an arrow, crosses
MacArthur and heads uphill. Lovers' Lane is a historic trail, used by soldiers as
a direct route to the Mission 3 miles southeast as early as 1776! Although
Lovers' Lane is lined with a forest of eucalyptus, cypress, pine, and ornamentals,
traffic on nearby busy Presidio Boulevard is audible and visible to the
When Lovers' Lane crosses Liggett, hop across the drainage channel on an obvious path to the left. After a few steps, you'll reach the lower end of Andy Goldsworthy's Wood Line, installed in 2010. Culled eucalyptus trunks snake uphill -- follow them to the work's terminus, then turn right and rejoin Lovers' Lane heading uphill. At 1.6 miles, Lovers' Lane continues straight toward the Presidio Gate -- instead, turn right onto Ecology Trail.
Initially the path follows along the side of W. Pacific Avenue. This is a confusing section of the Presidio, and you're worried about getting lost, follow the path along W. Pacific Avenue to Julius Kahn Park (the playground), then turn north and follow the remaining directions into El Polin Springs. Everyone else, turn right into the planted cypress forest and follow any wide path leading northwest. If you've navigated successfully, you'll pass a sports
field then reach an unsigned junction at 1.9 miles. Turn right.
The charming path begins a gentle ascent through planted natives, including twinberry, bush lupine, and coyote brush. A switchback drops the path down to El Polin Springs and a junction at 2.1 miles.
This oasis, restored in 2011, is one of the Presidio's treasures. The nearly flat path loops around a large lovely large willow, with planted osoberry, ceanothus, twinberry, elderberry, willow, and thimbleberry in the understory. El Polin Springs flows through the middle on a constructed channel. Birds love the tangle of vegetation in this area, and you might see and hear many natives such as juncos, flickers, hummingbirds, and crowned sparrows. Springtime flowers here include blue-eyed grass, iris, and California buttercup. Walk around the spring area on the path, then head north toward MacArthur Avenue (there are restrooms at the edge of the parking lot here). Near the charming picnic/bbq area, turn left onto signed Connector Trail.
Once up a steep set of steps, the path steps out from the shaded forest to a junction at 2.3 miles. Turn left.
Wide Quarry Trail sweeps easily uphill. There are nice views back down to El Polin Spring on the left, and on the right toyon trees dot the grassland where patches of goldenfields, California poppies, and ookow bloom in spring. At 2.4 miles a trail heads back to the south on the left. Continue uphill to the right. Look for Presidio clarkia and buckwheat blooming here on the hillside to the right in mid-May.
The trail ascends somewhat steeply back into the shade of cypress and eucalyptus. At 2.5 miles there's a crossroads junction. Continue straight uphill to a second junction at 2.6 miles, at the side of Arguello Boulevard. Turn right and after a few steps, cross Arguello at the signed crosswalk.
A nearly-level wide path leads to the Spire. Soaring 90 feet, Andy Goldsworthy's 2008 sculpture is constructed of Monterey cypress trunks. When you're ready, retrace your steps back to the side of Arguello, cross, turn left, and walk on the side of the road path to Inspiration Point trailhead.
: 2.9 miles
Last hiked: April 27, 2014