There’s a lot to do on 1,500 acres.
The Presidio is one of San Francisco’s famous parks, located on a former military post. The city of San Francisco began from this point in 1776 when Spain established a military fort there. Prior to their colonization, Native American tribes including the Ohlone, Chochenyo, Karkin, Ramaytush, Yokuts, and Muwekma tribes inhabited the Bay Area for thousands of years.
Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, taking control of the post and establishing the Yerba Buena pueblo, which later became San Francisco. It was in 1846 that the Presidio became a U.S. Army post, serving generations of soldiers until 1994, when it became a national park site complete with museums, public art, grassy fields, and much more.
1. Fort Scott Organic Community Garden
This small green space was used for horticulture since 1915, and is now tended by community residents who cultivate edible plants and flora on more than 40 plots. You’ll find it behind the Kobbe Avenue neighborhood. There’s 2-hour parking from 1-8pm and a bathroom nearby.
2. El Polín Spring
If you’re a fan of birdwatching, El Polín Spring is a must-see. This natural spring has been nourishing animals and humans alike for thousands of years; in fact, the native Ohlone lived just downstream in a village called Petlenuc, near today’s Chrissy Village. Find it just off the Presidio’s Ecology Trail. There’s also two-hour parking nearby.
3. Presidio Pet Cemetery
Said to date back to the early 1950s, the Presidio Pet Cemetery served the military families who lived there until 1994. It’s now the resting place for Wiggles, Sammi, Cupcake, Jerry, and dozens of other beloved family pets, who are memorialized with handmade headstones. The cemetery is located at the interesciton of McDowell and Chrissy Field Avenue. It’s temporarily closed due to construction, but you can see it from the nearby Presidio Promenade.
4. Lobos Valley Overlook
This area of the Presidio has been used for cattle grazing pastures, vegetable gardens, army recreation and training grounds, a balloon hangar, and more. Park staff and volunteers worked hard to revive the native plants and sand dunes, so a visit today will give you a peek into how it originally appeared before humans took over. It’s accessible via the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail.
5-8. Andy Goldsworthy Sculptures
World-renowned artist Andy Goldsworthy has contributed 4 spectacular sculptures to the Presidio. It’s now the largest collection of his works on public view in North America.
- Spire: A 100-foot tall wooden taper, symbolizing the rejuvenation of the Presidio’s forests.
- Wood Line: A line of branches snaking through the eucalyptus grove near Lover’s Lane.
- Tree Fall : A root sculpture located into the Army’s old gunpowder storage house. Temporarily closed, accessible via docent-led tours.
- Earth Wall: A six-foot, spherical sculpture located in the Presidio Officer’s Club.
9. Mountain Lake
This is one of San Francisco’s last surviving natural lakes. It served as a central watering hole for thousands of years, serving the Ohlone tribes, Spanish explorers, and more. Mountain Lake has survived a highway reducing its size, locals releasing their pets into it (including turtles, goldfish, and even an alligator), pesticides from the local golf course, and more. It’s since been revived by park staff, volunteers, and scientists. The Juan Bautista De Anza National Historic Trail will take you to its shores.
[Featured Image: @janepfrank via Instagram]