Golden Gate N.R.A., San Francisco
This is a good off the beaten path activity for hikers, joggers, biker dudes and plain ole locals plus tourists as it is not a crowded part of San Francisco the best part it that it is free. Well I have to start my review and here it goes, the Spanish named Lands End's westernmost promontory Point Lobos, so-called for the many lobos marinos (sea wolves, or sea lions as they're known today) that once hauled up on the rocks offshore. The rocks are now roosts for two dark bird species, cormorants and oystercatchers, among others. Trails at Lands End offer a cliff-top walk through shadowy cypress, with scenic overlooks, 30-mile views of the coast, and foot access to several shoreline pocket beaches so if you are nature dude or a bicylce dude or just a plain brisk walker or hiker dude, then this park is for you. These wave- and wind-carved headlands west of the Golden Gate connect two popular landmarks: the Cliff House and the Palace of the Legion of Honor and the views of the golden gate here are better than in touristy vista points since it provides a nature backdrop to the golden gate bridge so try this activity now!
Address: El Camino Del Mar, San Francisco, CA 94121
Directions: El Camino Del Mar, San Francisco, CA 94121, From downtown San Francisco, take Geary Boulevard west about 5 miles. At 41st Avenue stay right as Geary splits and becomes Point Lobos Avenue. About 500 feet past 48th Avenue, turn right (north) into the Merrie Way parking lot, where there is ample parking so do this tip now,
For fantastic views of Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands and Lands End that are free of crowds, avoid the parking lot for cars and buses at the bridge itself and pull off into one of the parking areas west of the bridge off Lincoln. The parking lot now has a paved entrance with lots of space for parking. You can walk on and around the old gun batteries and walk along the winding footpaths in either direction. The trail to the east leads right to Golden Gate Bridge, giving you a much more relaxing way to see it than fighting through the crowds at the main parking lot.
Mile-long Baker Beach lies at the foot of rugged cliffs west of the Golden Gate. Large waves, undertow and rip currents make the beach unsafe for swimming, but it provides panoramic views in all directions. Some years ago we hiked down to the beach, but they don't want you to do that - for good reason of safety and erosion.
Fort Mason was established in 1860 and grew to huge importance as the San Francisco Port of Embarkation, supplying US forces in the Pacific during World War II and the Korean War. In the 1960s, Oakland Army Terminal became the main port of embarkation through the Vietnam War, and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) took over the the fort in the 1970s. Today Fort Mason is the headquarters of the GGNRA, and is used for its open parks, the marina, and for cultural events in the old warehouses and piers. Fort Mason also has a hostel and many of the historic Army houses can be rented from the National Park Service.
Exploring the rugged coastline near Lincoln Park and the Presidio offers some outstanding scenic views of the Golden Gate, the beaches, and wildlife. In addition, one can see some of the century-old gun emplacements built by the US Army. This is all part of the Golden Gate National Recreational Area.
This area can be reached by Highways 1, 101 and 280 from the north and south San Francisco Bay Area, and by Highway 880 from the East Bay.
The address here is:
Building 201, Fort Mason
San Francisco,CA 94123-0022
Upon reaching the Pacific Ocean on the western end of Golden Gate Park, we found the famous Cliff House closed for renovations. So we redirected our energies north and followed the trails to the Sutro Bath ruins named after Adolph Sutro these grounds hold only the ruins of a once enormous glass enclosed roman bath santuary. Futher up the trail, torward point Lobos, you get to stroll amoung groves and firs and look down at the Pacific as it curls into South Bay. You can see a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge peeking out from the bluffs. From Point Lobos one gets fabulous views of the Bridge, the Bay and the Pacific Ocean all in one shot.
We went to Ocean Beach, on the west side of San Francisco, in order to see the Musee Mcanique (see below), only to discover that the location, in the Cliff House, is being renovated (most of the machines are at Pier 45 for the moment, but sadly the Camera Obscura was closed).
However, it wasn't a wasted trip: Ocean Beach has a gorgeous sandy strand, with plenty of waves to spice things up for surfers. It's dangerous, though: the inexperienced should not surf here, and swimming, and even paddling, can be fraught with danger. The adjoining Richmond District area is popular now with many Chinese people, who have moved out here after making a little money in Chinatown. As a consequence, there are plenty of Chinese and other Asian restaurants in the area.
The views out over the Pacific, and up and down the coast, are especially good if you climb up the hill to the Cliff House. Walk a little further up the hill and you can gaze out over the remains of the public bath house known as Sutro Baths built in 1896.
They were once the world's biggest swimming baths, and the photos give a sense of the astonising scale of the construction, with seven pools. The complex was destroyed by fire in 1966, and the ruins are surprisingly appealing.
It's called Land's End. Even though it's on the 49 Mile Drive and is adjacent to the Lincoln Park Golf course, it's a must see destination for any visitor to SF. From this vantage point, it's clear why it's called the "Golden Gate". And it's also clear, why it was obscured to explorers for so many years.
It's also a fantastic vantage point to watch the Blue Angels from, when they do their annual show during Fleet Week.
The Golden Gate National Recreation Area, on both sides of the Golden Gate Bridge, covers 75,398 acres, making it the largest urban National Park in the USA. It is 2 1/2 times the size of the City of San Francisco, and includes 28 miles of coastline. One of the best and last open areas is along CA-1, just north of the city. There is a Visitors Center for the Marin Headlands, hiking trails, Point Bonita Lighthouse, and some of the most stunning coastal scenery to be found anywhere.
To reach the Marin Headlands Take US-101 across the Golden Gate Bridge and follow it to CA-1. Turn left and this highway will take you north along the Pacific Coast. The road is narrow and winding in places. Allow plenty of time to stop along the way and admire the view.
Venture over the Golden Gate Bridge to the Marin Headlands. The narrow winding roads crest far above the deck of the bridge and offer amazing vistas of the city, bay, and ocean. The scenery is dramatic, and the high bluffs reminded me of my travels in Ireland. This is a MUST for any visitor to San Francisco.
West of Fisherman's Wharf is Fort Mason. A former military base, it's now used in several different ways.
In Upper Fort Mason, there's a serene park area in which a hostel is located. There's a number of private residences. There's a walking/bike trail that offers a fantastic view of the bay.
At the piers of Lower Fort Mason, there is a bustle of activities ranging from classes and workshops to entertainment events and expositions. A lot of people fish from these piers, too.
Hint: Valet Parking is $8 at the Lower Fort Mason Piers. You can save that money driving to the Bay and Franklin Street Entrance of Upper Fort Mason and driving to the hostel. There's 3 hour parking right next to the building. It's a quick 5 minute walk down to the piers, though you will have to go up the stairs to get back to your car.
This grassy area along the shoreline of the Marina District is gorgeous to walk along on any type of day. You'll get great views of the Bay, ships passing in and out, and the Golden Gate Bridge and Fort Point out in the distance.
Crissy Field was from 1919 to 1936 an grassy air field operated by the army air force from the neighboring Presidio. It was covered with concrete, and continued to operate until 1973. The Presidio itself shut down in 1994. Now, Crissy Field is being restored, where the barracks and concrete once were are coming back to their original grassland.
Crissy Field today is one of San Francisco's pleasure zones. You'll find joggers and bicyclists strolling down the promenade, passing grasslands, small boardwalks, restaurants and little marinas along the field. You'll also find plenty of people with their kites out, as well as boats and kite surfers.
Now this is one remarkable structure that has survived all the disasters and transformations that the city has experienced in the last 150 years. Built between 1853 to 1861 by the U.S. Army, it was meant to act as a guardian to the harbor in case any hostile fleet wished to steam in, especially the French and British. During the Civil War, the fort was used to guard the harbor in case the Confederate navy ever arrived, which they never did. The army withdrew from the fort in the 1880s as there was no longer any military threat to San Francisco, and was used in the World Wars as a depot and training facility.
When the Golden Gate Bridge was built, the engineers decided to either build over it or demolish the place. They chose to build over it, which is the reason why the bottom of the bridge on the San Francisco County side arches in order to go over the fort.
Today, it's run by the National Park Service. The place has been used in a number of films and television shows. Some of the best views of the gigantic Golden Gate Bridge overhead are here.
Sutro Baths opened in 1896. The remains of the pool can be seen just north of Ocean Beach. The actual house was in the midsts of being demolished in 1966 when a fire finished it off. The Sutro Baths were the last major project of millionaire, Adolph Sutro.
Fort Mason is a terrific place just to take a walk. It's near the tourist places along the wharf; an easy walk or bus ride away. The views of the bay and The City are wonderful. Also, on weekends, you'll often find exhibits and events. There are small museums and a very good vegetarian restaurant (Green's). It is right next to the yacht harbor and the Marina Green. The weather is usualy cool and foggy, but if you're lucky, you be there on a sunny day. You can get picnic food at nearby Safeway supermarket.
From down by Ft. Kronkhite at Rodeo Beach, you can look up into the hills and see a massive concrete structure built into the hillside. There are actually two of these gun implacements, placed in-service in 1938 to house the largest naval guns of the time, two 16-inch monsters of the type used on battleships. These weapons were to defend the mouth of San Francisco Bay, with their firing range of 23 miles out to sea! The guns are now gone (retired in 1948) but the labyrinth of tunnels and ammo magazines still remain, as seen here on our meandering walk through the hills on the now abandoned road network.