National Park City Walk

Hike the Ridge Trail in Presidio National Park for Classic San Francisco Views

Bikers and walkers on the Bay Area Ridge Trail with the Golden Gate Bridge behind them

See San Francisco the way locals do by hiking the Presidio, a national park right in the city! Wooded trails, secluded beaches, and epic views of the Golden Gate Bridge feature on this 5.5-mile out-and-back on the Bay Area Ridge Trail. It’s a lovely slice of the City by the Bay.

Person in bare feet walking at Marshall Beach in San Francisco, with a view of the Golden Gate bridge

Marshall Beach in San Francisco with a northern view of the Golden Gate Bridge

Begin at the Arguello Boulevard park entrance. The Bay Area Ridge Trail begins beside the golf course, and immediately leads hikers into a lush eucalyptus and cypress forest. On the right, Andy Goldsworthy’s cypress art installation, The Spire, rises 100 feet into the sky, a symbol of the forest’s renewal and transformation.

Andy Goldworthy's cypress art installation The Spire in Presidio San Francisco

Follow signs for the Bay Area Ridge Trail as the route crosses Washington Boulevard. The path is lined with colorful (and edible!) wild blackberries and nasturtiums. Enjoy the beautiful splashes of gold, orange, red, and purple as the trail winds past Rob Hill Campground. This is one of only two campgrounds in the city. A quarter mile later, the trees thin to reveal the first view of the Pacific Ocean, along with the Golden Gate Bridge. Cross Lincoln Boulevard for a great selfie spot, then continue along the sandy path to the remains of the US Army batteries. These concrete structures were built at the turn of the 20th century to help defend the coastline.

Continue north along the Coastal Trail as it dips under the Golden Gate Bridge and emerges at a scenic viewpoint. To the northeast, Alcatraz Island and Angel Island can be seen in San Francisco Bay. To the southeast rises the downtown San Francisco skyline. And straight ahead to the north is the famed Golden Gate Bridge. Completed in 1937, the bridge connects San Francisco to Marin County. As the world’s longest and tallest suspension bridge at the time, it was seen as a symbol of American ingenuity and progress.

Detour briefly for a coffee and snack at the Round House Café. Those looking to dip their toes in the Pacific can hike back to the Batteries, and then turn right on the Batteries to Bluffs Trail, which adds 1 mile to the trip length. Follow the signs for Marshall’s Beach as they lead down a staircase path to the ocean. Often secluded, this beach is a local delight. Enjoy a water-level view of the bridge while picnicking on the wave-smoothed rocks.

Retrace your steps up the Batteries to Bluffs Trail and follow the Bay Area Ridge Trail back to the trailhead.

BONUS: Before leaving the Presidio, visitors with families will enjoy the new Presidio Tunnel Tops park. Relax at the Campfire Circle, play on the jungle gym, or grab a bite from local food trucks—all while surrounded by beautiful native gardens.

The Arguello Blvd. entrance is located at the intersection of Arguello Blvd. and Jackson St. in San Francisco. From I-280, exit onto CA-1 N. Continue onto Park Presidio, then turn right onto California St., then left onto Arguello Blvd. Continue into the park.The Presidio is free and open 24 hours a day. Dogs are not allowed on this section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail due to coyote activity.

Story and photos by Heather Werner, @heath.er.wer.ner

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