Hike Date: January 20th, 2013
Distance: ~ 3 miles
Trail(s): California Coastal Trail, Batteries to Bluffs Trail
Where’s it at? Presidio, San Francisco, CA


The Presidio is a large park on the northern tip of San Francisco, just south of the Golden Gate Bridge. The park has a large network of trails and can be a surprising escape from the crowds just next to a bustling city. It encompasses Chrissy Field to the east, Fort Point to the north, and some pristine Pacific coastline to the west, with not-so-native forest areas in the middle.

For this hike I was heading south into the city, and took the very first right, immediately after the toll booths to find a parking spot in the lot on the right. This lot is often crowded but the turnover of cars moves quickly enough that you can probably wait 5 minutes and someone would leave. The parking is free. There aren’t any facilities like a bathroom or water here but you can go to Fort Scott field, not too distant if needed. The California Coastal Trail runs adjacent to this parking lot so it is super easy to get right on the trail.

The first three quarters of a mile of this hike are along the California Coastal Trail which meets up with the Batteries to Bluffs trail later on. They have been doing some tree work and other construction in this whole area for a couple years now but, surprisingly, it really doesn’t distract from the beauty or serentiy. The only downside of this area to me is the crowds that show up if you happen to visit on a weekend day.

So why is this called Batteries to Bluffs? Along the way, especially in the beginning portion, hikers are greeted by historic gun batteries once used to protect entry into the San Francisco Bay. If history is your thing I highly recommend checking these batteries out in addition to a visit to Fort Point which you can reach from this trail by heading east instead. The batteries have become part of the plant life at this point and there isn’t any kind of military feel, it only augments the already scenic trails.

Most of this trail is on sand but for the most part it’s hard-packed. I can only imagine all the hours of work that were put in to create the well constructed stairways that take you up and down the sandy cliffs and bluffs in the area. From these staircases you get good views of small rock islands just off the coast that are usually full of sea birds and I don’t think I’ve ever NOT seen seals or sea lions swimming or relaxing here also. I’d imagine that you could get a view of whales at some point though I’ve never seen any. On a clear day you can see all the way out to the Farallon Islands, which someday I hope to take a boat tour to.

I really like Marshall’s Beach which is often uncrowded and offers some great photo opportunities of the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands. The trail leads down here although you don’t have to walk all the way down to the beach. You continue to wrap around the northwestern coastline and will eventually end up above Baker’s Beach which is not quite as scenic nor empty. We took the “Sand Ladder” which was a very steep and straight staircase down to the water. It’s a good workout going the opposite direction although on our return we took the high road for a change of scenery, walking along the road back to our car.

This and really all the trails in the Presidio make for a great visit. The Presidio is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area which has so many great trails that it’s hard to even recommend one over the others. Definitely pay this place a visit if you get a chance.

Photos from Batteries to Bluffs Hike (click to enlarge)

Hiking Batteries to Bluffs Trail in San Francisco Hiking Batteries to Bluffs Trail in San Francisco Hiking Batteries to Bluffs Trail in San Francisco
Hiking Batteries to Bluffs Trail in San Francisco Hiking Batteries to Bluffs Trail in San Francisco Hiking Batteries to Bluffs Trail in San Francisco
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