Some locals consider this the best San Francisco hike. There are many, many steps up and down the bluffs, but you will earn fantastic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the coastline.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 1.9 mile out and back hike is easy (although there are many steps).
Almost completely unshaded.
Dirt trail and steps.
1 hour or more.
Nice any time. No views when foggy, but lovely just the same
From southbound US 101 in San Francisco (just past the GGB toll plaza), turn right onto Merchant Road. After about 500 feet, turn right onto Lincoln, and almost immediately, right into the parking lot at Golden Gate Overlook, or continue to side of road parking on Lincoln near Kobbe.
From northbound 19th Avenue in San Francisco, bear left onto Cross Over Drive (in Golden Gate Park). Continue, now on 25th Avenue, to the junction with El Camino del Mar. Turn right. Continue, into the Presidio, now on Lincoln, to side of road parking near the junction with Kobbe, or to the parking lot at Golden Gate Overlook.
Get public transit directions:
511.org (enter Lincoln Boulevard at Langdon Court for destination)
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
parking lot at Golden Gate Overlook:
side of street parking on Lincoln:
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes,
Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, pay phones, stores, and restaurants in surrounding neighborhoods. No
Side of street parking along Lincoln, or parking in a dirt lot with designated handicapped spots, at the Battery Godfrey Golden Gate Overlook. No restrooms or drinking water at either trailhead. No parking or entrance fees. There are no paper maps offered, but the hike is well-signed. This trailhead is within walking distance of
public transit. Read
some cautions about urban hikes.
Trail is hiking only. No dogs.
The Official Story:
Presidio's B2B page
Map Choices/More Information:
This hike is
described and mapped in 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: San Francisco,
by Jane Huber (yup, that's me, the creator of this website). Order
this book from Amazon.com.
map of the Presidio trails and overlooks
The Walker's Map of San Francisco, by Pease
Press is perfect for this hike.
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
Think of a dream San Francisco hike: a path overlooking the ocean, with gorgeous views of the Golden Gate Bridge, a peaceful place where you could sit and watch the waves crash, or get your morning exercise running through a scenic landscape while birds sing and flowers bloom. You don't have to imagine this trail, because it already exists -- it's Batteries to Bluffs Trail in the Presidio.
Batteries to Bluffs Trail runs parallel to and downslope from Lincoln Boulevard and is mostly comprised of sets of steps and some flat sections of trail. You can hike in either direction, starting from the parking lot at the Golden Gate Overlook (described below) or from the side of street parking on Lincoln (this is my preferred trailhead, but there isn't much parking).
Begin at the parking area near Golden Gate Overlook. If you want to take in the view of the Golden Gate, follow the paved path to the north, then when ready return to the parking lot. There are three different paths that depart to the south: one edging along Lincoln, the second where a driveway connects two segments of parking lots, and a third on the western edge of the second parking lot. All three join, but for this hike, take the middle path.
The wide dirt trail weaves through a thin forest of Monterey cypress and pine. The understory is mostly invasive ivy. At .07 mile, bear right (the path left leads to the Pacific Overlook on Lincoln). A sign at the top of wood steps marks the start of Batteries to Bluffs Trail.
And here you'll begin the descent, with the trail already showing off fantastic views south to Lands End. In autumn you may see white-crowned sparrows flitting from ceanothus to coyote brush shrubs. Poison oak is a near constant companion along the path. In spring look for purple irises in bloom. The steps keep dropping, and the trail passes a bare rocky hillside. At 0.22 mile, note an overlook with a bench on the right -- this is an excellent rest stop on the way back uphill. The trail descends again, passing through a clump of willows. At 0.43 mile, turn right at the signed junction with Marshall Beach Trail.
The narrow path descends, then ends at one last set of stairs leading to the beach, at 0.50 mile. Here, you can gaze north to the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands. I often see brown pelicans flying in formation overhead, and on my last hike, in September, I was delighted to watch a pod of porpoises cavorting offshore. Explore the beach if you like, and when ready, retrace your steps back to the junction with Batteries to Bluffs Trail, then turn right.
The trail crosses over a year round trickling stream. Toyon, coyote brush, and coffeeberry thrive here. Soon, Batteries to Bluffs Trail begins to climb -- yes, more steps! At the top, the trail heads over the top of Battery Crosby (use caution here so you don't fall down on the left). As you enjoy views south to Baker Beach, watch for lizards scampering about. A few more steps head down to join a wide dirt track that leads up to Lincoln Boulevard. You could start back toward the Golden Gate Overlook now (at 0.83 mile), but consider walking up to Lincoln and the official end of the trail. If you do, you'll likely see purple bush lupine as well as San Francisco wallflower, buckwheat, and other lovely wildflowers blooming here in spring. This is also the section of trail where I commonly spot coyote scat. When ready, retrace your steps back to the trailhead.
Total distance: 1.90 miles
Last hiked: Thursday, September 20, 2012