Crissy Field,
GGNRA/National Park Service,
San Francisco County
In brief:
Easy 3.3 mile walk along restored coastline with gorgeous views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay.

Distance, category, and difficulty
This 3.3 mile walk is completely flat and easy.

Totally exposed.

Trail traffic:

Trail surfaces
Dirt trails.

Walking time:
1 1/2 hours.

Nice any time.

Getting there:
(Finding your way through the Presidio can be a challenge even for long time SF residents. Pay attention, or you'll end up on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge.)
• From San Francisco, drive west on Marina Boulevard. At the intersection with Lyon Street, where Doyle Drive diverges left to the Golden Gate Bridge, continue straight onto Mason. Look for the East Beach entrance on the right.
• From Marin, drive south across the Golden Gate Bridge. Immediately past the toll plaza, turn right onto Merchant. Drive 0.2 mile, then turn left onto Lincoln. Drive about 1 mile, then turn left onto McDowell. Drive 0.2 mile, then turn right onto Mason. Continue about 1 mile, then turn left into the East Beach entrance.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead
Latitude 3748'21.11"N
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging
Crissy Field Center has a small cafe with sandwiches and coffee, and the Warming Hut serves food as well. Gas, stores, and more restaurant options on Lombard Street. No camping.

Trailhead details:
No parking or entrance fees. Parking in large lots that fill up quickly. Muni buses 28, 29, and 43 serve the area. Restrooms, pay phones, and drinking water near the parking lot and at Crissy Field Center; there are portable toilets in a few locations as well. There are designated handicapped parking spaces, wheelchair accessible restrooms, and trails are perfectly suited to wheelchairs.

Trails are open to walkers and cyclists (I didn't see any rules posted regarding equestrians, who are unlikely). Dogs permitted, although some areas are closed to them.

The Official Story:
Crissy Field Center 415-561-7690
GGNRA 415-556-0560
Fort Point 415-566-1693

Map Choices:
Map from GGNRA  (download Crissy Field pdf)
Map from Bay Trail

View photos from the featured walk.

Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

The restoration of Crissy Field seems nothing short of miraculous.East Beach parking lot Newcomers to this shoreline just east of the Golden Gate will no doubt be impressed by the beautiful natural setting. Those of us who remember what Crissy Field used to look like, and visited during the transition, are aware that the new Crissy Field took years to create. Crissy Field had been abused for years. The dunes and marsh of Indian days were leveled and filled (with garbage) so San Francisco could host the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Later, Crissy Field hosted military aircraft. In 1998 restoration began. Volunteers removed exotic vegetation and planted natives. Barren strips of pavement were removed and a lagoon and tidal marsh were constructed. Now water sparkles in the marsh, and shorebirds dig through the mud while pelicans fly over the waves. Dunes, supplemented with native plants, are showcases for lupine, buckwheat, and sand verbena blossoms. Some friends recently saw a whale spouting off the shore. All this in the shadow of the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay.Promenade along the marsh
     Crissy Field is a great place to take out-of-town guests. If you're playing tour guide to older or inactive folks, the flat grade (hospitable to wheelchairs) is a benign anomaly in our city-of-the-hills. Energetic outdoor types who like to walk or hike can be entertained with a stroll down Golden Gate Promenade, followed by a jaunt across the Golden Gate Bridge. If you really want a walk to remember, keep going once you hit terra firma in Marin, downhill to lunch on the water in Sausalito, then either walk or take a bus back into the city. Or pick up a trail into the Headlands, and view Crissy Field and the San Francisco skyline from there.
     Start walking west on Golden Gate Promenade. A low wall separates the wide paved trail from the loose sand of the beach, where dogs of all shapes and sizes can be seen romping through the gentle waves. At the edge of the parking lot, the trail splits at a signed junction. To the left a bridge crosses the marsh on the way to Mason Street and Crissy Field Center. Stay straight, toward Fort Point.Near the Warming Hut
     Along the marsh, fences guard young native plants, including beach strawberry, goldenrod, sticky monkeyflower, yarrow, and tansy. A bridge passes over the marsh's connection to the bay, creating a lagoon where you might see common shorebirds. The dunes to the north are dotted with pink sand verbena, beach primrose, and bush lupine. Long after most spring wildflowers have faded, yellow, pink, and purple flowers provide a dramatic counterpoint to the unobstructed views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island, and the Marin Headlands. Interpretive signs explain how the marsh works, and the history of Crissy Field; you'll find more interpretive signs along the promenade and on the other side of the marsh. At 0.5 mile, the promenade passes the "new" Crissy Field, a big improvement over the previous fenced pavement.Fort Mason and the Golden Gate Bridge  Lush grass carpets the field, which has a few paved paths. The Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center sits off the trail to the right. After crossing an access road, the promenade heads through another beautifully restored area, with picnic tables on the left. The Warming Hut is situated across from a fishing pier -- if you like, stop here for a bite at the cafe and then browse the store. Continue past the hut and pier. Golden Gate Promenade ends at Marine Drive. A signed trail to the Golden Gate Bridge is across the road; this is an optional extension to your walk. Turn right.
      From here walkers must share the road with cars. Waves crash against rocks to the right, while the serpentine soil of the cliffs to the left sustains a bevy of native plants. You might see seep monkeyflower, lizardtail, beeplant, willow, cow parsnip, and curly dock. At 1.6 miles, the road ends at Fort Point. You might recognize this magnificent view of the Golden Gate Bridge from a scene in Hitchcock's Vertigo. Fences obstruct further exploration; retrace your steps back to the eastern edge of the grassy lawn (AKA Historic Airfield). Bridge across the marsh
     You can return on the promenade, but you'll miss the different perspective offered on the south side of the marsh. Turn right and walk on the paved path to Mason Street. Turn left and walk on the paved bike and people path. If you'd like to visit Crissy Field Center, cross Mason at Halleck, otherwise, bear left onto the paved path that sweeps north and east through the marsh. There are more fledgling plants along the water. You might see California coffeeberry, pickleweed, cordgrass, and paintbrush. Once you've crossed the bridge, bear left and return to the promenade, then turn right and make your way back to the parking lot.

Total distance: 3.3 miles
Last visit: Friday, June 15, 2001