Last Updated on December 2, 2018
I recently flew to San Francisco with my family for a quick weekend getaway. We were in town to watch my favorite podcast, The Adventure Zone, perform live at the Warfield Theater. If you’ve never heard of it before, The Adventure Zone is a comedy podcast featuring 3 brothers and their dad playing Dungeons & Dragons. I first started listening to The Adventure Zone on my PCT hike last summer and it kept me company for countless hours on the trail.
Since we were going to San Francisco anyway to indulge my inner nerd, we decided to make a weekend out of it. We did all the fun touristy things – we rode the cable car, ate dinner at The House of Prime Rib, and toured the historic boats at the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park.
In between touristy shenanigans, I snuck in an early morning hike of The Presidio along the San Francisco Bay. With over 24 miles of trails, the Presidio is a former U.S. military fort that was added to the U.S. Register of National Historic Places in 1966. The park is conveniently located only minutes from downtown – I called a Lyft from our hotel and was at the park 20 minutes later.
I decided to begin my adventure at Inspiration Point just inside the park’s Arguello Gate entrance. It proved to be a great starting point as I was immediately treated to fabulous views of San Francisco Bay and Alcatraz in the distance. The sun glimmered off the top of the Palace of Fine Arts through the trees, which is where I hoped to end my hike if all went well.
From Inspiration Point, I backtracked a few hundred feet to the Presidio Golf Course entrance where I joined up with the Bay Ridge Trail. The Bay Ridge Trail is planned to connect over 500 miles of trails in San Francisco counties into one giant loop. To date, over half of the trail is completed.
Signs warned of coyote activity in the area but I didn’t see any. The first part of the trail winds through a pleasant forest of towering Monterey cypress trees. I was surprised at the secluded nature of the forest, located in a section of the park known as “the southern wilds,” and passed few other hikers in this area.
After about a mile, I took a spur trail to the the San Francisco National Cemetery overlook. Benches provide a pleasant place to rest and take in the view of the cemetery and the Bay in the distance. From here I saw my first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge, partly obscured by trees.
I continued along the Bay Ridge Trail until I reached the Rob Hill Campground. Distinguished as the only campground in San Francisco, at $125 per night the Rob Hill Campground is also the most expensive campground that I have ever seen. I didn’t want to disturb the Boy Scouts that currently occupied the campground so I didn’t venture too close.
After passing the campground, the Bay Ridge Trail heads north until it joins the popular California Coastal Trail. Remnants of historic battlements lined the coast, a reminder of years past when the Presidio defended the coastline along the western United States. The day was heating up and I regretted not packing sunscreen or a shade hat.
I followed the trail under the Golden Gate Bridge as it rounded the tip of the peninsula – and that’s when it really got crowded. Hordes of visitors flocked to the bridge to take selfies and enjoy the views. I stopped off to buy sunscreen and a sun visor from the visitor center. I was to later regret not buying a hat as I ended up with a lovely sunburn along my scalp where I parted my hair.
I continued on the Bay Trail as it meandered along the coastline. Families played on the beach and fished off the pier as I strolled by.
I was running out of time, so I quickened my pace as I passed Crissy Field and Crissy Field Marsh. Soon I made it to my final destination, the Palace of Fine Arts. A magnificent structure built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Expo, the building seemed like a fitting end to my adventure.
From the Palace of Fine Arts, I called another Lyft to rejoin my family for brunch. What a fun way to start the day.