Monday, March 16, 2015

A walk in the Presidio

I once told someone that I was “not much of a hiker”.  I went on to explain that I preferred a more "urban environment" for my strolls.  I was drawn to the ever-changing scenery of walking in my neighborhood, admiring century year old homes one block and passing cafes and boutiques the next.  On my first maternity leave I must have walked EVERY block of the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland.  I would weave my way through the streets, taking in the architecture of the homes, and occasionally popping into a store for some browsing.  Fast forward a few years, and what was once a peaceful walk in the neighborhood is now one that requires my constant focus (looking for cars backing out of driveways, making sure my kids stop at the corner etc…). While I still LOVE these outings, the appeal of a calmer environment has definitely grown on me.  This past weekend, I may have found the perfect marriage of peaceful hiking in an urban environment during our visit to The Presidio in San Francisco.

First established in 1776 as a Spanish Fort, this 1500 acre military post was transferred to the National Park Services in 1994 and has over 400 historic structures in addition to 24 miles of trails. The combination of tranquil hiking trails, scenic overlooks and beautiful architecture make it an ideal place to spend the day. We began our hike at Wood Line, located in the middle of an old eucalyptus grove. Constructed in 2010, this Andy Goldsworthy installation is definitely worth a visit.

Andy Goldsworthy's Wood Line
Otherwise known as the world's longest balance beam.

At the end of the Wood Line, you will reconnect with Lover's Lane, which runs between the eucalyptus grove and one of the many residential neighborhoods that lie within the Presidio. If you love architecture, you will find no shortage of beautiful historic homes to admire.

Lover's Lane
At the end of Lover's Lane, make a left on Barnard Avenue, and continue up a set of stairs at the intersection with Fernandez street to reach the Inn at the Presidio.

This is a nice pit-stop. You can sit on the lawn behind the hotel and have a snack. If it is in the budget, rooms at the Inn at the Presidio start at $250/night and look beautiful! (maybe someday!)

Behind the Inn at the Presidio, you will find the entrance to the Ecology Trail. This is a relatively easy hike with a moderate incline and a decent amount of shade to keep you cool on a warm day. A little more than a half mile into the trail, you will reach a turn-off for Inspiration Point. Continue up the hill for about 0.1 miles and you will be rewarded with beautiful views of the San Francisco Bay.

Bench along the Ecology trail.

The turnoff to Inspiration Point

Just across from the road from the Inspiration Point lookout is another Andy Goldsworthy installation,  Spire, which is made of 38 large cypress trunks that have been assembled to rise more than 90 feet.
From here, you can return to the Ecology Trail, which intersects with a new trail (possibly El Polin Spring trail). This trail will pass below Julias Kahn Park and Paul Good field until it reconnects with Lover's Lane. Make sure to look out for peaks of the Golden Gate Bridge rising above the tree line!

I am already planning future visits to The Presidio! I enjoyed both the beauty of the trails and overlooks as well as the historical buildings and sense of history that you get walking in this old military post. It felt calmer than Golden Gate Park to me as well, with easier parking, less cars and fewer people.

What are you favorite things to do in the Presidio?

The details/facts: The Presidio is about a 45 minute drive from San Francisco (with normal traffic). The top of the Lover's Lane trail and Wood Line are located near the intersections of Presidio Blvd and West Pacific Avenue. We were able to find free 2 hour parking just pass the trail head on West Pacific Avenue. The total loop was just over 2 miles, and took us about 2 hours, making several stops along the way to admire the views and eat some snacks. There are free shuttles within the Presidio that run along two loops. While we did not take advantage of them on this trip, they would be a great resource if the kids (or you) get tired. There is also a free shuttle that runs from the Embarcadero Bart station to the park every 30 minutes on the weekends if you plan on taking the Ferry or Bart into the city. Entrance to the park is free!

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