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Gail Todd

DIY Hike: Presidio’s Coastal Bluffs: Beauty and History

Nestled just south of the Golden Gate Bridge are the Presidio’s coastal bluffs, a wild stretch of land streaked with blue-green serpentine rock. The Batteries to Bluffs Trail leads you along the ocean’s untamed side, past rugged cliffs, historic gun batteries, hidden springs, dramatic outlooks, an isolated beach and unparalleled views of the bridge.

The trail connects to the California Coastal Trail for a loop hike of just over a mile. You also can take short side trips to Marshall’s Beach, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Immigrant Point Lookout and the World War II Memorial.

There are lots of steps on this walk. No dogs are permitted on the Batteries to Bluffs Trail, but they are permitted on leash on the Coastal Trail.

What you’ll find

Pick up the Batteries to Bluffs Trail on Lincoln Boulevard, just south of Kobbe Avenue. You descend a long scenic dirt path lined with poppies for a picture-perfect view of the Golden Gate Bridge to your right and the Pacific Ocean sparkling in front of you.

At the bottom of the path is Battery Crosby, built in 1900. Named for Lt. Franklin B. Crosby, killed in the Civil War battle at Chancellorsville, Va., in May 1863, this battery was designed to protect underwater minefields outside the Golden Gate. It was closed in 1943 and its guns were scrapped.

Walk over the top of the battery, taking time to explore, and then descend the many steps on the other side to join the trail. Past a little wooden bridge, the trail becomes narrower and possibly muddy. Huge swaths of blue-green serpentine rock (the state rock) blanket the hillsides.

When you come to a sign directing you to Marshall’s Beach, walk down to this secluded shore to watch the roaring waves. You will feel like Balboa gazing at the Pacific for the first time; it’s hard to believe you are only a short distance from cars and buildings. (Note: Marshall’s Beach is one of San Francisco’s clothing-optional beaches.)

Return to the Batteries to Bluffs Trail and continue uphill toward the Coastal Trail. At the top, a lookout with a lone slab bench provides another stunning view. When you come to the juncture with the Coastal Trail, you can turn right to return to your starting point on Lincoln Boulevard. You can also turn left to continue to Battery Godfrey and the Golden Gate Bridge, all gussied up for its 75th birthday celebration, or you can return on the Batteries to Bluffs Trail to see the views as you look south.

World War II Memorial

When you return to the trailhead on Lincoln, walk south a short distance to the crosswalk. Here a newly constructed stair trail takes you to Washington Boulevard and the Immigrant Point Lookout, where you can see Point Reyes, the Bonita Lighthouse and Mile Rock Beach. Continue north on Washington a short distance to the inspiring World War II Memorial.

This curved granite wall is inscribed with the names of 413 armed forces members lost or buried at sea in the Pacific coastal waters from 1941 to 1945. A statue of Columbia by Jean de Marco overlooks the Pacific and Golden Gate, from where the lost seamen embarked.

Getting there

Muni’s No. 29 stops at Bowley Street and Lincoln Boulevard. From the bus stop, walk about a half mile north on Lincoln to the Batteries to Bluffs Trail (just past the sand ladder to Baker Beach). Some of the walk on Lincoln is on sidewalk, some on trail, but there is also a short distance where you will have to walk in the bike lane, so be careful.

By car, enter the Presidio at Lincoln Boulevard and 25th Avenue. Continue on Lincoln to Kobbe Avenue, make an immediate right onto Washington Boulevard and park at the World War II Memorial on your right. Walk back to Lincoln. Battery Crosby and the Batteries to Bluffs Trail connector is on your right, just south of Kobbe. There is also some parking on Lincoln just south of the trailhead.

Photo: Dannebrog via Flickr

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