At one time, four creeks flowed through San Francisco — Yosemite, Islais, Mission and Lobos (“wolf” in Spanish). Today only the Presidio’s Lobos Creek flows freely. The others have been undergrounded, diverted into culverts, channels or landfill with only an occasional vestige running unfettered.
Lobos Creek flows from the southwestern edge of the Presidio into the Pacific Ocean at Baker Beach. The creek is the Presidio’s primary water source, with about a million gallons a day diverted to a water treatment facility.
The valley surrounding the creek was originally sand dunes and scrub, but that habitat was destroyed during the Presidio’s years as a military facility. In 1994, the restoration of the dunes began. From 1995 to ’96, the valley was graded and landscaped. Today, a half-mile boardwalk off Lincoln Boulevard guides visitors through the valley, while protecting delicate vegetation. The restored dunes are now home to 133 plant species as well as many butterflies and birds.
At the Lobos Creek Valley trailhead, pick up a brochure that provides information about each of the nine numbered stops on the trail. Entering the boardwalk, you begin an amble through the dunes. You will see lupine, as well as coast buckwheat, sticky monkey flower, Indian paintbrush, coyote brush, yarrow and lots of rattlesnake grass. Endangered plants include the San Francisco lessingia and dune gilia. Small lizards skitter underfoot. A bench at numbered stop two provides one of the few glimpses of the creek itself.
A side spur of the trail gently climbs a dune where you will find another bench and an overlook. Take a rest, listen for Nuttall’s white-crowned sparrows and look for red-tailed hawks overhead. Homes visible to the south remind you how close to civilization you really are.
The boardwalk ends at a row of sandy steps that lead up to a wooded area of cypress, pine and some eucalyptus. Here a trail to your left takes you back to Lincoln Boulevard; to your right the Lobos Creek Valley trail continues to the former Public Health Service Hospital.
The Public Health Service Hospital
Closed in 1981, the Public Health Service Hospital remained an eyesore covered with graffiti and broken glass for decades. Today it is being restored as Presidio Landmark apartments – the Presidio Trust’s most ambitious renovation project to date. The building is being converted into a six-story luxury apartment complex with 154 units complete with wine cellars. Residents will enjoy a community lounge and even a doorman. Two non-historic wings have been demolished.
Leaving the Lobos Creek Trail, walk through the parking lot to look at a spectacular view of the city.
Not tired yet? There are lots of options for more exciting walking. Continue around the south end of the former hospital building and you can pick up the Juan Batista de Anza trail – actually a small road. This leads to the Mountain Lake trail, which takes you into a tunnel that goes under Highway 1 (Park Presidio Boulevard) to Mountain Lake, where you will find picnic tables, restrooms and, of course, a lovely lake.
From the Lobos Creek Valley trailhead where you began your walk, you can cross over Lincoln Boulevard, and take any one of a number of paths that lead down to Baker Beach. One trail provides more views of Lobos Creek; another takes you over a small wooded hill. All lead to the beautiful Pacific Ocean.
The Muni No. 29 bus stops at Lincoln Boulevard and Bowley Street. The trailhead is on the east side of Lincoln. The free PresidiGo shuttle also stops there.
By car, from Fulton Street at Park Presidio Boulevard (Highway 1), go west on Fulton to 25th Avenue. Turn right on 25th and continue to the junction of El Camino Del Mar and Lincoln Boulevard. Turn right on Lincoln and then turn right into the parking lot in Howard Road across from Bowley Street. The trailhead is just past the kiosk.
Header Photo: Google Image
Insert Photo: Scott Hess via Flickr