Rediscover the Presidio of San Francisco

Spas and restaurants join the trails in the city's national park

The Presidio of San Francisco's newest vista

The Presidio of San Francisco's newest vista, Immigrant Point Overlook, offers sweeping views from Baker Beach to the Marin Headlands and beyond. Over the next few years, look for five more overlooks ― plus a trail system linking them all.

Rob D. Brodman

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Spread before us is a flight of crisp whites, a plate of prosciutto-wrapped figs ― and, beyond a meticulously landscaped lawn, a peekaboo view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The patio at Pres a Vi is packed with pretty people, and though the restaurant is surrounded by eucalyptus-lined trails, there's nary a hiking boot in sight.

It's not a typical national park scene. But plopped in the middle of San Francisco, the Presidio is not your typical national park, especially these days.

For such a vast and gorgeous swath of prime real estate ― 1,491 acres in all - the Presidio has long been overlooked and underutilized. Its white-clapboard, red-roofed, Civil War-era cottages stood alone and lonely, lovely but stark reminders of the park's origin as a military post.

Now revived by tenants from filmmaker George Lucas to nonprofits, fancy-pants restaurants, and families lucky enough to lease a renovated officer's home, the Presidio has become a living, dynamic place. It's all part of the Presidio Trust's plan to make it the country's first financially self-sufficient national park by 2013. That goal was bolstered in April by a $15 million private donation, which will blaze 24 miles of hiking trails, 6 overlooks, and much-needed enhancements to San Francisco's only campground. Plans even call for an upscale eco-lodge and a contemporary art museum on par with Golden Gate Park's de Young.

Like the rest of the city, I can't wait. Still, with so many sweeping changes in the last year alone, the Presidio, as I recently discovered, is worth exploring right now.


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