San Francisco’s New Tunnel Tops/Battery Bluff Parks

Does San Francisco need more parks? It already has more park space, from the huge and famous Golden Gate Park to tiny near-hidden neighborhood greenery, than almost any other city. Most Bay Area residents, however, would emphatically answer that there can’t be enough parks. And a couple of new ones have opened in an area that, though located near very popular resident and tourist attractions, was until recently something of a barren wasteland.

View of the Golden Gate bridge and the lower (playground) part of the new Tunnel Tops park in San Francisco’s Presidio.

It might be hard to believe when you walk or bike around the waterfront between the Palace of Fine Arts and the Golden Gate Bridge today, but it wasn’t that long ago that the area between the trail that goes along the water and the Presidio was kind of dumpy. Crissy Field was spruced up for the better with its transformation from a waste dump to a restored wetlands habitat, complete with walkable trails and occasional temporary public art installations. But the incline between the road on the south side of Crissy Field and the main part of the Presidio was pretty scrubby and uninviting, with no special reason to spend time there, though a bike path went through part of it. The busy highway connecting the Marina district to the bridge runs through here, and seemed to inhibit much natural or human activity along this border of sorts.

That changed in the spring with the opening of small Battery Bluff Park, and then in mid-summer with the opening of the larger Tunnel Tops park. Tunnel Tops will get more use, in part because it’s easier to walk there from Crissy Field, and in part because there’s more to do there, especially for kids in the lower part nearest the road:

The upper part has fairly large green spaces to walk around, as well as curved benches to take in the view of the bay and the bridge:

If you take a space on those benches, it seems like the view would be a lot more interesting than whatever’s on your phone:

To the east, you get a view of the city skyline as it overlooks Russian Hill, including the Transamerica pyramid and the city’s newest tallest building (Salesforce Tower):

There are already a few food stands/trucks, and will likely be more as the park gets more popular. The few I saw on my first visit in early August, refreshingly, were more ethnic and imaginative than the typical hot dog stand:

With six acres, Battery Bluff Park is a little less than half the size of Tunnel Tops. It’s only a few minutes walk (only about two or three by bike) up from the upper level of Tunnel Tops, though, and likely to be less crowded. You also get good views of the bridge from here, though sometimes with the remains of batteries, reminding us the Presidio used to be employed for military purposes:

You can see Alcatraz in the distance:

Across the street, there’s another reminder that the Presidio used to be a major military base, with a large national cemetery:

More so than at Tunnel Tops, there are reminders that these parks were built on top of highway tunnels:

To the west, the bike path winds down past some buildings and then up toward the bridge. Although it’s not too well known to the public, one of the buildings houses the Presidio Park Archives and Records Center, which has a large collection of historical photos. Many of them are related to the military and the Presidio’s connection to it, but some of them aren’t, and have a surprisingly wide range of unusual shots of other aspects of Bay Area life. It’s free and open to the public for research at specified hours:

There’s info about Tunnel Tops park at; about Battery Bluff at; and about the Presidio Park Archives and Records Center at