San Francisco’s Pacific Overlook and Batteries to Bluff Trail

When visiting the Golden Gate Bridge, most tourists, and indeed San Francisco Bay Area residents, congregate around the area just to the east of its southern end. There are reasons for this: there’s parking, there are public bus stops, there are the best close-up views you can get on foot, and there’s access to the bridge-spanning pedestrian sidewalk. That leaves the Pacific Overlook on the bridge’s west side relatively untroubled, though it too has its share of stunning views, like this:

The view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Pacific Overlook.

The view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Pacific Overlook.

Until recently, this area was pretty scrubby and unvisitor-friendly. Now there’s a small parking area, a rack for bikes (my preferred way of transportation), and paths for visitors to scramble around for views. Best of all, there are relatively few people, even on gorgeous unseasonably summer-like days like yesterday. Real summer-like days, not the cold fog typical of San Francisco summer months; it was 70 degrees and clear. You can climb up on old, long disused batteries for the best views (the short but necessary ladders have thin rungs, bring appropriate shoes):

Climb the batteries for some of the best views from the Pacific Overlook.

Climb the batteries for some of the best views from the Pacific Overlook.

Take the path that ambles downward to the Golden Gate Bridge bike path for close-up views of the Marin Headlands across the water:

A disused hole-in-the-hill is on the paths from the batteries to the bridge.

A disused hole-in-the-hill is on the paths from the batteries to the bridge.

Also remarkably uncrowded is the Batteries to Bluff trail, which winds down along cliffside bluffs to little-known Marshall Beach:

Seldom visited Marshall Beach, reached by a spur near the bottom of the Batteries to Bluff trail.

Seldom visited Marshall Beach, reached by a spur near the bottom of the Batteries to Bluff trail.

The trail’s all up and down, but it’s only about three-quarters of a mile. At its western end, you can do the up-and-down to get back to the batteries, or walk along the easier path next to Lincoln Boulevard, though I prefer the Batteries to Bluff trail for the absence of traffic noise.

Part of the Batteries to Bluff Trail, viewed from its western end.

Part of the Batteries to Bluff Trail, viewed from its western end.

If you’re on bike, go back to the urban jungle of San Francisco through the Presidio, stopping off for a final look at the Marin Headlands at Immigrant Point Overlook on Washington Boulevard:

The Marin Headlands, as seen from the Immigration Point Overlook in San Francisco's Presidio.

The Marin Headlands, as seen from the Immigration Point Overlook in San Francisco’s Presidio.

Here I came across a young couple visiting from Brazil, also on bicycles. I guided them to the best view of the Golden Gate Bridge, near the lesser-used parking lot a little east of the bridge on Lincoln Boulevard, before going on my separate way. As a longtime resident, it’s tempting not to shout about it too loudly, but more visitors should take advantage of both the Presidio’s lovely main bike path (from Arguello Boulevard to Washington Boulevard and Lincoln Boulevard) and the lesser-known views this area has to offer.

Click on the links in this sentence for more info on the Pacific Overlook, the Batteries to Bluff Trail, and the Immigration Point Overlook.

Hikers hang out on a rock near Marshall Beach, enjoying the unseasonably warm March weather.

Hikers hang out on a rock near Marshall Beach, enjoying the unseasonably warm March weather.

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