Destinations: San Francisco’s Presidio

Dog-friendly beaches and heavenly hikes.
By The Bark Editors, May 2012
Romping at Crissy Field

Romping at Crissy Field


The historic Inn at the Presidio; breathtaking view of Golden Gate Bridge; tired pup on a hike;

Few places rival the Presidio for its breathtaking hiking atmosphere —the spicy fragrances of eucalyptus and pine, dense drifts of fog, Andy Goldsworthy’s celebrated environmental art — and the sheer beauty of its vistas, from the sweep of the Pacific Ocean to the City skyline. Situated on 1,491 acres of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco, the Presidio was previously a military post — first under Spanish rule, then Mexican, then American — for more than two centuries before it was folded into the National Park Service in the early 1990s. It also happens to be a favorite among West Coast dog people.

The Inn at the Presidio
Cited as the nation’s largest historicpreservation project, the Presidio now boasts a new dream destination for canine visitors: the Inn at the Presidio. The 22-room luxury hotel occupies the newly renovated Pershing Hall, a 1904 Colonial Revival building at the center of the Presidio’s Main Post. The inn, which is set to open on April 1, features two communal front porches where dogs are free to socialize. And inside, canine guests are treated like top brass — each room’s outfitted with a dog bed, bowls and welcome goodie bags. On those crisp, cool San Francisco days, dogs can curl up next to the gas fireplace standard in each suite.

Want to get up and go? Just step outside the hotel doors onto the (onleash) Ecology Trail and follow it through the Presidio’s largest watershed, Tennessee Hollow, then — if you’re feeling adventurous — on to Inspiration Point. The inn has a twodog maximum per reservation, but no size limit per pet. They charge a onetime cleaning fee of $40 when you visit with your dog(s).

Presidio Area Walks
Palace of Fine Arts + Wave Organ A visual marvel designed by renowned architect Bernard Maybeck and built on land reclaimed from the Bay, the Palace of Fine Arts is a striking rotunda dating back to the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition. The nearby Exploratorium, a favorite interactive kids’ science museum, includes a hidden gem well worth a visit too — continue north from the museum and turn right at the parking lot; follow the gravel road to the waterfront jetty and you can hear the Exploratorium Wave Organ, an awe-inspiring set of 25 waveactivated organ pipes, sing its subtle watery song.


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Crissy Field + Pet Cemetery
Boasting beautiful panoramic views, this former army airfield stretches from Fort Point National Historic Site and the south tower of the Golden Gate Bridge to the Marina’s St. Francis Yacht Club; most of its beach areas are famed off-leash havens for pups. On the trails, however, dogs must be onleash for the safety of runners, walkers and migrating birds that nest nearby. After any number of long hikes in the Presidio, you can rest up, with visits to the Warming Huts, on both ends of Crissy Field. These cafés serve organic treats for dogs and people. Travel just above Crissy Field to McDowell Avenue and Cowles Street, and you’ll find the Presidio pet cemetery, with memorials not only to dogs and cats, but also macaws, goldfish, even the occasional pigeon. Though it is located under the Doyle Drive overpass, the sweet spot is still a top stop.

Marina Green + Fort Mason
Dogs will love the Marina Green, a gorgeous grassy expanse that bustles with health nuts, tourists and leashed dogs. Continue along Marina Boulevard and follow the path above Buchanan Street to upper Fort Mason. Visit the Great Meadow with its statue of Phillip Burton, the congressman whose legislation created the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, or go see the nineteenth-century cannons in place at Black Point Battery, a former Civil War fortification.

Baker Beach
When you’re looking to get some exercise, try the lengthy hike that extends along the Coastal Trail for 1.5 miles from the bridge past three batteries to Baker Beach, a mile-long strand that is relatively sheltered from the winds and has breathtaking views (speaking of views, be aware that local nudists often occupy the north end of the beach, especially when the weather’s warm).

Sutro Baths + Lands End Trail
The ruins of the Sutro Baths, a former pool complex built in 1896, sit at the farthest northwestern waterfront corner of San Francisco. A jungle gym of crumbling concrete structures with stairways leading off cliffs, the bath ruins are also where you can pick up the trail to hike along Lands End. This trek is for adventurers who like their landscape rocky and their breezes brisk. Cypress trees line the well-maintained trail, formerly unused railroad tracks, as do many benches and inviting little coves for picnic destinations. Dogs are welcome on-leash.

For more about the Presidio of San Francisco and its attractions, visit the Presidio Trust at, or the National Park Service at To download a map of Presidio hiking trails, go to

Article first appeared in The Bark, Issue 69: Mar/Apr/May 2012

Photo Credit: Roy Ivankoe, Courtesy of the Inn at the Presidio, Isaac Lane Koval, Andrew Zarivny, Mathew Honan, Andrew Penner.