The Presidio

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The Presidio

Written by Scott Messmore

With two centuries of military history under its belt, San Francisco's beautiful Presidio is now home to hikers, joggers, nature lovers, windsurfers and four millions tourists each year. With the Department of Defense releasing the Presidio to the National Park Service in 1994, the Presidio started a new phase in it's 220-year-old history

The Presidio Trust was formed to oversee transformation of the 1,480-acre military post into a national park. The goal of the Presidio Trust is to make the park completely self sufficient by 2013. Former troop dormitories have been converted to small apartments, studios and offices. Eventually, nearly 5,000 people will play, live and work at the Presidio. Where troops have drilled and trained to defend the City by the Bay for more than two centuries, San Franciscans and tourists can enjoy some the most scenic views on the West Coast.

From Spaniards to Surfers

While most Americans associate the year 1776 with the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the same year saw Spanish explorer Captain Juan Bautista de Anza planting the Spanish flag in the soils of San Francisco. Of course, in 1776 there was no San Francisco, or even a United States of America as we know it. But, the El Presidio de San Francisco was quickly built next to the beautiful bay and it's been in use for more than 220 years by Spain, Mexico and the United States. The U.S. military has used the Presidio as a logistical base for the country's major conflicts since the Spanish-American War in 1898. Today the National Park Service oversees the coastal areas of the Presidio, while the Presidio Trust is in charge of the base's 800 buildings and the park areas. From 1886 to the 1940s, the U.S. Army planted and maintained the Presidio forest with blackwood acacia, Monterey pines, Monterey cypress, blue gum eucalyptus and coast redwood trees. The Presidio forest is a popular site for runners and trail walkers. Nature lovers can spot rare vegetation and 200 bird species at the old base.

Seven Trails for San Franciscans

Seven trails wait for hikers and runners. Lobos Creek Valley Trail is a half-mile long nature boardwalk. Lover's Lane connects the Post to Funston Avenue. The two-mile Ecology Trail leads visitors through dunes and forests. The Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail starts at the Presidio and extends inland through California and into Arizona. The three-mile Coastal Trail traces the cliffs to the Golden Gate Bridge with breath taking views of the Pacific Ocean. There's also a three-mile segment of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, a 400-mile trail for walkers and bicyclists. The Golden Gate Promenade is a four-mile walkway where tourists can overlook San Francisco and west side of Golden Gate Bridge.

The Presidio Golf Course

The Presidio Golf Course is open to the public and tee times can be reserved by calling 415-561-GOLF.

Crissy Field

Visitors looking for a great spot to have a picnic can stop at Crissy Field, an old Army Air Corps airfield near the Golden Gate Bridge.

Location and Hours of Operation

The Presidio is located on the south side of the Golden Gate Bridge. It can also be reached by taking Lombard Street in the east or Highway 1 from the south. The Presidio is free to the public and open year round with the Visitor's Center opening at 9 a.m. and closing at 5 p.m. The Visitor's Center contains educational exhibits on the base's history dating to the Spanish occupation starting in 1776.

For more information call 415-561-4323.

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