Tours / Discover the Presidio

ToursLands End. Photo by Charles A. Birnbaum


Join members of The Cultural Landscape Foundation, Presidio Trust, National Park Service, and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy for two very different “Forums on Foot.” More than a traditional tour, these mobile workshops will engage participants in a dialogue about the Presidio of San Francisco. In the course of both forums, participants will address issues of resource management – both cultural and natural – contemporary design in a National Historic Landmark District, community outreach, stewardship, and programming.


PresidioNew Presidio Parklands Project. Photo courtesy
Natalie Thomas, The Presidio Trust.


The Presidio’s Historic Main Post and the new Presidio Parklands: From 1776 to the Present
The Main Post is the Presidio’s most historic district and is often referred to as the “birthplace of San Francisco.” From the fort’s rough beginnings at El Presidio in 1776 to the dramatic landscape that is taking shape today above a major regional highway project, every period of the Presidio’s history is reflected.  A powerful ensemble of buildings, landscapes, views, and archaeology sites make the Main Post a complex and important American place.

The walk will begin at the newly rehabilitated Officers’ Club, San Francisco’s oldest building, with a tour of the building and its Heritage Gallery. Moving through the core of the Main Post, participants will see Andy Goldsworthy’s “Tree Fall,” a powerful emblem of the relationship between the Presidio’s built and natural environments; discuss programming on the Main Parade; and explore the challenges of reusing historic buildings.

The tour will culminate at the New Presidio Parklands Project site, which takes advantage of a major highway project to create a new national park experience that will contribute to defining what an urban national park can be in the 21st century. The elevated highway that carried traffic from San Francisco to the Golden Gate Bridge is being replaced with a “parkway,” a portion of which is at-grade and contained by landscaped tunnels. The tunnel tops reestablish the 35-foot bluff that once rose above San Francisco Bay, create 13 acres of new parkland, and physically and visually integrate the waterfront with the Presidio’s historic core.  The New Presidio Parklands will offer dramatic access to the shoreline, areas to stage programs and provide visitor services, and views of the Golden Gate, its storied bridge, and the panorama of San Francisco Bay.


PresidioTennessee Hollow: El Polin. Photo by Charity
Vargas, for The Presidio Trust


Tennessee Hollow: Nature and Culture and Contemporary Restoration
Tennessee Hollow, the eastern fifth of the Presidio, offers the rare opportunity to experience an entire watershed – from springs to San Francisco Bay – in a two to three-hour hike. During two hundred years the watershed has experienced much change as creeks were buried in pipes, native trees were cleared for firewood, and later the Army planted a forest. Today, creeks are being daylighted and revitalized, habitat is being restored, trails invite exploration, children are learning about history and nature in outdoor “classrooms,” and stewardship programs engage a wide community in the parklands. The watershed is comprised of three creek tributaries and features endangered species, archaeological sites, residential neighborhoods, forests, trails, and even playing fields. So much of what is intriguing about the Presidio, its complex history, diverse resources, and interaction of people with nature can be experienced in Tennessee Hollow.

The tour will begin with a short hike from the Officers’ Club to El Polín where recent archaeology discoveries are shedding light on how people once lived here. The Yelamu Ohlone were the first people to live in this area, and signs of their seasonal camps have been discovered near El Polín at Crissy Field. By 1812, more than twenty years before the town of Yerba Buena (later San Francisco) was founded, El Polín was settled by Spanish and Mexican colonial families, including the Briones and Miramontes families.

Continuing through the watershed, the tour will explore current and future restoration sites. Participants will discuss remediation of Army-era landfills, active recreation and human habitation in a rare natural area, and will get a glimpse of the how the watershed is being connected to the bay as part of the highway replacement project.


PresidioCrissy Field. Photo by Charles A. Birnbaum

Explore the Presidio

Historic Military Post to National Park Site
New to the Presidio? Established in 1776 by Spain, it sits at the southern anchor of the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the world's most beautiful and celebrated locations. The Presidio's history, its complex environment, and its transformation into a new kind of national park site add to the ongoing discussions and debates about bridging the divide between nature and culture. Join Trust staff on a two-hour motorcoach tour of the Presidio's cultural landscapes and natural areas, historic buildings and "neighborhoods." Learn about its 220-year history as a military post and its 15-year development as a national park site where people live and work. Visit award-wining redevelopment and restoration sites as well as place-based art installations and park improvement projects that are quickly making the Presidio one of the most visited destinations in San Francisco and a model for 21st century thinking about preservation and reuse. The walk will begin at the newly rehabilitated Officers’ Club, San Francisco’s oldest building, with a brief tour of the building and its Heritage Gallery.