Walk the San Francisco Version of the High Line at Presidio Tunnel Tops

See a new side of SF.

presidio tunnels in san francisco
Photo by Paul Myers
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Seeking a unique vantage point of San Francisco, we laced up our shoes and headed for the Presidio Tunnel Tops: 14 acres of park land built on top of a set of highway tunnels that lead to the Golden Gate Bridge, known as the Presidio Parkway tunnels. (The other part of the highway tunnels has the six-acre Battery Bluff, which opened in April 2022.)

Located in a forest-like wilderness with coastal beaches and 25 miles of hiking and biking trails, Presidio Tunnel Tops connects the center of the Presidio to Crissy Field waterfront, a former military airfield.

The $118 million project features pathways flanked by lush landscape and manicured lawns opened in July 2022. It was designed with input from 10,000 community members and funded entirely by a philanthropic campaign through the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.

Photo by Paul Myers

Before you go

The Presidio Tunnel Tops has 1.8 miles of pathway set within a massive garden with 200,000 plants that is part of the 1,491-acre Presidio. Admission is free.

"The Presidio is a national park site [and] part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, with the iconic attributes of a national park, but within an urban city,” said Lisa Petrie, Senior Public Relations Manager at the Presidio Trust. “No other location in San Francisco has the views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay, historic buildings and open space.”

The Presidio Tunnel Tops are open 24/7, but the Outpost playscape and indoor spaces, like the Field Station and the Presidio Visitor Center, open at specific times.

Biking is prohibited on the Presidio Tunnel Tops, but there are bike paths that surround the site. Dogs are allowed everywhere except in playgrounds, including the Outpost play space. Only service animals are allowed inside indoor facilities.

You can come by public transportation via Muni Metro 43 Masonic or the free Presidio Go downtown shuttle.

What you can see

In addition to the stunning city skyline and Golden Gate Bridge, you can see San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz and the Marin Headlands.

presidio tunnels campfire circle
Photo by Rachel Styer

What to do

You can walk in from any point, including Mason Street at Crissy Field, but we suggest starting at the Presidio Visitor Center. Staffed by National Park Service Park Rangers, they can provide you with maps and a digital guide. The center also has exhibits on the park's history and merch. It's best to come on the weekdays as it's less crowded. Stay until it gets dark or come at night to see the art benches lighted from below…they look like they are floating.

Presidio Tunnel Tops is a versatile destination. You can barbecue or picnic, take a stroll, chill on an artsy bench and play sports on massive lawns (here's a map).

Highlights include:
 

  • Outpost: a two-acre nature play area for kids. Children can create art and play on huge structures like a wooden hydrotunnel, a 250-year-old reclaimed white oak tree and oversized bird’s nests—all made of natural materials like wood, water, stone and sand. Each play feature is inspired by the area's history: the bowline—a large swing made of masts, ropes and nets—honors the maritime heritage of the San Francisco Bay. The woodland wall is a wall of tree trunks with nooks and knots for climbing and the water flumes are a series of wooden troughs with water pumps, both of which inspired by construction work carried out by the US Army long ago.
  • Field Station: Adjacent to the Outpost, the Field Station is a drop-in eco discovery museum offering multi-sensory experiences for everyone, including art and mapping labs, a field library, plus an investigating lab where you can use archaeology tools to sort and classify materials recently brought to the Field Station from the Presidio. Activities change seasonally and may include doing scavenger hunts, sketching wildlife, tasting water with Presidio herbs, or creating maps.
  • Campfire Circle: Visitors can gather around a gas fire pit and listen to tales told by Park Rangers on four days each week.

  • Picnic Place: Near the East Meadow, Picnic Place has tables and charcoal grills shaded by torrey pines and lit in the evenings by bistro lighting (reserve here).
dining at presidio tunnels
Photo by Rachel Styer

Where to eat and drink

Thankfully, you can avoid getting hangry courtesy of a Presidio Pop Up: a rotating who's who of San Francisco's mobile food scene. Food trucks and carts sell everything from coffee to cocktails, matcha to shaved ice, plus Indonesian street food like bakso (a traditional beef meatball soup), El Salvadoran pupusas, and halal Algerian ras el hanout marinated lamb baguette sandwiches. Presidio Pop Up is on a limited winter schedule, so until April, come Thursday through Sunday for the most food choices. A new café at the Presidio Transit Center will open in late spring.

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Lauren Mack is a Contributor for Thrillist.