It’s tough to imagine Crissy Field without grass. But 20 years ago, San Francisco’s big front lawn was still quite an unsightly mess: Its “field” was still solid concrete; its beach was still full of tires; and its waterways were covered by silt or concrete.
On the park’s 21st birthday, the Golden Gate National Park Conservancy is celebrating the transformation of the U.S. military’s first air coast defense station into one of the nation’s most beautiful urban parks.
West Bluff Picnic Area at Crissy Field, before and after restoration. | Courtesy Photos
The year 2001 marked a major milestone with the removal of Crissy Airfield and parking lot. Over one hundred tons of fill material was removed from the native marshland. In fact, the Ramaytush Olone natives might be more likely to recognize the natural geography of Crissy Field than they would have during centuries of U.S. and Spanish army installations.
Today’s SF natives are always at play in Crissy Field: running, biking, stroll-ering, kiteboarding, birdwatching, picnicking, frisbeeing, fishing and swimming—heck, even the dogs have a great time here. And two new parks are set to expand the fun: Battery Bluff, which opened in April, and Tunnel Tops which will debut in July.
Whether you’re heading up to Crissy Field for the first time since the pandemic or for the first time this week, check out our map below to follow our route around the entire park and find a new place to appreciate the “greening of the Presidio.”
Crissy Field Marsh with Battery Bluff area in center top, before and after restoration | Courtesy Photos
Guide to the North Side of Crissy Field Guide
From East to West
Crissy Field Center
Start here. Park at Crissy Beach Parking, drop a Scoot on the corner or just stroll over to the area around Crissy Field Center, a hub for environmental educational and leadership opportunities for youth and teens. The center is not open to the general public, but it’s worth checking out its programs if you’re curious and/or raising a future environmentalist.
Little Marina Green
Before strolling into Crissy Field, stock up on best-in-the-city donuts and coffee at Dynamo Donuts. Grab regular, vegan or gluten free donuts at the kiosk nestled between the SF Marina and the Little Marina Green, where volleyball games are in motion most afternoons. And don’t miss the Wave Organ, just beyond the St. Francis Yacht Club, it’s an acoustic instrument artistically built into a natural jetty that delivers music composed by nature’s waves.
Crissy Field East Beach
Just before the beach expands, you’ll see a narrow stretch of sand loved by dogs and dog lovers. If a pooch is part of your family, check out this Crissy Field dog walking map. Where the warm East Beach sand widens, beach blankets and umbrellas abound on sunny days. When the fog and wind are moving, kite surfers provide a free show with a bridge backdrop.
Crissy Field Marsh
Once used as a dump site by early Spanish settlers, the Marsh area has since been fully transformed into a nature hotbed teeming with life, including more than 100 bird species. If bird watching is your gig, bring along some binoculars and peer out into the brackish marsh with the other avid birders.
Crissy Field Marsh | Maryann Jones Thompson
Presidio Field Notes
Who doesn’t enjoy a treasure hunt? Keep an eye out for all 11 Presidio Field Notes. These wooden-hinged blocks containing “hidden messages” can be found attached to various fence posts, benches and wooden stumps throughout the Presidio. See the website for the latest seasonal signposts.
The Bay Trail
Stretching along the SF Bay shoreline, Golden Gate Promenade/Bay Trail, a 4.3-mile long level multi-use pathway, buzzes to life daily with pedestrians and cyclists alike. Take in a front row view of the SF Bay, Alcatraz, GG Bridge, Marin Headlands and more.
Greater Farallones Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center
NOAA Greater Farallones Marine Sanctuary (temporarily closed) is an onland way to explore the complex underwater life that thrives at the Farallones Marine Sanctuary, 3,295 miles of underwater habitats beyond the Golden Gate. Its UNESCO Biosphere site is home to more than 250,000 sea birds, 38 different marine mammal species and a massive great white shark population.
The former air strip turned into a concrete parking lot, Crissy Field, was named after Presidio coast artilleryman then major and commander of Mather Airfield in Sacramento, Major Dana H. Crissy. He died 1919 on a demonstration transcontinental flight trying to land near Salt Lake City, Utah. Today his “H-less” last name graces one of San Francisco’s biggest greenest spaces—but watch out for some uneven turf and gopher holes while tossing your frisbee.
Crissy Field and Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary | Maryann Jones Thompson
West Bluff Picnic Area
Find plenty of picnic tables, charcoal burning barbeques, public restrooms and big, beautiful bridge views at West Bluff. It’s a picture perfect spot to meet friends and family.
Golden Gate Beach
Now called “Crissy Field Beach West/Golden Gate Beach,” this patch of sand is about as nice a bayfront beach as you’ll find in these parts. A massive shorefront cleanup left a barefoot-worthy splash zone for littles and bigs. Set up your chairs here or on West Bluff—and don’t forget to pack a towel because you might be tempted to get in!
Golden Gate Beach at Crissy Field, before and after restoration. | Courtesy Photos
Providing a brief respite for the windblown, the Warming Hut was renovated and reopened in 2021. The shop sells books and gifts along with tea, hot chocolate, Equator coffee, and packaged snacks to go. Restrooms are located nearby in an adjacent structure.
A local spot for crabbing and fishing, Torpedo Wharf also serves up a scenic view of the Golden Gate bridge that will have tourists and teens clamoring for that picture-perfect selfie. If you plan to try your luck crabbing, remember Dungeness Crabs are “off limits.” But it’s much more fun and much less messy to just peer into the other fisherpeople’s pots.
Torpedo Wharf | Maryann Jones Thompson
Though technically not part of Crissy Field, most everyone continues to the end of the road and Fort Point. At the end of the walk, find the painted “high-five” turn-around spot handprints, Hopper’s Hands, (and a bit lower the pawprints for fur babies), hanging beneath the Golden Gate Bridge at Fort Point. The wooden plaque is named in honor of Ken Hopper, a retired ironworker who maintained the bridge fences. Hopper regularly saw runners touch or grab the fence just before turning around. From this observation, Hopper constructed his friendly sign inviting visitors to reach out for a high five, marking their halfway point.
Up to the Bridge
Back along the main road, head up on the trail behind the Warming Hut to a nice Golden Gate view en route to the bridge’s Welcome Center and Equator Coffee at the deco classic Round House Cafe, or flip a U-turn and head back on Mason Street to explore the south side of Crissy Field.
Equator Coffee at the Round House Cafe | Courtesy photo
Guide to the South Side of Crissy Field
From West to East
House of Air
Behind the Warming Hut, head right and you’ll begin to walk east on Mason Street on the rear section of Crissy Field. You’ll see businesses and offices that have brought these old maintenance buildings back to life. Pass the private swim school La Petite Baleen and check out the acrobats at House of Air, because both kids and adults can get behind some trampoline time.
Movement Climbing Gym
Book a 15-minute tour of this indoor climbing mecca and get your first climbing lesson for free at Movement (FKA Planet Granite)! Individual lessons and an assortment of youth programs are available to help build confidence and gain valuable experience climbing.
The Presidio Pet Cemetery
Take a quick detour to the right on McDowell Avenue to see the Pet Cemetery, the resting place of beloved parakeets, Siamese and Great Danes whose fame in the afterlife likely eclipses that of their owners. Looking for a quiet spot? From the Pet Cemetery, walk up the Park Trail to the National Cemetery Overlook or over to Andy Goldsworthy’s Spire for an added bonus.
Presidio Pet Cemetery | Maryann Jones Thompson
Across McDowell Ave., you can take a longer detour to the new “Presidio Promenade Connector” trail between the supports for the Presidio Parkway overhead to the new Battery Bluff park area. The area delivers a bird’s eye view of the entire Crissy Field area from the military installations that guarded it for more than a century.
Military Intelligence School
Back down on Mason Street, pay homage to local beer production at the Fort Point Beer Production Brewery (sadly, no public tours) and aim for the Military Intelligence School (MIS). Run by the National Japanese American Historical Society (NJAHS), the galleries tell the story of Japanese American soldiers who secretly trained for the war against Japan. MIS offers exhibits and educational events for the public during limited hours.
Military Intelligence School on Crissy Field | Maryann Jones Thompson
A sporting retailer and community hub all in one, Sports Basement in the Presidio is one of a kind. Come to shop, rent bikes, and keep an eye out for special community events.
Tunnel Tops (Coming Soon)
Opening in July 2022, Tunnel Tops, the final phase of the Presidio Parkway renovation, will be complete and open to the public. This top of a tunnel over the highway will be a new magnet for outdoor activity, connecting the presidio Main Post to Crissy Field. The fun begins at the east end of the Sports Basement parking lot with a massive children’s playground. Up above, grassy areas and trails will connect to the Main Post above and end its division from Crissy Field.
Quartermaster Reach Trail
If you know the definitions of “quartermaster” and “reach,” then you could guess that this 2020 walkway crosses the marshy waters near the housekeeping buildings of the old army base and connects it to the Main Post area. A short walk leads to the small Wayburn Redwood Grove park; A big walk will crisscross you through Presidio and up the entire Tennessee Hollow Watershed, another successful environmental restoration of the Presidio’s pre-military landscape.
Quartermaster Reach looking toward final stages of construction on Tunnel Tops, May 2022 | Maryann Jones Thompson
Main Post & Beyond
With Crissy Field behind you, head into the rest of the Main Post area, including the Walt Disney Museum, the Main Parade Ground and the always-awesome Presidio Bowl. There’s a Lyft Bike Share stand on Anza that’ll roll you over to the Palace of Fine Arts, the Marina, the Final Final or Cow Hollow—but only the strongest riders will head up through the trees of Presidio Blvd. to the top of Presidio Heights. Unless you’ve Lyft-ed an eBike, that is…
Lots of Ways to Get To, From and Around Crissy Field
- Driving? To follow our route, pull into East Beach Parking. There are more spots at Lundeen Street parking, Battery East parking lot, around the St. Francis Yacht Club or on Marina and Fillmore. Farther west, the spots behind Battery Bluff are usually empty until the afternoon and spots are often free along Mason Street. Remember, to check the signs in Crissy Field: Parking in and around Crissy Field and the Presidio is usually metered seven days a week!
- Busing? Hop on the 30-Stockton bus. It drops you off right at the Sports Basement parking lot. Check out this bus map for specific details.
- Scootering? Use the Scoot App to rent a fully electric scooter.
- Shuttle-ing? Check out PresidiGo for a free ride to and around the Presidio with drop off and pick up right at the Presidio Transit Center. For further details check out the PresidiGo map.
- Biking? Rent bikes through Sports Basement right at Crissy Field or download the Bay Wheels App and pickup/dropoff in the Main Post on Anza.
The post At Play in Crissy Field appeared first on The Paloalto Digest.