Presidio Tunnel Tops is a new attraction in the Presidio, a national park site. It’s built on top of the Presidio Parkway Tunnels, with amazing Golden Gate views that can’t be found elsewhere in San Francisco. This new 14-acre destination connects the historic center of the Presidio to the park’s Crissy Field waterfront. Presidio Tunnel Tops features gathering and picnic areas, overlooks, play spaces for kids, a campfire circle, and places to walk in nature.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit portions of the park that are open, though the main tunnel top park does not open officially until July 17, 2022. Christy Rocca, the Senior Advisor for the Presidio Tunnel Tops presented the entire project to our group at a private event in the Presidio last evening.
The site will include:
Presidio Plaza is an arrival point and gathering place. It’s located next to the Presidio Visitor Center and the Presidio Transit Center, the hub for the PresidiGo Shuttle and public transportation. In the Presidio Plaza, visitors can relax, people watch, picnic, or enjoy bay views and adjacent gardens.
Located at the northern edge of the Main Parade Ground next to Presidio Plaza, the Campfire Circle provides a quintessential national park experience. With a central gas fire pit and seating for up to 75, it’s a unique spot for Ranger talks or community gatherings. Its garden setting includes large boulders, trees, and shrubs that provide wind protection.
Cliff Walk + Overlooks
The Cliff Walk follows the sinuous edge of the bluff, 30 feet above Crissy Field and the bay, and offers sculpted driftwood benches made from fallen Presidio Cypress trees. Along the Cliff Walk there are three overlooks that offer unique vantage points and themes. The Bay Overlook looks toward Alcatraz and takes inspiration from the story of the Presidio as an Island of Refuge, its nature largely protected from development. The Central Overlook features a view of Angel Island, where Crossroads of Culture is the story: San Francisco’s protected harbor has attracted people for centuries and served as a gateway for exploration, immigration and commerce. At the Western Overlook, visitors have views of the Golden Gate Bridge and National Cemetery. Here the theme is Guardians of the Gate, a tribute to the Presidio’s military history.
Picnic Place features long community tables under a shaded grove of trees. Visitors can bring food for grilling or purchase from a nearby food service facility. Strung lights will make for a festive evening atmosphere. Some tables and barbecues are reservable.
One of the largest lawn areas at Presidio Tunnel Tops, Golden Gate Meadow is a gathering area surrounded by gardens, tall native grasses and perennials. It’s a go-to place for spreading out on a blanket, picnicking, kite-flying, and hanging out with family and friends. Located just south of the Cliff Walk at the edge of the bluff, the meadow offers beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Bay, and the Marin Headlands. The smaller Anza Meadow is nearby and is available for rentals.
The Presidio Steps connect the Cliff Walk to the Outpost below through a series of lawn viewing terraces that step down the steep hillside. The steps face the Golden Gate Bridge, providing spaces for visitors to linger while enjoying dramatic views, including sunsets at the Golden Gate. The terraces are set amidst native bluff planting that creates a wind-protected and comfortable environment.
The Outpost is a two-acre outdoor play area immersed in native habitat that invites kids of all ages to explore, create, and imagine. Inspired by the Presidio’s natural and cultural history, it’s a new kind of playscape based on the concept of “beneficial risk.” It’s designed to promote independence and self-confidence through self-directed activities like balancing, swinging, climbing, crawling, and playing with others. The one-of-a-kind, large features are made of natural elements like wood, stone, and water and increase the level of challenge to allow kids to self-select their comfort level and grow it over time. The Outpost also offers self-guided exploration in the Builder’s Area, Art Area, Science Area, and a Discovery Area for young children.
It’s not a museum, nor is it a classroom. The Field Station is where youth can explore the Presidio’s natural and cultural world through the lens of science, art, and imagination. A cabinet of curiosities, it is curated with real objects, materials, and tools that stimulate the senses and promote critical thinking. Kids can study historic maps or create their own, examine the seeds, rocks, and plants of the Presidio through the lens of a microscope, or sketch an owl in a field notebook. The Field Station offers visitors authentic, personal, directed experiences and access to the knowledgeable and friendly staff.
Crissy Field Center + Learning Labs
For two decades, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, Presidio Trust, and National Park Service have offered youth programs that support environmental learning and leadership development at the Crissy Field Center. The Presidio Tunnel Tops project expands the Center’s facilities, upgrading the existing building and adding a new lab with classrooms. In combination with the Field Station and the Outpost, the new facilities will serve even more youth and families than ever before.
The Courtyard is an outdoor gathering space bordered by the Field Station, the Learning Labs, and the Crissy Field Center. The Courtyard features flexible space for events and an outdoor barbecue area with picnic tables and planters. Its central location provides additional space for learning or play activities.
Partnership for the Presidio | National Park Service | Presidio Trust | Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy