It’s been a long time in the making, but the eagerly anticipated Presidio Tunnel Tops area within San Francisco’s Presidio National Park site is now set to open on Sunday, July 17.
The 14 acres of parkland were designed by James Corner Field Operations, which also designed New York’s High Line. Sitting in the heart of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the site will feature scenic overlooks, trails, picnic areas, and gathering spaces with spectacular views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. Of special note, Presidio Tunnel Tops also features what’s known as the Outpost, a 2-acre nature play area where kids can swing, crawl, and climb on structures built from fallen tree trunks, boulders, and other natural materials.
“This project has been 30 years in the making, and we couldn’t be more excited that the vision and hard work of so many people is finally coming to fruition,” Jean Fraser, CEO of the Presidio Trust, a federal agency that manages the Presidio in partnership with the National Park Service and with support from the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, told TravelAwaits. “When visitors come, they’ll enjoy sweeping views that are, in a sense, newly created, of the Bay, the Marin Headlands, and the Golden Gate Bridge. There are grills and places to picnic, a Visitor Center with transit hub, food options, paths, meadows, and beautiful gardens.”
Fraser went on to add, “We’re really excited about the huge nature play area and new Field Station where kids can have hands-on experiences of nature.”
A Historic Background
The Presidio’s roots go back to 1776, when Spanish soldiers used the area as the northernmost outpost in western North America. Eventually, the U.S. Army took control of the area that is now the Presidio in 1846, according to the National Park Service, and built its own military post.
The Presidio was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962, and the site has been part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area since 1994.
Interestingly, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which itself was the third most-visited site in the National Park System last year, features 37 distinct parks — including the Presidio, Muir Woods National Monument, and Alcatraz Island. The 80,000-acre recreation area supports 19 distinct ecosystems and is home to more than 2,000 plant and animal species, as well as more than 130 miles of trails and 1,200 historic structures.
An Unexpected Need For Change
Doyle Drive, a highway that cut the Presidio in half on its way to the Golden Gate Bridge, was declared seismically unsafe in 1993. That, in turn, eventually led to the idea of creating tunnels for the highway, and “reconnecting” the two halves of the Presidio by creating new land over the tunnels.
While the idea sounds straightforward, the completion of the Presidio Tunnel Tops is the result of more than 10 years’ worth of community input and consultation with community organizations, health leaders, and park planners — all working with the goal of making national park experiences easily accessible for everyone. It also was possible thanks to funding from donors to the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy through a $98 million capital campaign.
“The necessary redesign of the highway to the Golden Gate Bridge presented us with a golden opportunity – to create even more park land over the tops of the highway tunnels! We wanted to make sure the 14 acres right at the Presidio Tunnel Tops was really special, and exactly what the community hoped for, which is why we worked with the community on design, and going forward, curating the welcoming experience of the place,” Fraser told TravelAwaits. “Because the site is so spectacular and also features three buildings down at the waterfront, the project needed philanthropic support from the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. Their generous donors really gave a beautiful gift to the city, and we can’t wait to open it to the public.”
Know Before You Go
Presidio Tunnel Tops opens on Sunday, July 17. Free family-friendly events and activities will be held from July through October. You can learn how to register to receive updates about events, attractions, and celebrations that will be held at Presidio Tunnel Tops here.
While you’re thinking about visiting Presidio Tunnel Tops, be sure to also read
- 11 Best Experiences At The Presidio In San Francisco
- 10 Important Ranger Tips For Visiting Golden Gate National Recreation Area
- 10 Key Ranger Tips For Visiting Muir Woods National Monument.
Be sure to also visit all of our San Francisco content, including 12 Amazing San Francisco Experiences Found Only On The Waterfront.