Want a spectacular 360 degree view of San Francisco? Head for the top of Twin Peaks, San Francisco.
These two hills rise almost 1000 feet above the City and sit just about in its geographical center.
|Directions||Maps of Twin Peaks|
View of San Francisco, Twin Peaks
From the viewing area next to the parking lot at the top, you can see many of San Francisco's landmarks: the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, Alcatraz, Transamerica Building, downtown skyscrapers and Market Street. Photographs just don't do it justice.
Look in the other direction and there's the Pacific Ocean and Golden Gate Park:
Looking towards the ocean
And looking east, a clear view of San Francisco Bay with the cities of Berkeley and Oakland across the water, and Mount Diablo in the distance:
This is truly one of the most spectacular of all the San Francisco sights! Twin Peaks is where locals like to take their guests.
If you come up here on a clear night, the lights of San Francisco sparkle below you in every direction.
Twin Peaks also hosts a large reservoir holding 300 million gallons, installed on the peaks after the 1906 quake as a water supply for fighting fires.
In addition to having many native plants covering the slopes of Twin Peaks, these hills are the habitat for a pretty little butterfly that only exists two places on earth, Twin Peaks and San Bruno Mountain further down the peninsula.
The butterfly is endangered and lives on the Silver Lupine ground cover that does well on the peaks. The butterflies come out of their cocoons in April and May, and can be seen on the hills.
Twin Peaks is very easy to get to if you have a car. Just follow Market Street west (away from downtown) all the way to the top of the hill (where the name changes to Portola Drive), then turn right on Twin Peaks Boulevard. A short, winding road brings you to the free parking lot at the top.
The parking lot isn't large, and tends to fill up on clear days, but if you wait, a spot will usually open up before long.
It's not that convenient via public transportation. Buses 48 and 52 stop on Portola Drive near the Twin Peaks turnoff, but it's a long hike up the mountain from there.
Tip: you can get a lot closer to the top by taking the 37 Corbett Bus and get off at the #74 Crestline Drive stop. From there, a series of rugged steps will take you to the base of the hills. You can here from Market Street downtown if you take the J-Church Muni street car (it's the subway downtown) and get off at Church and Market when the tram emerges from the tunnel. From there you can pick up the 37 Corbett also at Church and Market. See route for 37 Corbett, click on Live Map.
Path from the 37-Corbett Bus Stop: The bus stop at #74 Crestline is across the street.
A taxi ride from downtown to Twin Peaks costs about $20-$25.
Another option is to see Twin Peaks as part of a city tour. The city tour stops here (weather permitting, which I assume means on days when there is a view). To check out the tour, click here. The Hop On, Hop Off bus tours don't come up here.
Twin Peaks San Francisco has a reputation for intense weather (by California standards). It does tend to be windy and cold, due to its high, exposed position. Twin Peaks gets the full blast of the prevailing winds coming in off the Pacific Ocean.
Twin Peaks is often the dividing line when the fog rolls in, leaving the western half of the City socked in and the eastern half in the sun.
That said, just bring a jacket and you'll be fine.
For everything you've ever wanted to know about San Francisco weather, see fog.
At the end of the film "San Francisco" (the 1936 film with Clark Gable and the song "San Francisco") there is a panoramic view of the City showing the devastation from the 1906 earthquake.
And as you are looking out at the ruins of the City, the scene morphs into a vision of the future "modern", rebuilt San Francisco. Pretty cool. That scene was the view from Twin Peaks, circa 1936.
More hills: you can see Corona Heights from here, the small brown hill in the center, and forested Buena Vista Heights on the left.
There's another hill very close by that also has great views, but very few people visit: Tank Hill. Most locals haven't been there, either.
Tank Hill is easy to get to and easy to park there. See more info about this local secret!
Ready to explore some of our coolest hills with a guide? There is an Urban Hike, Hills and Hidden Gems Tour that takes you to Twin Peaks, Tank Hill, Mount Sutro, and some other neat places, all in the same area of the city. Do you dare to go down the Seward Slides? To check it out, click here.
It's back, but only through June 30, 2017.
(But it might become permanent.)