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.
COVID note: Twin Peaks is open, but car access is only via the Portola Avenue entrance. The main parking lot is now open.
The 37-Corbett bus line going there is running again.
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.
The San Francisco skyline has changed quite a bit since the Salesforce Tower was finished in 2018.
It's now San Francisco's tallest building (1,070 feet tall, about 100 feet taller than Twin Peaks' 922 feet), sticking up to the right of Market Street in the photo above.
At night, they do light shows on the tapered tip of the skyscraper. For Halloween, we had the Eye of Sauron glaring out from the tower!
Look in the other direction and there's the Pacific Ocean and Golden Gate Park:
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.
But I wouldn't advise coming up at night just now; there have been recent incidents of people being robbed up here after dark. Sorry!
Twin Peaks wasn't called that by the Spanish settlers. They named it Los Pechos de la Chola, or The Breasts of the Indian Woman.
No one knows now what the Indians called it, but according to Ohlone legend, there was once only one mountain, consisting of a man and a woman. Because they wouldn't stop their constant arguing, the Great Spirit separated them, and they became two mountains.
What are those towers? The tall, red, three-pronged tower on a nearby hill (between Twin Peaks and Mount Sutro) is the Sutro Tower, a commercial radio and TV tower serving San Francisco and beyond.
The smaller steel towers near the Twin Peaks parking lot are city-owned, radio towers used for police and fire department transmissions.
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.
Twin Peaks is open from 5 am to midnight daily.
It's one of San Francisco's best free attractions!
The restrooms are near the parking lot.
There are pathways up to the top of both peaks; really worth the climb. They've recently been improved with rustic wooden stairs, so they're not as slippery as the dirt paths were after a rain.
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.
There are coin-operated telescopes at the parking lot that take quarters.
(The Hop On Hop Off buses don't come up here anymore.)
Parking tip: there's another small lot between the two peaks holding maybe 7 cars that's a fairly recent addition. If the main lot is full, go left after you exit the lot (south) and check the other one.
There's also some parking beside the road on Twin Peaks Blvd, coming up from Clarendon Ave past the reservoir, straight ahead and to the right of the main lot after you exit it.
If you don't mind a little hike, you can also park on the street along Crestline Drive, where the bus stop is.
The best one is "100 Christmas Tree Point Rd." The loop through the parking lot is named Christmas Tree Point Road.
Why? Because the lot sits on a hill called Christmas Tree Point, named for an annual, lighted Christmas tree displayed there in the late 1920's. (Historical info thanks to outsidelands.org.)
This address takes you to the main parking lot.
"Twin Peaks", and another one sometimes recommended, "501 Twin Peaks Blvd", will both take you to the small parking lot between the two peaks.
Because of COVID, some of the bus lines or street cars listed below aren't currently in service, but the Corbett-37 is going up there again. See bus schedules for current info.
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 get here from Market Street downtown if you take one of the street car lines J, KT, L or M (it's the subway downtown, running under Market Street).
On the J-Church train, get off at the Church and Market stop just after the train comes out of the tunnel; the 37-Corbett bus stop is at Church and 14th Street nearby.
For the KT, L and M trains, get off at the Castro Street station (underground), come up to Castro Street and catch the 37 Corbett bus at Market Street and Castro, close by.
See bus route for the 37-Corbett. There's a Live Map that shows current bus locations.
Path from the 37-Corbett Bus Stop: The bus stop at #74 Crestline is across the street from the path to Twin Peaks.
A taxi ride from downtown to Twin Peaks costs about $20-$25.
Uber or Lyft can get you here, as well.
A fun way to get up there: the little yellow, GPS-guided Go Cars have a route that takes you up to Twin Peaks. There's an optional detour off the Red Route that guides you up to the top, with narrated info about it.
Read about what riding the Go Cars is like (my experience on both the Red and Blue Routes, with copies of the route maps), or see Go Car rentals for more info and booking.
Another option is to see Twin Peaks as part of a city tour.
Day Tours of Twin Peaks.
There's a popular 4-hour, guided city tour which stops here (weather permitting, which I assume means on days when there is a view). You get to see the major attractions in San Francisco, as well. $58. To check out the tour, see city tour.
The Painted Ladies City Tour is a highly-rated, city tour that also takes you up to Twin Peaks. This is a small group tour in a cute VW bus (with eyelashes!) that covers the top SF sights to the accompaniment of 60's and 70's tunes, while sipping local wine or beer. Drives down Lombard Street, too. $65, 3 hours. See Painted Ladies Tour for booking and more info.
Twin Peaks Night Tour
You can get up to Twin Peaks on a night tour, as well.
The San Francisco Love Night Tour. For something a little different, see the main sights in San Francisco also in a VW bus, with a hippie vibe and 60's music. You'll see the city at night, including the Golden Gate Bridge, plus get a ride up to Twin Peaks to see all the city lights spread out below you. They drive down the crooked block of Lombard Street, too. 2 hours, highly rated. $65. See the love tour for more info and booking.
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.
We may have had snow on Twin Peaks on February 5, 2019 during an unusually cold week (but it was during the night, so no one was up there to see it). The last time Twin Peaks had noticeable snow on it was 43 years ago, on the very same day, February 5, 1976.
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 smoldering 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.
In the view above, you're looking straight down Market Street. The green hill on the left is Corona Heights.
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.
You can also see the Golden Gate Bridge from up here, and over to Oakland as well.
Tank Hill is easy to get to and it's easy to park there. See more info about this local secret!
Ready to explore some of our coolest hills with a guide? Do the SF Urban Hike: Castro & Twin Peaks 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, see hills tour.