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.
|Getting to Twin Peaks||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.
View from the southern peak,
looking north towards the other one.
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.
There are restrooms near the parking lot.
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 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 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 from the path to Twin Peaks.
A taxi ride from downtown to Twin Peaks costs about $20-$25.
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Another option is to see Twin Peaks as part of a city tour.
There's a popular 3.5 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. $62. Morning or afternoon tours available. To check out the tour, see city tour.
To get up to Twin Peaks at night, there are a couple of city tours that stop up here.
Small Group Night Tour. See the major SF sights in a VW van, including Fisherman's Wharf, Chinatown, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Coit Tower. 2.5 hours, $79. See night tour for more info and booking.
The San Francisco Love Night Tour. For something a little different, see the main sights in San Francisco also in a VW bus, but 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. $55. 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.
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.
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.