Hike by Dominik Mosur, originally published in the October 2011 issue of Bay Nature magazine
San Francisco’s highest natural point and almost its geographic center, Mount Davidson is easy to recognize from a distance with its towering cement cross, but the urban naturalist will find great rewards in giving it a closer look.
Native plant enthusiasts should look out for over 40 species of indigenous plants, including the largest stand of California fescue remaining in the city. Elderberry, huckleberry, California blackberry, and other fruit-producing shrubs attract numerous birds in the fall.
The bird list here is nearing 200 species. Many migrants pass through on their way to breeding or wintering grounds, but a keen observer can easily find at least 30 on any given day. In fall, flocks of resident Nuttall’s white-crowned sparrows are bolstered by golden-crowned and fox sparrows arriving from their northern nesting grounds. Mount Davidson is also great for spotting migrating raptors and resident redtail hawks.
Reptilian fauna consists of western terrestrial garter snakes, northern alligator lizards, and one of the city’s last populations of western fence lizards. California meadow voles can be plentiful in rainy years, and coyotes have been spotted on the hill taking advantage of this bounty.
Getting there Find trailheads at the junction of Dalewood and Lansdale, next to the 36-Muni stop, or from the end of La Bica Street just south of Portola Drive.