Bay Nature magazineSummer 2006


San Francisco Natural Areas Program

July 1, 2007

San Francisco’s Natural Areas Program is in the final stages of hammering out a plan to guide the management and improvement of its designated Natural Resource Areas. Of the 3,480 acres managed by the Recreation and Parks Department, 31 sites totaling 860 acres host the last remnants of San Francisco’s historic landscape—and even a hint of wilderness.

Photo courtesy Nature in the City.

“It’s a myth that you have to travel to Yosemite to experience nature,” says Peter Brastow, director of Nature in the City. To set out on your own for a taste of San Francisco’s natural areas, try one of these excursions:

In the southwest corner of the Presidio, across from the Baker Beach parking lot, you’ll find the Lobos Creek Trail, an easy half-mile walk that winds through a richly textured dune scrub habitat, once a dominant habitat in San Francisco. Park employees and volunteers removed a blanket of invasive ice plant, and the area now hosts Chamisso’s lupine, coyote brush, and coast buckwheat.

Bayview Hill, in the southeast quadrant of the city, provides great views and serves as an antidote to cool San Francisco summers. “It feels like you’re suddenly in a hot, dry chaparral environment instead of a moist maritime one,” says Brastow. After a short, steep walk through coastal scrub and grasslands that starts at a gate on Key Avenue (off of Third Avenue and Highway 101), circumnavigate the hill for about half a mile. Raptors nest in eucalyptus trees and three native species of cherry trees grow, including Islay cherry, a plant used extensively by local Native Americans.

This summer you can get your hands dirty while learning more about the city’s natural areas by volunteering with Haight-Ashbury Stewards, a program started by Nature in the City and the Natural Areas Program to support natural areas in the Haight-Ashbury district, such as Twin Peaks, Mount Sutro, and Buena Vista Park. Visit Nature in the City for details.

To get a map of San Francisco’s natural areas, call Nature in the City at (415)564-4107. To learn more about the Natural Areas Program visit and click on “Significant Natural Areas.”

About the Author

Writer Aleta George trained as a Jepson Prairie docent in 2009. In addition to writing Bay Nature's Ear to the Ground column, she has written for Smithsonian, High Country News, and the Los Angeles Times.