San Francisco’s Twin Peaks

The Best Views of the Bay Area!

The Bay Area features many places that offer outstanding (and usually free!) views of San Francisco, the skyline, San Francisco Bay, Oakland, the Marin Headlands and other noteworthy sights, but one of the best views can be found right in the middle of the city. The Twin Peaks rise 922 feet over San Francisco and on a clear day, offer unparalleled views in every direction. The Spanish settlers who first arrived in San Francisco called the Peaks “Los Pechos de la Choca” (the Breasts of the Maiden.) Although quite popular with tourists and residents alike, anyone wishing to explore the trails of this 64-acre park will find a rare bit of solitude away from the parking lot, as well as an interesting variety of flora and fauna. Creatures such as the rare Mission Blue Butterfly have adapted to the strong winds that swirl around the Peaks and careful observers will also see a variety of birds and mammals in addition to the spectacular views.

Experienced travelers recommend that visitors:

  • Dress warmly in layers – Temperatures are often quite chilly up here and the winds are usually unforgiving any time of the day or night. Make sure to wear a hat and gloves and some type of windproof outer shell or the cold will get into your bones and ruin the experience.
  • Bring sunglasses, walking shoes and water – If you want to get away from the crowds and go exploring on the trails or you want to walk the somewhat uneven steps up to the Peaks, wear hiking boots or other comfortable footwear and bring plenty of water. There is a rustic bathroom near the parking lot, but there is no running water, so plan accordingly.
  • Go at night as well – Even though the park officially closes at sunset, many travelers visit at night as well. The closing time is not enforced and this is the best time for long-exposure shots of the city and the Bay. The views are different but just as incredible and you’ll find a lot more peace and solitude, as nearly all of the tourists are gone.
  • Pack a lunch or dinner – If fortune smiles and the fog has abated, you’re probably going to want to linger atop the Peaks for quite a while, particularly if you want to go hiking. You’re going to get hungry up there, so grab a substantial sandwich from one of San Francisco’s many great sandwich joints, find a comfortable vantage point and enjoy!

The best way to get to the Peaks is via automobile, as parking is free and there is a sizable lot near the summits. However, if you plan on driving, it’s best to go early in the day, before the tour buses begin parking and clogging the winding road to the top. Intrepid travelers can also walk to the top, as there are trails and steps but be prepared for a moderately strenuous climb. The number 33 and 37 buses will get you near the base of the Peaks but those are the only mass transit options available. However you get there, make sure to visit the Twin Peaks at least once for fantastic photo opportunities, a unique perspective and one of the best views in the area!