Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Bird watchers, beachcombers, hikers, cyclists, surfers, surf fishers, picnickers and nature lovers flock to both sides of the Golden Gate and the coastal range to The City's south.
This phenomenon is the result of a stunning environmental breakthrough. Congress, in October, 1972 enacted legislation creating the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA)
Today, the GGNRA is the largest urban park in the world and the most popular in the national system.
It's hard to conceive of a preserve of this scale in the fourth most populous metropolitan complex in the country. Much of it derives from the U.S. Army's determination to make the San Francisco isthmus impregnable.
The GGNRA encompasses seven obsolete military installations.
If you're familiar with San Francisco and its surrounds, you can look at it this way.
Imagine yourself atop Telegraph Hill facing the Pacific.
Down to your right are the islands of Angel and Alcatraz.
Ahead the Golden Gate Bridge stretches toward the chaparral-covered headlands of Marin County.
To the left is a metropolitan greenbelt realtors had been rubbing their hands over for decades. It runs along the San Francisco shoreline from Aquatic Park to Land's End, taking in the Maritime Museum, Fort Mason, the Marina Green, the Presidio, Baker Beach, a piece of Lincoln Park and Fort Miley.
Around the corner to the south are the Cliff House, Ocean Beach's 8.5 miles of pounding surf, and the sandstone cliffs and dunes of Fort Funston.
The park's San Francisco segment totals 4,800 acres. Directly across the Golden Gate are the rolling hills, valleys and inlets of Fort Baker, Barry and Cronkhite. All of this is part of the Golden Gate Recreation Area. The rest is out of sight.
The Marin County portion of the park reaches north for 20 miles. In a swath the size of a junior sheikdom, you'll find sandy beaches, lagoons, marshes, redwoods, ranchlands, rugged promontories, streams, fortifications, wildlife sanctuaries, picnic facilities, 100 miles of trails and five camping sites.
Phone 415-331-1540 for information.
Congress has increased the size of the GGNRA four times, most recently in 1980. Sweeney Ridge, site of the discovery of San Francisco Bay by the land expedition led by Gaspar de Portola in 1769, is the latest acquisition. This 1,047-acre parcel is in San Mateo County. As the chains have been dropped on hitherto restricted roads, dazzling vistas have opened on one of the most spectacular coastal configurations in the world.
The first link in the park chain was Alcatraz.
Phased out as a federal penitentiary in 1963, the once-ominous Rock attracts more than 3,000 free spirits a day on sea-land excursions from Pier 41, Fisherman's Wharf.
Cityside, the NPS has created Golden Gate Promenade between the Presidio's Fort Point beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, a pre-Civil War fortress with National Historic Site status (daily tours from 10 am to 5 pm), and Aquatic Park. The footpath follows the bay for 3.5 miles by way of Crissy beach, the Marina Green and yacht harbor and Fort Mason's cypressed bluffs to Hyde Street Pier with its flotilla of historic coastal vessels.