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Twin Peaks: San Francisco's Best View

Hike, drive or take the bus to the city's top viewpoint

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Twin Peaks: San Francisco's Best View
Photo Courtesy of DigitizedChaos through Creative Commons
Home to the second highest point in the city of San Francisco (the first is Mount Davidson), Twin Peaks offers unobstructed views of San Francisco and the bay that are unrivaled anywhere in the area. Although a popular stop on San Francisco bus tours, Twin Peaks is relatively easy to reach independently, and can provide quite a workout in the process. Telescopes, tables and often crowds await you on the top and always remember that fog can sweep in at any moment, obscuring the view and chilling the bones. Bring warm clothes.

The View from Twin Peaks

True to it's name, Twin Peaks consists of two different summits, the north peak and the south peak. In the parking lot area, which is located between the two peaks and is where the tour buses stop, there is a stone wall that is lined with mechanical coin-operated telescopes and pretty awesome views out over downtown San Francisco and the east bay. You are looking straight down Market St. from here.

For 360 degree views, however, you should climb up the north peak and take in the panorama. The Mission district lies to your right while downtown, Nob Hill and Alcatraz lie right in front of you and the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood and Golden Gate Park greet you on the left. Even the Golden Gate Bridge, which peeks over the greenery of the Presidio, is visible from Twin Peaks.

Hiking up to Twin Peaks

Located near the geographical center of San Francisco, Twin Peaks is also the city's top hiking destination and fog or sun, many locals climb the 920 foot high summit weekly or even daily. The incline is fairly steep and the hike is recommended only for those who are in at least moderate shape. Along the way, gorgeous architecture, neighborhood gardens and a smattering of wildlife await, including Mission Blue butterflies and Red-tailed hawks.

For visitors, the best place to begin the hike up to Twin Peaks is the Castro District since it is easily accessible from both Union Square and Fisherman's Wharf simply by taking the Historic Streetcar up Market Street to it's last stop at Castro and Market. You can also take the K, L, M or T Muni Metro Subway lines from any Market Street Station. The corner of Market and Castro is also where the 37 Corbett stops, which is the Muni bus to take to the top of Twin Peaks for those that would rather visit by public transit. From the Castro, the hike is just under 2 miles in length and should take about an hour.

To hike up to Twin Peaks, walk south on Castro for three blocks to 20th Street and then make a right. Walk four blocks west on 20th street to where it ends and turns right onto Douglas Street. Instead of turning right however, take the stairway to the left which will bring you up to Romain Street. Walk west on Romain Street and you will pass right over Market Street below you via a pedestrian overpass. Romain soon ends at Corbett Avenue, where you should turn left and then take the next right at Hopkins Avenue, which is very steep. Turn right at the top of Hopkins at Burnett Avenue and follow it to the corner of the Twin Peaks parkland at Gardenside Drive. Here there is a trail that leads up through the hillside to the top of Twin Peaks.

Getting to Twin Peaks by Car

The fastest way to get to Twin Peaks for those with a car is to go straight up Market Street past the Castro District and up the hill until it turns into Portola Drive. Once on Portola go to the top of the hill and watch for Twin Peaks Boulevard on your right, which will take you directly to the parking lot.

The History of Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks was an important lookout point for the Ohlone, the Native-American peoples that called the area home prior to European colonization. Now Twin Peaks is home to some of the bay area's most important transmission towers, and the giant Sutro Tower is located on its slopes. Twin Peaks also sits on top of the Muni Metro tunnel, where several of city's subway lines cross from Castro to West Portal, the gateway to San Francisco's outer and more residential neighborhoods.
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