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Nature and water at El Polin Spring in the Presidio of San Francisco. Photo by Marlin Lum.

El Polín Spring

Experience nature and history at this peaceful refuge in the park’s largest watershed.


Southern Wilds Region


Recreation & Wellness, Military & Historic Site, Habitat


History, Nature & Sustainability

Top Amenities

Accessible Parking, Accessible Restrooms, Free Parking, Bike Parking, Wheelchair-accessible Picnic Tables

Experience nature and history at this peaceful refuge in the park’s largest watershed.

Located off the Ecology Trail within Tennessee Hollow – the Presidio’s largest watershed – El Polín Spring is central to Presidio history and a peaceful place to experience nature.

El Polín is a natural spring that provided fresh water to the Ramaytush Ohlone people, Spanish soldiers, and the U.S. Army. In the early 1800s, when the site was just outside the original fort of El Presidio (the first fort), Spanish Colonial businesswoman and landowner Juana Briones lived here with her family. Later, the U.S. Army built housing near here, putting much of the creek system underground.

After more than two decades of habitat restoration, today you can watch an Anna’s hummingbird drink, enjoy a history walk, and have an intimate picnic.

Getting to El Polín Spring

El Polin Loop, San Francisco, CA 94129

Google Map of the Presidio

By Public Transit

Muni Route: 43 Masonic

Stop: Presidio Transit Center

By Presidio GO Shuttle

Route: Presidio Hills Route

Stop: Inspiration Point


Limited two-hour free parking can be found at the end of MacArthur Avenue. If utilizing GPS, the best street address to use for El Polín Spring is 8600 MacArthur Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94129.

Why We Love El Polín Spring

Leave the crowds behind at this lesserknown Presidio gem. A walk in nature around the loop provides a true escape from busy city life and gives you a window into the historic Presidio. 

Accessibility at El Polín Spring

El Polín Spring features picnic tables with companion seating and an accessible restroom.

Insider Tip 

If visiting with kids, you’ll find a little “book nook” near a bench with fun tools to experience nature at El Polín Spring. Kids can also visit Presidio Wall Playground, one of the best playgrounds San Francisco. It’s just a short walk up a spur trail from El Polín Spring.

Anna's hummingbirds at El Polin in the Presidio. Photo by Elizabeth Madriz.Photo by Elizabeth Madriz.

Where Presidio History Meets Nature

Not every Presidio visitor makes it to El Polín Spring. Those that do discover a real gem.

A man and woman walk at El Polin Spring in the Presidio.

Take a Walk

The best way to get to El Polín Spring is on foot. Access it from the Presidio Ecology Trail or the Mountain Lake Trail. Or walk up MacArthur Avenue past homes built by the Army in the 1960s and today occupied by park residents.

Bring Your Binoculars

This is a birdwatching hotspot. Bring your binoculars for a chance to see California Towhees, Black Phoebes, American Robins, White-crowned and Song Sparrows, and Anna’s and Allen’s hummingbirds.

Enjoy a Picnic

El Polín Spring features a small sheltered picnic area with a single barbeque grill. Come enjoy a meal in a peaceful park setting.

Encounter the History of the Presidio

In 1776, Spain established a fort or “presidio” within walking distance of the spring. By 1812, colonial families had set up a community of adobe houses, making El Polín Spring San Francisco’s first suburb. Today, it’s a place of ongoing archaeological investigation. El Polín is the only part of the Presidio with interpretive signs in both English and Spanish.

Legend Has It

There’s an old legend that says if a woman drinks from the naturally occurring fresh waters of El Polín Spring under the full moon, she’ll have many children and a long life. The myth was widely circulated in the 19th century among the soldiers of the early Spanish Presidio.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Yes. A fun fact is that El Polín has the only compost toilets in Presidio. They are open daily from dawn to dusk. 

No, there is no food service at El Polín Spring. About a 15-minute walk away, find Presidio Pop Up food trucks near the Presidio Visitor Center. See a list of all Presidio food options. 

A pioneer in multiple fields, Doña Juana Briones de Miranda (1802-1889) was one of the first three settlers in Yerba Buena —  later to become San Francisco. Born in present-day Santa Cruz, she moved to the Presidio in 1812. Learn more on the National Park Service website.

Yes. To find out about living in the Presidio, visit Rent a Home. 

Nature Notes 

It’s our goal to make sure people can enjoy the Presidio’s natural beauty for generations to come. We work to protect native plants and animals while reducing our impact on the environment.

Learn More

Restoring the Tennessee Hollow Watershed

El Polín is at the center of Tennessee Hollow, the park’s largest watershed. Restoration has been underway here for more than two decades, with creeks being brought back above ground and habitat restored.

Learn about Tennessee Hollow
A ”book nook” with tools to experience nature at El Polin Spring, located next to a bench.

Park Itineraries

Need help planning your day at the Presidio? We’ve put together some itinerary ideas for things to see and do in the park. Whether you’re planning to spend a few hours or an entire day, there’s something for everyone at the Presidio.

We’re Here to Help

Have a question about the park? Want help planning your next visit? We’ve got you covered.

Representatives from the National Park Service, Parks Conservancy, and Presidio Trust standing in front of the Presidio Visitor Center