Discover a ton of history in a short walk through the heart of the Presidio.
As a National Historic Landmark District, there’s history to explore almost everywhere you look within the Presidio. Nowhere is that history more concentrated that in the center of the park at the Main Post.
This itinerary includes about one mile of walking and takes one to two hours.
What to bring:
Stop 1: Presidio Visitor Center
Stop 2: Funston Avenue “Officers’ Row”
Stop 3: Chapel of Our Lady
Stop 4: Presidio Officers’ Club
Stop 5: Pershing Square
Stop 6: Montgomery Street Barracks
Stop 7: Final Stop – Restrooms at Presidio Transit Center
Start your adventure at the Presidio Visitor Center. Built in 1900, this building was the Presidio’s guardhouse, a central location for guarding the post and holding prisoners. In 1951 after World War II, it was converted into a bank and a post office. In 2017, it was reborn as the Presidio Visitor Center.
Tip: In the north (rear) room of the Visitor Center, don’t miss the storytelling panels. Additionally, a large interactive digital table invites visitors to make connections among the people, places, and events that have shaped the Presidio across two centuries (and has text in English, Spanish, and Chinese).
Directions: Exit Presidio Visitor Center and turn left (east) on Lincoln Boulevard. Then, turn right on Funston Avenue to reach your next stop – Officers’ Row.
During the Civil War (1861-1865), the Army built these homes for officers and their families. It’s one of the oldest intact streetscapes in San Francisco. An interesting fact is that the front porches were originally on the other side facing the parade ground. They were reoriented in 1878 so the homes would face those entering the Presidio from the east. Today, the buildings are workplaces for a variety of organizations.
Tip: For a history lover’s staycation, book a room at the Inn at the Presidio, located at the top of Funston Avenue. It was once home to unmarried officers. The Inn is among the Historic Hotels of America.
Directions: When you reach the top of Funston Avenue, turn right on Moraga Avenue at the Inn at the Presidio. Walk just a short distance further to reach your next stop on the left – the Chapel of Our Lady.
Chapel of Our Lady was built in 1864 during the Civil War. This quaint chapel was the U.S. Army’s first house of worship at the Presidio. Generations of military personnel attended non-denominational services here.
Directions: Keep walking west on Moraga Avenue to reach your next stop – the Presidio Officers’ Club. If the main entrance is not open, enter through Colibri Mexican Bistro.
Originally constructed in 1776 by Spanish settlers, the Presidio Officers’ Club was expanded by the US Army for quarters, offices, dining, dancing, and other social events. It was remodeled again in the 1930s to reflect a Mission Revival style. In 1973, the back rooms and bell tower were added.
In 2014, it again underwent a full rehabilitation and now houses the Presidio History Exhibition. It is also is home to Colibri Mexican Bistro. And it’s a popular destination for weddings and celebrations.
Tip: Don’t miss the Mesa Room where you can see adobe walls dating back two centuries. And the EXCLUSION exhibition details an important period in American history.
Directions: Exit the building and walk past Colibri Mexican Bistro. At the crosswalk, cross Moraga Avenue to reach your next stop – Pershing Square. You can’t miss it – if you look north, you’ll see a flagpole with picnic tables and views of the bay.
The Presidio is one of the only national park sites with an active archaeological dig site – and you’ll find it at Pershing Square. Researchers work here seasonally to learn more about El Presidio de San Francisco, the original Spanish Colonial fort. Check the website for dates.
The square is named for General John J. Pershing, whose wife and three daughters died in a house fire here in 1915 while he was stationed on the Mexican border. You’ll also see two bronze cannons forged in Peru in the 1600s. They are some of the oldest pieces of artillery in North America.
Tip: There are picnic tables at Pershing Square, making it a good spot to take a break and enjoy views over the Main Parade Lawn toward the bay.
Directions: Continue west on Moraga Avenue. Right after Presidio Bowl and before Presidio Theatre, turn right on Montgomery Street. After two short blocks, you’ll see the historic red-brick Montgomery Street Barracks on your left.
In the 1890s, the Army built these substantial brick barracks to house troops. They had heating, indoor plumbing, kitchens, rec rooms, and even space for tailors and barbers. The Main Parade Ground (now lawn) was constructed alongside so the soldiers could conduct drills and exercises. Today, the barracks have been reimagined as workplaces for a variety of organizations. Lodge at the Presidio is also here.
Tips: For a deep dive into California history, explore the free exhibits at the Society of California Pioneers – a museum and library dedicated to sharing their vast collection dating from the Gold Rush to World II.
Directions: Continue north toward the bay. Then make a right on Lincoln Boulevard and return to Presidio Visitor Center. Note: many days, park rangers offer history talks at 4 pm at the Campfire Circle next to the Visitor Center. Check the events calendar or ask inside.
If needed, you can find all-gender wheelchair accessible restrooms inside Presidio Transit Center.
Tip: Check out the Presidio Pop Up mobile food trucks right across Lincoln Boulevard. They offer delicious food celebrating the Bay Area’s diverse cultures and cuisines seven days a week.
Muni Route: 43
Stop: Presidio Transit Center
Route: Downtown Route
Stop: Presidio Transit Center
Hourly and daily paid parking is available at large lots near the Presidio Visitor Center.
Enjoy views of the Golden Gate, bay, and city at Presidio Tunnel Tops, and finish with a picnic.