Your Guide to San Francisco's Baker Beach
San Francisco sits on the tip of a peninsula, with San Francisco Bay to the east, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the famed Golden Gate connecting the two in the north. That means the city has a lot of waterfront to explore. While we don't always get toasty temperatures, we do have some beautiful beaches that are perfect for a walk, a picnic, or just enjoying the sunshine (before the fog shows up). One of the most secluded of San Francisco's top beaches is Baker Beach. Here's everything you need to know for visiting Baker Beach on your next trip to San Francisco.
History of Baker Beach
Baker Beach is part of the Presidio, a military base on the northern tip of San Francisco that has been under the control of Spanish, Mexican, and American forces throughout its history. With its wide views of the Pacific Ocean and its enviable location at the mouth of the Golden Gate, it made for a perfect defensive position. In 1904, the U.S. Army installed an enormous 50-ton "disappearing" gun to protect the city and the coastline. This massive weapon, Battery Chamberlain, is now decommissioned but can still be seen on the beach. Once a month, National Parks Service rangers show visitors how the cannon was operated.
More recently, Baker Beach made history as the original home to the famous Burning Man festival. From 1986 to 1990, the first burners gathered together to create an artistic utopia right on the beach. The event has only grown in popularity and is now held annually in the wide open expanses of the Nevada desert.
How to Get There
You can reach Baker Beach with San Francisco's Muni system by taking the 29 Sunset bus, which services the western neighborhoods of the city. You can also get there by taking the PresidiGo Shuttle. This free shuttle bus travels through the wooded acres of the Presidio, stopping at many points of interest, including Baker Beach. Board the Presidio Hills route that departs from the Presidio Visitor Center near the Main Lawn.
You can also get to Baker Beach with ride-share services like Lyft and Uber, traditional taxis, or by renting a car. There is parking available near the beach, but it is limited and tends to fill up quickly on sunny days. Please also be advised not to leave any valuables in your car if you are renting one.
What to Bring
Unlike Southern California beaches, the sandy stretches of San Francisco don't always guarantee clear skies and sweltering temperatures. That's why, even at our beaches, it's best to dress in layers. You should also visit Baker Beach with a comfortable but sturdy pair of shoes, as there are trails and stairs you can climb to explore the cliffs that shield the beach.
Picnicking is allowed on Baker Beach, so feel free to bring a whole bunch of local goodies from some of our favorite places in the nearby Richmond neighborhood.
Baker Beach is part of the Presidio, an enormous national park that's full of history, art, and breathtaking scenery. The Presidio is also home to the Walt Disney Family Museum, which celebrates the life and legacy of one of the most famous animators of all time.
Not far from Baker Beach is Lincoln Park, which is home to the Legion of Honor. This art museum contains works from centuries of ancient and European history, including one of the largest collection of sculptures by Rodin. Lincoln Park is also criss-crossed with trails that offer great views of the bay, the ocean, and the Marin Headlands. Just be sure to stick to the path, as these routes skirt some very steep cliffs.
The nearby Richmond District has a wide variety of options for a meal, no matter what type of cuisine you're craving or your price point. Aziza (5800 Geary Blvd.) serves Moroccan fare and inventive cocktails. Burma Superstar (309 Clement St.) is always a local favorite, known for its rainbow salad and samusa soup. Pizza lovers should squeeze in to Pizetta 211 (211 23rd Ave.) for a slice of their delicious thin-crust creations. Chino's (3416 Balboa St.) is said to have the best burritos in this part of town, and nearby Shanghai Dumpling King (3319 Balboa St.) is known for their enviable xiao long bao. There's even a Michelin-starred restaurant in the Mission: Wako, a warm and woody Japanese restaurant that serves creative and meticulously prepared sushi dishes.