San Francisco Twin Peaks
Welcome to the breath-taking Twin Peaks!
Located in the heart of the city, Twin Peaks rises above the rest. Occupying two of San Francisco’s highest summits, Twin Peaks offers quiet seclusion from the city below. The neighborhood’s high altitude location may remove it from hurried urban activity, but the steep descent from its hilltops is made worth it by Twin Peaks’ sweeping San Francisco vistas. These two adjacent peaks provide postcard views and a treasure trove of animal and plant diversity. Twin Peaks gives us an idea of how San Francisco’s hills and peaks looked before grazing and then development changed them forever. Admire the city from Twin Peaks—a gorgeous neighborhood whose vantage point is second to none.
The Twin Peaks are two hills with an elevation of about 925 feet (282 m) near the geographic center of San Francisco, California. Each peak has its own name. The North Peak is called Eureka Peak and the South Peak is called Noe Peak. Except for Mount Davidson, they are the highest points in the city. Twin Peaks is a must-see stop for any person who is on a San Francisco tour. This set of high peaks offers a stunning 360-degree panoramic view of this beautiful city and the bay and ocean beyond.
The North and South Twin Peaks are about 660 ft (200 m) apart; Twin Peaks Boulevard runs a figure eight around them. The peaks form a divide for the summer coastal fog pushed in from the Pacific Ocean. Their west-facing slopes, often get fog and strong winds, while the east-facing slopes receive more sun and warmth. Elevation at each summit is just over 900 feet (270 m). Thin, sandy soil is commonplace on Twin Peaks, making them susceptible to erosion.
Here comes the History of the Twin Peaks. Twin Peaks was so-named in the 19th Century, but of course it’s a natural attraction that was present long before it got that name. It is believed that the native Ohlone people used the area as a lookout point, which makes sense since you can see everything from up here! Before the arrival of the Europeans, the native Ohlone people may have used Twin Peaks as a lookout or hunting ground. The ecological diversity of Twin Peaks provided medicinal or ceremonial plants, grains and berries.When the Spanish conquistadors and settlers arrived at the beginning of the 18th century, they called the area “Los Pechos de la Chola” or “Breasts of the Indian Maiden” and devoted the area to ranching. When San Francisco passed under American control during the 19th century, it was renamed “Twin Peaks”.
Twin Peaks is an obvious choice for a scenic viewpoint. But it actually makes it an obvious choice for some more practical things as well, which is why one will find a handful of transmission towers up there. You can orient yourself in the city by consulting Sutro Tower, a TV antenna that soars above Twin Peaks at nearly 1,000 feet. After all, it’s tough to get transmission signals in the lower hills of the area, but those signals are nice and clear up there on the tall peak. You do notice them as you’re heading up to the peaks and you’ll see them up close while you’re up there, but you’re honestly so distracted by the stunning views that they don’t take anything away from the aesthetics of the experience.
In 1954 the city built the Summit Reservoir on top of Twin Peaks. This 14 million gallon water hold is hugely important since this is what provides the water for San Francisco’s fire departments. The idea for this reservoir developed in the wake of the 1906 earthquake and fire when it became obvious that firefighters needed a huge reservoir of water to keep the city safe. The reservoir also provides the city’s residents and the city’s bird life with drinking water.
Aside from the transmission towers and the reservoir, the top of Twin Peaks has remained undeveloped. This undeveloped portion of Twin Peaks has been slated as a Natural Area, and is preserved by the Natural Areas Program (NAP), a 31-acre division of the San Francisco Recreation and Parks department. This Natural Area acts as a preserve for native vegetation, allowing indigenous plant life to grow virtually untouched.
The primary reason to visit Twin Peaks is to see the amazing view of the city. Wander through Twin Peaks and you’ll find stunning examples of modern architecture nestled into the neighborhood. You will be able to see a terrific view of the city from any spot that you are at on top of Twin Peaks. The reasons behind wanting to trek to the top of Twin Peaks become crystal clear as you look across San Francisco and into the bay beyond. However, if you want to get the full experience of the peaks, then you should take the time to journey around the entire area. It’s about a half mile around with some relatively steep ascents and descents.
There are also some other things that one can enjoy at this attraction that include: Lovely architecture, Wildlife, Plant life and Event views. One can see the Lovely architecture at the bottom portion of the hill. It has been developed into a residential neighborhood of beautiful, colorful houses. One can take the time to pay attention to the lovely architecture of these homes. This area also acts as a home to an array of natural wildlife, including raccoons, skunks, opossums, white crowned sparrows and Red Tail Hawks. Most importantly, Twin Peaks is only one of three areas that provide a home to the endangered Mission Blue Butterfly. There is an abundance of beautiful plant life atop Twin Peaks. Some of these plants cannot be seen anywhere else in the city. Twin Peaks is a popular place for people to go when they want to see major events that are happening in the city. For example, it’s a popular place on Fourth of July because one can see the fireworks clearly.
At the summit parking lot, there is a sidewalk that curves around a portion of the hill, where most people stop to lean against the railing and admire the city. This area also provides telescopic viewers that, for 50 cents, will get you a close-up look at various San Francisco landmarks. From there, you can hike the trails over the North and South peaks. From the parking lot, you will walk around the transmission towers to the peaks where the trail is pretty clearly marked. If you travel across to the south peak you will get a 360º view of the city and its surrounding areas. There is the Mission District and Mount Davidson to the South and then going clockwise one can look over the Sunset district and the Pacific Ocean, then over the Haight-Ashbury to the Presidio and the mouth of the bay with the always-spectacular Golden Gate Bridge. One can keep scanning over the city to Telegraph Hill, on to downtown to check out the Transamerica Building and the SOMA area.
One of the things that make San Francisco magical for many people is the fog that blankets the city. Glimpsing a view of the city on a fog-less day can be likened to winning the lottery. Watching the fog making its way from the Pacific is quite a sight to see from the top of the peaks. The fog will sometimes climb up the western side of the hill and slowly cascade down the east side. On rare occasions, when the fog is low lying, you’ll be in the sun at the summit, with the fog actually below you. San Francisco residents take advantage of cloudless days as well. It is an amazing experience.
On a daily basis, one can see countless bicyclists racing to the top and photographers and filmmakers jockeying for the perfect shot. The view, which spans from Ocean Beach and the Golden Gate Bridge to the Mission District and Potrero Hill, will leave anyone breathless.
Twin Peaks is more than a destination for tourists and photographers. If you come up here on a clear night, the lights of San Francisco sparkle below you in every direction. Twin Peaks should be firmly planted on any visitor’s and local’s must-see list.