The view from Lobos Valley Overlook is undeniably fantastic. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Pacific Ocean, and sunsets here are incredible. But there's something more that makes this landmark worth visiting – it gives us a peek at what San Francisco looked like in an earlier time before the native sand dunes were covered over by a growing city. This epic sight inspired Ansel Adams, the great American photographer who grew up nearby and never forgot the valley's striking beauty.
Lobos Valley, with its free-flowing creek that provides the Presidio's fresh water today, wasn't always as pristine as it now appears. Over decades it was altered time and again to meet human needs. In the 1780s it was used to graze cattle, and later vegetable gardens were planted. In the 1900s, the Army cleared native oak and brush to make space for training and recreation, even building a balloon hangar here. With these changes, the native fauna and flora began to fade away, and the last Xerces butterfly was seen in 1946.
Fortunately, the site has made a strong recovery thanks to park staff and volunteers who have been hard at work for two decades. Dunes have been rebuilt using local sand, native plants are thriving again, and the Lobos Creek Valley Trail now invites visitors to experience the healing habitat. The results of this monumental effort can be seen from Lobos Valley Overlook; it's a view that's testament to the Presidio's first environmental transformation.
Visiting Lobos Valley Overlook
Lobos Valley Overlook, located in the Public Health Service District, is a petite viewing platform easily accessible from the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. It's just inside the 14th Avenue Gate, minutes from the Richmond District. Walking or biking is the best way to get here, but a few paid parking spaces are available nearby for those who must drive. Bring your binoculars to spot the birds and butterflies frolicking nearby.