"His motivation was the common good, his life was service, his love was the people," reads the poignant inscription carved on the headstone of one of the 30,000 soldiers, family members, and notable figures laid to rest at the Presidio's San Francisco National Cemetery.
The site's origins date to the mid-1800s when the U.S. Army took control of the Presidio and established a small cemetery west of the Main Post. In 1884, the War Department decided to create a much larger National Cemetery on higher ground overlooking the bay, marking the first time such a facility was designated on the west coast. The cemetery expanded gradually over five decades to the nearly 29 acres it encompasses today. Following World War II, it was largely at capacity; new burials stopped in 1973, with the exception of family members who have an existing plot.
Visit San Francisco National Cemetery
The cemetery, managed by the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs, welcomes visitors daily from 6 am to 6 pm (office hours are 8 am to 4:40 pm). The stories of those buried here make the site a fascinating and deeply meaningful Presidio destination.
From spring through early fall, the National Park Service provides periodic guided tours where you'll learn about Pauline Cushman-Fryer, an actress turned heroic Union Spy; and Pvt. William Thompkins, a Buffalo Soldier who took part in the daring rescue of wounded troops in Cuba. You'll also find the resting place of Major Dana Crissy, the aviation pioneer for whom Crissy Field is named. When tours aren't available, an interactive gravesite locator can be found at the Cemetery Lodge and online, along with a map.
Each Memorial Day, the San Francisco National Cemetery hosts one of the largest commemorations in California where nearly 2,000 people gather to honor those who have passed while serving their country. But really, whatever the time of year, a visit here invites the opportunity to reflect and remember.
San Francisco National Cemetery is on the Presidio's Main Post, a moderate walk from the Presidio Officers' Club. The gate is just of Lincoln Boulevard. Limited parking is available inside the cemetery. The Department of Veterans Affairs can contacted at (650) 589-7737.
National Cemetery Overlook
The cemetery's beautiful rolling hillside – set against a Golden Gate Bridge background – can also be experienced from National Cemetery Overlook, a serene and contemplative plaza located off the Bay Area Ridge Trail just above the cemetery grounds. Limited accessible parking is available, and the PresidiGo Shuttle stops nearby.