SF’s easiest hike is its prettiest–climb up to the waterfall on Strawberry Hill–the crown jewel of Golden Gate Park

SFGate – By Andrew Chamings – May 31,2022

There may be no corner of San Francisco more stuck in time than the boathouse at Stow Lake.

Since 1893, courting couples and excited kids have taken rowboats and paddleboats out onto the lake to spot turtles, coy carp and ducks, or merely to waste a few hours away on the water.

It’s also where I started a very short, very pretty hike (really just a stroll) to the waterfall atop Strawberry Hill, maybe the pinnacle of Golden Gate Park designer John McLaren’s achievement.

Golden Gate Park has become a true respite from city life recently — John F. Kennedy drive is now more serene that anytime since Model T’s first trundled down what was then Main Drive in the 1910s, thanks to its now-permanent car-free status.

But crossing the Roman Bridge over some passing ducklings to climb the northern slope of the hill, I felt more secluded from the noises of San Francisco life than anywhere in the park, or even the city. The little island of Strawberry Hill is also accessible from the Rustic Bridge to the south. Both bridges have brought visitors to the attraction since 1893, and therefore may be the oldest, if not the most famous, bridges in San Francisco.

The hike that curves up and around the hill reveals an explosion of flora and fauna. Dense blackberry bushes and orange and yellow (edible) nasturtiums fill the hillside. As its name suggests, wild strawberries used to cover the hill, but over the years, cape ivy and ice plants have pushed the fruit out, although apparently a few patches still exist.

On my walk, swallowtail and monarch butterflies flittered by. Out in the trees over the water stunning Great Blue Herons nest and watch the lake for prey. I even managed to get a photo of one curious fisher who came close.

Huntington Falls hits your ears before your eyes as you make your way up, its gentle gargling drowning out any remaining distant car horns. John McLaren, Golden Gate Park’s architect, was apparently inspired to build two waterfalls in the park (the second being Rainbow Falls) after hiking around Yosemite with John Muir. The manmade waterfall is fed by a pond atop the hill filled via an electric (and quiet) pump.

At over 400 feet, Strawberry Hill is the highest point in the 1,000-acre park. From the crest, the view takes in the Golden Gate Bridge and Mount Tamalpais and stretches over the bay to Mount Diablo in the east.

Read entire article & see pics here

Posted by Teri Perticone

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