San Francisco To Do

Twin Peaks: San Francisco's Best View

Twin Peaks San Francisco

Twin Peaks is a must-see stop on your tour of San Francisco. Why? The view, the view, the view. This set of high peaks is located near the geographical center of the city, offering stunning 360-degree panoramic views of this beautiful city and the bay and ocean beyond. And you might be surprised to find that it offers a few other things to you as well.

History of 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! In the 18th Century the Spanish conquistadores came to the area and named the peaks the Breasts of the Indian Maiden, reflecting their natural shape. The two peaks actually also have their own names: the North Peak is Eureka Peak and the South Peak is Noe Peak.

Twin Peaks is a natural area that rises to a high point of more than 920 feet, the second tallest peak in the city after Mount Davidson. This makes it 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 you will find a handful of transmission towers up there. 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.

Twin Peaks San Francisco

All Twin Peaks Photography by Michael Lax Photography, San Francisco

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.

Twin Peaks San Francisco

Enjoying the View from Twin Peaks

You will be able to see a terrific view of the city from any spot that you are at on top of Twin Peaks. 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.

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 it’s surrounding areas. There is the Mission District and Mount Davidson to the South then going clockwise you’ll look over the Sunset district and the Pacific Ocean, then over Haight Ashbury to the Presidio and the mouth of the bay with the always-spectacular Golden Gate Bridge. 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. Watching the fog make it’s 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. It is an amazing experience that you may get to enjoy during your trek.

Twin Peaks San Francisco views

What Else You’ll Find at Twin Peaks

The primary reason to visit Twin Peaks is to see this amazing view of the city. But while you’re taking the time to go to Twin Peaks, you should be aware that there are some other things that you can enjoy at this attraction:

Some Twin Peaks Tips

The following tips will assist you in maximizing your enjoyment of this great San Francisco attraction:

Twin Peaks San Francisco

How to Get To Twin Peaks

The most common way for people to get to Twin Peaks is to take a car so if you have got a rental car then you’re one step ahead of the game. In fact, Twin Peaks is one of the stops on the 49-mile scenic drive that many people do when they get a rental car in San Francisco.

You will want to consult your map for exact direction to Twin Peaks from your starting point but here are the two most common options:

A rental car is not the only way to get to Twin Peaks, though, so if you’re not driving in the city, don’t fret. Some of your other options include:

Hotels Near Twin Peaks

Are you interested in staying in a hotel that is located close to Twin Peaks so that you can jut on up there and enjoy the view a few times during your stay? Some great nearby hotels include:

 

Notably, however, it is easy to get to Twin Peaks from any hotel that is located near Market Street, which includes all of the hotels in Hayes Valley, SoMA, Union Square and the Financial District.

Twin Peaks Photo Gallery