Planning for the Presidio Tunnel Tops started nearly 30 years ago when the U.S. military abandoned its onetime fort overlooking San Francisco Bay. This week, the vision finally became a reality when a ribbon-cutting ceremony welcomed visitors to the city’s newest green space. Built on top of the Presidio Parkway tunnels, Tunnel Tops adds 14 acres and plenty of fun to the Presidio national park site.
The sleek space, designed in part by the same firm that created New York City’s popular High Line, offers only-in-San Francisco views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands, and Alcatraz Island. By turning what was once a raised freeway cut off to pedestrian traffic into a walkable greenway, Tunnel Tops also provides a connection from the interior of the Presidio to Crissy Field and its beach below.
Designed With Purpose
“I’m most excited that all of the years of community planning have resulted in a space that feels safe and welcoming to all,” says Lisa Petrie, spokesperson for the Presidio Trust. More than 10,000 individuals helped shape the park to ensure an inclusive experience. “It’s the crowning jewel in the decades-long improvements to San Francisco’s northern waterfront.”
The striking green space uses natural elements to create a comfortable, interactive environment. Think sloping benches crafted from the Presidio’s fallen cypress trees, playgrounds made of smooth boulders, and walkways lined with native succulents. The Presidio Steps, filled in with wood chips and soft grass, make for the perfect sunset viewing spot.
What to See and Do at Tunnel Tops
“Presidio has never had such a lively center point,” says Petrie, who recommends first-timers start at the Presidio Visitor Center to pick up a map and get the lay of the land. From there, stroll through the manicured gardens to the scenic Cliff Walk. The wheelchair-friendly path hugs the hillside above Crissy Field, offering a panoramic vista of the bay and the city’s iconic bridge.
Families will appreciate the Outpost nature playground. The two-acre area is designed for kids of all ages to stretch their limits and build confidence through physical challenges and play. Separated into three parts—Woodlands, Coastal Bluff, and Dunes—the space relies on organic materials to create whimsical challenges. Children can crawl through the “Fallen Tree,” crafted from a 250-year-old fallen white oak, or climb on the “Woodland Wall,” meant to mimic a pine forest. Don’t miss the nearby Field Station where families can explore art and science through interactive displays.
Food and Events
Visitors can bring a picnic to enjoy anywhere in the park or pick up local eats from one of the rotating food trucks, which are a permanent fixture at Tunnel Tops. Spread a blanket on the meadows, huddle by the Campfire Circle, or reserve a spot at Picnic Place where long bench-style tables are shaded by Torrey pines.
Tunnel Tops will host regular events as well. Throughout the summer, American artist and activist Favianna Rodriguez will display her work via the exhibit Ancestral Futurism: Looking Back to Repair the Future, a series of outdoor installations dedicated to the Ohlone Ramaytush, the original stewards of the land where Tunnel Tops now stands. The first Sunday of each month will feature special activities with DJs, dancing, and pop-up vendors. Check the events calendar for more upcoming park ranger talks, concerts, performances, and more.