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July is designated as Picnic Month, so we asked Parks Conservancy staff to share some of their favorite places in the Golden Gate National Parks to enjoy a meal with friends and family outdoors.
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The flat concrete surfaces of Battery Rathbone-McIndoe—once part of the early 20th century harbor defense system in the Marin Headlands—make it a perfect spot for spreading a picnic blanket. On the rare days when the winds are calm, you’ll enjoy jaw-dropping views of Point Bonita and the sweep of the rugged Pacific coast.
West Fort Miley
From the corner of 48th and Point Lobos, walk up hill into Fort Miley and discover a tucked-away expanse of picnicking paradise. “It’s easy to get to, has a beautiful view of Ocean Beach because it’s above the tree tops of Lands End, has great wind protection, and there’s a barbeque grill!” enthuses Kristin Wheeler of the Institute at the Golden Gate.
After a heart-pumping hike (and clamber), you’ll earn your meal on this secluded pocket beach, tucked into the folds of the Marin Headlands. Starting from the Muir Beach trailhead or Tennessee Valley trailhead, Pirates Cove is reached via a spur trail off the Coastal Trail. (Warning: Be sure to check tides to make sure beach is accessible and safe.)
Sutro Heights Park
Site of Adolph Sutro’s former estate, this hidden park—reachable from the parking lot opposite of Louis’ restaurant on Point Lobos Avenue—still features some of Sutro’s fanciful concrete statuary. There’s also ample space to put down your picnic blanket, as well as commanding views of Ocean Beach and the Pacific.
Table Rock (Mt. Tamalpais)
Located just off the Matt Davis Trail, this stone outcropping serves as a perfect rest stop during a day of exploring Mt. Tam. As you enjoy lunch or a snack, soak up stunning views out to Stinson Beach and the Pacific Ocean beyond.
Fort Scott (Presidio)
On the west side of the Presidio, Fort Winfield Scott was once the headquarters of the Coast Defenses of San Francisco. Today, the grassy lawn at the heart of the campus is a great place to spread a picnic blanket, watch the local wildlife (including resident red-tailed hawks and great blue herons), and admire a unique view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Batteries to Bluffs Trail
This viewing area off the Batteries to Bluffs Trail is “where the hills of the Headlands, the grandeur of the Golden Gate Bridge, and the facades of quintessential San Franciscan houses meet the vast Pacific Ocean—and the coastal wildflowers and red-tailed hawks dance to the rhythm of the waves,” according to Yakuta Poonawalla, a Park Stewardship community program manager.