Fort Funston (MAP) is located along the Pacific Ocean shoreline on the southwest side of San Francisco across from Lake Merced. It was once the Lake Merced Military Reservation, and today it is an outdoor space managed by the Gold Gate National Recreation Area under the National Park Service.
Park visitors come here to stroll by cypress trees with views of sand dunes hugging the Pacific Ocean. The main trail is a favorite for dog walkers. Even during the week this trail is swarmed with dogs, and on the weekend, there are even more. A couple of historical points of interest have remained at Fort Funston, but the shoreline views are what draw most of the attention. Fort Funston is also a world-renowned spot for hang-gliding, and March and October are the best months to see people flying cliffside.
Fort Funston Overlook
The overlook at Fort Funston is to the left of the trailhead for the Beach Trail and Battery Davis in the main parking lot. The initial 100 feet of boardwalk to the overlook is bumpy and in need of some repair. The viewing platform at the top, however, is a smooth boardwalk surface. Surrounding a military structure at the top, overlooking the ocean, are several benches with spaces for wheelchairs beside them.
Beach Trail and Battery Davis
From the parking lot, the pathway begins as a one-way trail along the ocean cliffs, passes under a grove of trees and splits into a loop about a half of a mile into the trail. If you do not like dogs, then this trail is not recommended because dogs are even permitted to be off-leash in some spots.
When the trail splits into a loop, the pathway to the left heads to Battery Davis. Exploring around Battery Davis is limited due to the thickness of sand. This direction continues towards the beach and connects with the other portion of the loop. Both sections of the loop that decend to the beach are at a significant incline, and may not be safe for all visitors using wheelchairs. When the trail splits towards the beach, veer to the right to avoid a sever cross-slope in addition to the incline. Both sections of the loop have views of the ocean, but there is no access modification for the beach itself, such as a beach wheelchair. The paved pathway ends at the sand dunes.
- Length: The whole looped trail is about 1.2 miles, depending on the route traveled. About 300 feet from the trailhead is the first set of benches that overlook the ocean. Battery Davis is 0.4 miles from the trailhead, and from there, it’s another 0.2-miles to the beach.
- Make-up: This looped trail, although paved with asphalt, has a few large potholes and cracks that are dangerous if not paying attention. One section is particularly narrow at about 3 feet. Also, sand may overlay this trail or completely saturate it, making wheel traction limited or impossible.
- Inclines/Grade/Slope: The first few hundred feet or so is relatively flat (less than 2 degrees) and leads to a set of benches. After the benches, there is an incline for about 50 feet at 5-7 degrees in grade. Then the trail levels out until it splits. Both sides of the trail have significant inclines (about 20 degrees) down to the ocean. The trail to the left first climbs up a 7 degree incline for about 50 feet then decends downwards.
- Cross-slope: If veering off to the left, just past Battery Davis on the way to the ocean is an intense cross-slope. Sand covers much of this section, making it harder to get traction.
- Benches: A few hundred feet into the trail is a set of benches and a few hundred feet past that is a set of picnic tables
- Drinking Fountains: A modified drinking fountain that includes a dog water station is located at the trailhead of the Beach Trail. Another drinking fountain is located where the trail splits, but access is tough if not impossible for most wheelchair users because of the uneven terrain.
- Dogs: Are not required to be on a leash.
More Visitor Tips
- More Trails: Other trails at Fort Funston were too sandy to explore.
- Picnic Tables: Two picnic tables are located near the overlook on dirt and grass with no modifications. One of these tables is placed closer to the road, but the choppy, concrete surface is challenging to maneuver over. At the Environment Science Center, which is primarily used for school functions, there are several picnic tables outside, and one has an extended end so that multiple wheelchairs are able to sit near one another. Finally, about 0.3-miles along the Beach Trail, there are two picnic tables by the backside of Battery Davis. These tables are on a paved surface with open space for a wheelchair on each end, but no extended tabletop for multiple wheelchairs.
- Parking: At the trailhead, there are two designated parking spots near the portable toilets. By the overlook, there are three more such spots.
- Bathrooms: Three portable toilets are located to the right of the trailhead for the Beach Trail. The bathroom at the Environment Science Center has flush toilets, with one stall that has been modified with grab-bars.
- Fees: None