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Mount Davidson © Daniel Ramirez/Wikipedia
Mount Davidson © Daniel Ramirez/Wikipedia
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A Guide To Mount Davidson, San Francisco

Picture of Courtney Holcomb
Updated: 9 February 2017
Often overlooked by locals as a hiking destination, Mount Davidson is the tallest peak in San Francisco, reaching 928 feet up into the city’s skyline. Covered in eucalyptus trees and coastal scrub, the mountain is laced with trails for locals to explore through overgrown vegetation.

Located right in the center of the city, Mount Davidson is situated just south of Twin Peaks and west of Glen Park. The top of the mountain is designated as Mount Davidson Park, a privately owned space in the middle of Myra Way, Dalewood Way, and Juanita Way. Visitors can enjoy a variety of natural features upon visiting, include forestry, coastal scrub, and grasslands. The northeast side of the mountain is covered in coastal scrub and grassland, featuring the uncommon California huckleberry and Pacific reed grass. During the spring, these plants bloom into colorful wildflowers, like California poppies, blue-eyed grass, hog fennel, checkerbloom, and mule’s ears. The mountain’s forest covers more than 30 acres, primarily featuring blue gum eucalyptus trees. All of this plant life combines to support a thriving animal population on the mountain, including owls, hawks, and 18 other local species.

The mountain’s eucalyptus trees date back to the 19th century, when Adolph Sutro had vast numbers of them planted on his expansive properties. At that time, the mountain was known as Blue Mountain, thanks to the most common colors of the wildflowers that decorated it. It was not until 1911 that the mountain was renamed in honor of the geographer George Davidson. Around the same time, there was concern that the mountain would fall to the fate of urban redevelopment, as many similar natural spaces did. A local PTA president staged a protest that halted plans for redevelopment, having elementary school students gather wildflowers from the mountain and flood a Board of Supervisors meeting with them.

One of the most popular things to do on Mount Davidson is to take a hike. The park at the mountain’s peak, stretching across 40 acres, is filled with a series of trails, all offering gorgeous views of the city. Hikers must meander their way among the dense vegetation, and on foggy days the rainforest-like effect is transformative. The most commonly recognized feature of the mountain is the massive cross that stands at its peak, a popular landmark for hikers to climb to. The cross was built out of concrete in 1934, reaching 103 feet high. The space where it stands is host to various events, including a yearly Easter prayer service in which the cross is lit up. Hikers can follow this guide for a trail that will lead them directly to the cross.