April 1999 north end and May 2001 south end
Kind: Sizeable beach amidst hard rock cliffs and dune strand.
Location: From Bowley St off Lincoln Blvd in The Presidio.
Facilities: Restrooms, picnic tables with bbq grills, water.
Fee/Open: No fee. Close at 7pm.
Dogs: Fair. Large beach (good). Shore fishermen common (not good). Dangerous waters (not good).
Baker Beach is perhaps the most popular and dearly loved beach in San Francisco. It is the birthplace of Burning Man which now (Aug, 2001) draws crowds between 20,000 - 30,000 as an annual festival in the deserts of Nevada. The great qualities of Baker are its size (it is about 0.5 mile long in this rugged location of cliffs and steep bluffs), its vantage to the Golden Gate Bridge (which is unique), and the particular quick deepness of the water which creates a single dramatic wave break close to shore. This quick deepness makes it very good for shore fishing, but very dangerous for swimming, and also for sharks. It has very nice picnic areas just back from the beach around the entrenched remains of shore batteries. The beach connects to the upper bluffs via the Coast Trail, which is not really recommended here for it climbs steeply and spends much of its time close to busy Lincoln Blvd. One aspect of Baker Beach which is interesting is how changeable it is with regard to waterline and sand level. Over time the tides can change it so much that it seems like a different beach on different visits, sometimes quite wide and other times with water washing almost to the cliffs. Either way it is extremely popular and gets quite crowded at peak times. A good 'beach' weekend (they are so rare) will fill up both of its parking lots and send cars up along Bowley to seek out shoulder spots all the way to Lincoln Blvd (where there suddenly aren't any more). With the beach covered with people, it becomes closer quarters than Ocean Beach would ever be due to Ocean's endless supply of space. The north end of Baker Beach has established itself long ago as clothes optional, but the attraction of an equal number of gawkers as nude sunbathers has served to rather degrade the experience of going nude here and limited it to hardcore nudists. The north end has the greatest spatial gravity however, a gravity engendered by its containment from massive bluffs which begin rising to great heights. The north end is also where the best rock formations are, although the explorability aspect of them is low. There is usually no way to penetrate from here northward to the little beaches in the wild cliffs (for this, enter from [Presidio Cliffs]). The south end is perhaps the most recommended today because it is the least crowded and the cliffs right at the tide line can be 'played with' at low tide, leading to modest cave discoveries and a bit of climbing adventure. Baker has always been a clean beach, no rocks of any size, no driftwood, no kelp. The sand at the tideline is gravelly and dark. Because the Sea Cliff neighborhood is partially visible, it is not quite as wild seeming as would be ideal. All in all, it is considered here as a somewhat interesting beach that carries a rather low weekend recommendation. It is certainly however, an important feature of San Francisco and must be recommended for visitors to the city.
Best Features: No fee. Climbable, explorable rocks at either end are interesting. Great view of the bridge.
Worst Features: Immediate beach around parking area is not so interesting. Waters are treacherous at Baker. Can be windier than average. Can be crowded.