April 2001

Type: Municipal Park yielding to ecclesiastical ownership of the peak, 43 acres.
Entrance Location: There are six access points, listed contiguously, counter-clockwise. Easiest for access to the peak is (4).
1. Juanita Wy becoming Marne (lowest elevation, trail begins with stone stairs). 2. 185 Dalewood (middle of Dalewood which is a very steep hill, joins Juanita trail). 3. 39 Dalewood. 4. Dalewood and Lansdale (most main entrance, bus stop here, closest to top). 5. End of Molimo Dr. (deerpath, non-designated, best view, steep). 6. Myrna & La Bica (not so great trail access, fairly open to start).
Facilities: No recreational facilities. No picnic tables.
Fee-Hours: No fee. No curfew noted.
Dogs: Fair. Dogs on leash clearly posted throughout park. Steep trails. Little to no poison oak. Moderate mud factor after rains. Lots of bramble. No flat open space.

Mount Davidson is similar to Mount Sutro, except smaller and accessible throughout its eucalyptus forests via a number of trails and paths. It reaches 925' in height, hence making it a surprising 16' higher than big brother Mt. Sutro. The eucalyptus forests here are similar but not identical to Mt. Sutro. The understory has less poison oak, but is inundated with massive thickets of bramble which at some points are so dense that trails must carve through them like tunnels. This makes Mt. Davidson a place to know for picking blackberries (that is assuming that these are berry producing plants). The forest also seems less 'tropical' than Mt. Sutro's amazing 'Hawaiiesque' understory. Ivy does not climb as high here, there is less wind blockage, there is slightly more space between trees, these trees do not creak so much, the ground level plant habitat is different, favoring brambles. Mt. Davidson has some natural fern groves and small ferns are often sprouting right out of cracks in eucalyptus trees to a height of 15' or so. The nicest insertion known to discover a great grove of ferns is from the Juanita Wy access and take the first alternate path. Mostly, however, the understory gets tiresome quickly and the steep upward paths are less pretty than paths through Mt. Sutro would be. The mountain is entirely forested except for a clearing at the peak for the cross, and over the entire eastern face which is grassland on gravelly red soil.

Unlike Mt. Sutro, Mt. Davidson is a Municipal Park. This is true except at the very peak, which is ecclesiastically owned, not by the Catholic Church, but by a group called the Council of Armenian Americans to which it was 'auctioned' in 1978. The huge concrete cross at the summit however, has stood for 78 years (1923) and an Easter Mass has been performed every year at the peak since 1934. The park makes quite a point of informing visitors with a number of posted signs that the discrepancy of ownership is due to the foundational separation of church and state as it exists in our constitution. Certainly the most profoundly charged space to be in on Mt. Davidson is directly at the base of the huge cross which is about 80' tall and bears a facade of completely blank concrete. In spite of its starkness and some damaged edges exposing a lackluster re-bar skeleton, it is a strong architectural presence if for nothing else by virtue of its size and the associations it conjures. The base bears a plaque commemorating the Armenian equivalent of the Jewish Holocaust in which half of the Armenian race was essentially exterminated by the Turkish government. A quote in both Armenian and English states with conviction that the thing 'must never be forgotten, for if we forget or let our children forget, then we deserve oblivion'.

The view from the flattened peak area is a massive eastern panorama from 900.' It reveals an aspect of San Francisco which is reminiscent of a volcanic magma flow, as the city has burst its original boundaries and 'flowed' south to merge into Daly City and down the peninsula. It is like the path of a relentless glacier. This is not a flattering view of the city, for it is this part of the city which is least beautiful. The view is as expansive as Twin Peaks but with a more southern focus which is at the very least, unique. There is a spot on the hillside from residential Molimo Dr which gives a nicer view even though it is far lower. Here there is a small path from the end of Molimo which clambers a short way up the steep hillside and gives a partial wraparound view to include a bit of the Golden Gate Channel. This is an inspiring combination which receives praise as one of 15 selected highlight spots for San Francisco. It also appears that it would be a very nice place to come for a city view at night. Mount Davidson creates a context where special places like this are needed. Consider the fern grove and lower east face two highlights of the mountain. More special spots may exist hidden and waiting to be discovered. In general Mt. Davidson is the only park which gives access to this somewhat tropical feeling, ivy climbing, eucalyptus on a mountain jungle (an introduced ecosystem). Mt. Sutro is not a park, but even if it were, there are still differences that make Mt. Sutro unique. It is wanton for public access.

Best Features: Access from six points. Uncrowded with lush vegetation under mild eucalyptus forest. Nice views at top and even better down the eastern slope. Deerpaths allow for some exploring. Wind protection from almost everywhere.

Worst Features: Climbing to the top may be more difficult than desired. Unmarked network of trails makes it easy to get lost. Unbelievably dense thickets of brambles exist all over the mountain.