At 922 feet in elevation, Twin Peaks is second only to Mt. Davidson in height, offers spectacular views of the Bay Area, and is a world-famous tourist attraction. Originally called “Los Pechos de la Choca” (Breasts of the Maiden) by early Spanish settlers, these two adjacent peaks provide postcard views and a treasure trove of animal and plant diversity. Most visitors to Twin Peaks drive (or take a tourist bus) to the north peak parking lot to enjoy 180-degree views of the Bay Area.
Many miss an opportunity to experience the coastal scrub and grassland communities of this 64-acre park. Similar to the Marin Headlands, Twin Peaks gives us an idea of how San Francisco’s hills and peaks looked before grazing and then development changed them forever. The vegetation is primarily a mix of grassland and coastal scrub. Expect strong winds as you hike among plants such as coyote brush, lizard tail, pearly everlasting and lupine. The endangered Mission Blue Butterfly has adapted to the strong winds and flies low to the ground from lupine to lupine. Native plants provide habitat for brush-nesting birds like the white-crowned sparrow and animals such as brush rabbits and coyotes.
Hours: sunrise to sunset, seven days a week
Some neighbors have contacted Rec and Park to strongly oppose the inclusion in the Trails Improvement Project of the repair and formalization of the existing trail that connects the new Portola Trail with the end of the Portola cul-du-sac. This trail segment was included in the conceptual plan that was approved by the … Continue reading
Rec and Park and Public Works are coordinating a joint improvement project that will repave the southern portion of Twin Peaks Boulevard, from Panorama to the southern edge of the southern peak. The work will take place in early 2015. In response to neighbors’ concerns about problems with storm water … Continue reading
Rec and Park was honored at the 2014 California Trails and Greenways Conference this April with a Merit Award for the development of the Creek to Peaks Trail. The Creek to Peaks Trail connects Glen Canyon and Twin Peaks for walkers, runners and hikers. The “to Peaks” portion of the … Continue reading
Happy to report that we have completed trail side planting and split rail fencing along the new Portola Trail on the south side of Twin Peaks. Rice straw mulch has been added to trail side areas that have been seeded. We have also engaged a contractor for plant establishment maintenance … Continue reading
Rec and Park walked the new Portola Trail with a contractor in December and will be working later this month or in early February to complete trail side seeding, planting and fencing as discussed at September 2013 community meetings. Neighbor requests for a crosswalk at the top of the trail … Continue reading
Twin Peaks is a prominent dividing point for the summer coastal fog. West-facing slopes receive substantial fog and strong winds, while east-facing slopes receive more sunlight and warmth. The vegetation is primarily a mix of grassland and coastal scrub. Expect strong winds as you hike among plants such as coyote brush, lizard tail, and pearly everlasting. These plants provide habitat for brush-nesting birds like the white-crowned sparrow and animals such as brush rabbits.
In recent years coyotes have been spotted on Twin Peaks; this native mammal, once prevalent in San Francisco, had gone extinct from the city but now is making its way back. If you are lucky enough to see one of these elusive creatures, please don’t try to approach or feed it, for its safety and yours. Remember that a fed coyote is a dead coyote: While not normally a threat to humans, coyotes that become too accustomed to being approached can become aggressive. Keep your dog on leash in areas that coyotes are known to frequent, for its own safety. For more information about learning to coexist with coyotes, see Project Coyote.
Mission Blue Butterfly
The mission blue butterfly is a federally listed endangered species that still survives in a few areas of San Francisco, Marin, and San Mateo counties. In 2009, 22 pregnant female mission blues were released on Twin Peaks, the only place this butterfly has survived within the city. Look for the light blue, quarter-sized butterfly in the park’s rocky grasslands, which contain the three species of lupine it uses for food and to lay its eggs. NAP has developed a recovery plan for the mission blue on Twin Peaks..
Silver lupine is one of the three native lupine species that provide habitat during different stages of this fascinating butterfly's life. The female butterfly lays eggs on the lupine and feeds on its nectar. When the eggs hatch, the newly emerged caterpillar feeds on the inner parts of the lupine leaves. Once the caterpillar has obtained enough food energy for the winter, it crawls down to the base of the plant and goes dormant. The following spring the caterpillar will emerge to feed again and return to the ground to pupate, emerging from its cocoon as a butterfly. Like many butterfly species, mission blue's larvae have a mutualistic relationship with ants. Caretaker ants stroke the larvae with their antennae, which causes them to secrete a sugary fluid, called honeydew, that the ants crave. In return, the ants protect the larvae from predators and parasites.
The best way to see this landscape is to hike the 0.7 mile trail network that ascend the two peaks, where you will also find 360-degree views that surpass those at the north peak overlook. Additional trails follow the southern and eastern slopes of the park; be sure to stay on established trails to avoid poison oak and minimize erosion. To extend your hike, you can continue down Twin Peaks Blvd towards Portola Drive into Glen Canyon Park for a 1.2 mile Creek to Peaks trail.
Street parking is widely available off of Crestline Drive and there is a small parking lot located near the Christmas Tree Viewing Area. Muni line 37 stops along Crestline Drive and Muni line 48 stops along Portola.