OLLI Hikers - Lake Merced & Fort Funston

When: July 27, 2017 - 10:00am

This hike is through the Northern end of Lake Merced and then heading over to Fort Funston for beautiful views, hang gliders, military bunkers, and San Francisco history before returning to the Boathouse on Lake Merced.  

4.7 miles; 2 1/2 - 3 hours  (until approximately 1:00)

OLLI Hikers Co-leaders: Linda Liebelt, Janis Gomes and Vivian Brown

We’ll begin with a 1 1/2 mile round trip walk to see the lovely northern part of the lake beginning at the Boathouse and taking a trail to and across the bridge.   After returning to the boathouse, we walk up to Skyline Blvd to proceed to Fort Funston.   At John Muir Drive we cross the highway and pick up the paved trail leading us to the Fort Funston parking lot where the hang gliders begin and land.   The trail has some beautiful views of the coastline, some of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge.           

From the parking lot we’ll go to the observation area which has some mid-50’s Nike Missile installations. Before leaving the parking area, take the opportunity to use the Porto Potties; the only ones available in the fort. 

Before heading back we’ll visit the native plant nursery which is a good place to take a brief break. We then take the Horse Trail, all sand, to the stairs going down the hill to Skyline Blvd and return to the Boathouse.  

Lunch can be purchased at the take-out window of the Clubhouse.


Meeting Place and finish: Boathouse on Harding Road off of Skyline Blvd.

Parking:  Easy parking with no time limits around the Boathouse and if all spaces are full, there is another parking area off to the right as you enter from Skyline Blvd.

Transportation: #57 only bus to Skyline and Harding. It has a very winding route from West Portal; 39 minutes (36 stops); and 28 minutes (27 stops) from Stonestown.  Shorter options if transferring from other routes (such as the 18, 29, M, 28).

Restrooms and drinking water and restrooms are available at the Boathouse.  Porto Potties in the parking lot of Fort Funston.

Email olli@sfsu.ed to be contacted with the coordinator for questions.  See below  history and background.


Lake Merced is a freshwater lake which has supplied water to the City since the late 1860s. The park was established in the 1950s, after the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which manages the City’s water supply and owns the land, turned its management over to the Recreation and Parks Department.

In addition to providing major water and recreational resources, it is also an important stop for migratory birds on the Pacific Flyway.     Originally inhabited by the Ohlone people, the land around Lake Merced was a ranch during the era of Mexican rule.      --  From San Francisco Parks and Recreation website

The lake is fed by an underground spring, and at one time it did have an outlet to the ocean as shown on an 1869 United States Coast and Geodetic Survey Map. The salt level was always fluctuating, and therefore some species of fish which inhabit the lake are salt and freshwater adapted. There is active recreational fishing at the lake. The lake's water level had been shrinking for decades, endangering the historic role of Lake Merced to support a healthy ecosystem.  Due to better management of the aquifer and occasional additions of water, lake level has been rising since 1990.      --from Wikipedia

And last, but not least, on their monthly Saturday hike (second Saturday), Parks and Recreation staff told us the lake is on the San Andreas fault!


On April 18, 1906, Brigadier General Frederick Funston was in command of the Presidio in San Francisco.   The severity of the earthquake destroyed the center of the city, and over 300,000 people were left homeless.   Funston immediately ordered the mobilization of troops surrounding military installations He took command of local relief and law enforcement and he was instrumental in the establishment of communications, sanitation, medical facilities, housing and reestablishing general order to a destroyed city.

General Funston was regarded as a national hero, and the media of the time called him "The man who saved San Francisco."     From Presido of San Francisco    National Park Service

Guns and Missiles      In 1936-1939 Battery Davis was built at Fort Funston, housing two 16-inch Mark 2 Navy guns. This was the prototype US 16-inch battery for casemating against air attack,   The gun batteries were declared obsolete shortly after World War II, but a 90 mm anti-aircraft gun battery was on the site 1953-57 during the Cold War.      Fort Funston later became a Nike missile launch site, hosting sites SF-59L (now the parking lot) and SF-61 from 1956 to 1963.  The fort was inactivated in 1963 and eventually transferred to the National Park Service to be administered as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. from Wikipedia

Compiled by Vivian Brown, July 2017

Lake Merced