Damp Forest on Mt Davidson – Tony Holiday

This is another of our Park Visitor series: First-person accounts of visits to our San Francisco parks. This photo-essay is by Tony Holiday, a San Francisco hiker and blogger.  It’s adapted from his blog, Stairways are Heaven and published with permission. (Visit his blog for more pictures, and for the second post that details the route out of the forest down the Bengal steps.)

It’s high summer now, and elsewhere in California, fires have started. In our forests, it’s damp, even wet. We were struck by the contrast between the wetness of the forested area, and the dry open space adjacent to it on Mount Davidson. This is the cloud forest effect: The trees harvest the moisture from the fog and keep the forest cool and damp.

DAMP FOREST by Tony Holiday

The #36 Teresita stops at Mount Davidson Park’s main south entrance (Dalewood & Myra) where a steep trail climbs to the openspace part of the park. I love this trail: forested to start out, with a vast view to the east a little way up.

Here’s the south trail head.

4334894_orig - 1 South trailhead

And a small offshoot trail…

8176020_orig 2 offshoot trail

I climbed out of the forest to the open space.

7570617_orig 4 curving around

7082684_orig 3 climbing to the open space


This is the open space part of the mountain, with views to the east  and south over the city.

5027966_orig 5 view east

7960836_orig 8 looking south

2513967_orig 9 openspace bench

3514794_orig 10 view north

7411013_orig 11 view north

It’s a good place to pause for tea and admire the view…

5093980_orig 12 pausing for tea

Climbing 22 steps from the open space brings you to the plateau on top of the mountain with the 103-foot cross.

2858920_orig 16 summit cross


Down 22 old wood steps from the north side of the cross…

4275316_orig 17 old wood step start down from the side of the monument

… there’s a short trail…

5819148_orig 19 ferns and a damp trail

2691069_orig 20 down to a main trail

…then 12 more stone steps to the next main trail down.

1660245_orig 22 foot of one of the short stone stairways

Up here the trails were damp or muddy, including some actual puddles.

7940036_orig 23 muddy upper trail

Another short stone stairway:

572463_orig 24 anothr stone stairway

Following the trailing down, enjoying the cool, lush forest…

6294871_orig 25 trees and rocks

3227413_orig 26 down through the forest

… and the greenery below the trail…

4428599_orig 27 below the trail

4787964_orig 28 forest view

The trail went winding down…
3864834_orig 29 winding around

… and it was just me, the forest, and birdsong.

8763025_orig 30 just me, the forest, and birdsong

The forest was peaceful…

806571_orig 31 peaceful and cool

… as I followed the narrow and winding path to its end.

1526681_orig 33 narrow and winding

Love the ferns here!

6534432_orig 34 love the ferns

Mt Sutro Hike by Tony Holiday

Tony Holiday, a San Francisco hiker and blogger, recently hiked Mt Sutro from the Stanyan steps to the summit and back down to Parnassus. (Go to his blog, Stairways are Heaven, for more hikes and photographs.) This photo-essay is one of our Park Visitor series – first-person accounts of visits to our San Francisco Natural Areas and wild lands. It’s abridged (and published with permission) from the original post,  Stanyan Trailhead to Summit, on Stairways Are Heaven. (We’ve made some minor edits to the captions to clarify them for those unfamiliar with the forest.)

Started off this very pleasant Mount Sutro hike first uphilling from Parnassus  to Stanyan & 17th for the trail head of the lower Historic Trail…

Trailhead with steps up to Sutro Forest from Stanyan

Entrance to the “lower Historic Trail,” which starts in the Interior Green Belt – city-owned property that comes under the Natural Areas Program of SF Rec & Parks.

Interior Greenbelt’s lower Historic Trail

Continuing on the Lower Historic Trail in Mount Sutro Forest

At some point, the trail crosses from the Interior Green Belt into UCSF’s “Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve.”

… then from the lower Historic Trail, up to Medical Center Way, crossing over to the East Ridge Trail …

Medical Center Way, the paved road that runs through the forest and connects the Aldea Student Housing with Parnassus

…  and up to the summit (where I saw this flower).

Flower on the summit of Mt Sutro

Going down from the summit I went down the North Ridge Trail.

Starting down from the summit on the North Ridge Trail

North Ridge Trail, nearly down to Medical Center Way

I’ve used this convenient short stairway many times from Medical Center Way to the parking lot so as to descend the wood-railed stairway to its foot, then out to Parnassus. (But you can easily just walk downhill to the lot too.)

Shortcut stairway down to parking lot

There are around 136 steps from the parking lot down to Medical Center Way behind the hospital buildings.

Steps down from Parking Lot

Stairway overlooking UCSF buildings

Stairway connecting parking lot and UCSF

Stairway seen from the bottom (with acacia trees that that form the subcanopy of the forest)

You’ll probably see medical personnel ascending and descending this stairway, but it’s okay for hikers to use also. I’ve been doing so for years.


Tony Holiday likes meandering around on San Francisco’s park trails and public stairways, sometimes taking photos, and enjoying nature and the outdoors.