On the slopes of Mount Sutro (see map here), a 900-foot hill in San Francisco California, is a glorious historic forest that is over a hundred years old. It was planted by Adolf Sutro, one of the city’s most colorful characters, and a former Mayor of the city. This 80-acre forest is a remnant of 1100 acres of eucalyptus that once covered most of the western side of the city.
If you walk into the forest today, it doesn’t feel like you’re in the heart of the city. Some of the trees are 200 feet tall (nearly as tall as the redwoods of Muir Woods, where the tallest tree is 252 feet). Many are over 100 feet in height.
Mt Sutro is squarely in San Francisco’s fog belt, and one of the most ethereal aspects of this forest is watching the fog blow in. In addition to the winter rain, the forest is watered by the summer and fall fog, making it functionally a Cloud Forest. On a foggy day, inside the forest may be the most beautiful place in all San Francisco. (Muddy, but ethereal.)
Over forty-five species of birds frequent the woods, and its sounds are bird-twitter, the creaking of the trees, the rustling of leaves, and if you are fortunate, the hammering of the downy woodpecker or at dusk, the soft resonant hooting of the Great Horned Owl.
Of the 80 acres, 61 belongs to UCSF, which has committed to maintain it as open space, but is planning to cut down thousands of the trees on around 25 acres. (The effort to provide information and to save the forest has its website at http://www.SaveSutro.com)
Another 12 contiguous acres belongs to the City, and is officially called the Interior Green Belt, together with 7 acres of tree across Clarendon Avenue. Trails in both areas offer access to hikers. The trails are maintained by the volunteer group Sutro Stewards. (They encourage UCSF’s plan to transform the forest into a park.)
[Go HERE for hiking information – how to get there, what to wear, where to park.]
[ETA 2 July 2011: The map below is derived from “Open Street Map” with added trails, boundaries and labeling. It should be reasonably accurate for hiking purposes, but we’re not recommending it for anything where precision is important. The trail names are in capitals.]
Mount Sutro Forest is bounded on the south and west by the Forest Knolls neighborhood (and Laguna Honda lake), and on the East by Cole Valley. On the northern side, UCSF has its Parnassus Campus, including the new Stem Cell Research Building, which looks like a space-ship that’s landed in the forest. UCSF student housing at Aldea San Miguel lies on the mountainside, just off Clarendon Avenue.