Twin Peaks’ Other Peakstankhill

Sure you can take the kids to Twin Peaks to snap photos of the sweeping Bay Area vistas or to check out native birds and plants. But you’ll be doing so with tourists unloading from buses in the parking lot which, let’s face it, can take some of the charm away from the experience. Instead, why don’t you bundle up, brave the winds, and get ready for an urban hike up the Pemberton Steps to Twin Peaks’ less famous cousin, Tank Hill Park, which offers—dare we say it—even better views than Twin Peaks.

Go: Year-round, on a sunny day so you can enjoy the view.

Approximate travel time: About 15 minutes from Downtown San Francisco.

What to do: The Pemberton Place Steps will please the P.E. teacher in you and get the whole family huffing and puffing.  This destination is not for the faint of heart—put on your sneakers and start climbing!  The stairs begin at the bend of Clayton Street north of Corbett Avenue.  Look for the pink wall and the “Pemberton Steps” sign.  The first set of stairs up to Villa Terrace has been refurbished within the last decade, but the rest of the steps take you back to the Victorian era.  Watch your step on those moss-covered cobblestones!  If you need to take a breather, the gorgeous gardens surrounding you will help and so will the amazing views.

Once you’ve reached the top of the steps that end at Crown Terrace, take a right and head down to the junction of Clarendon Avenue and Twin Peaks Boulevard.  Cross the street to the much shorter wooden staircase to Tank Hill Park.  Some argue that the view from Tank Hill is even better than Twin Peaks because its lower elevation makes the topography and urban details of San Francisco come alive!  Just be sure to mind the kids carefully as there are some steep drop-offs that help create the unobstructed view. And for future reference, it’s a great place to watch next year’s Fourth of July fireworks and October’s Blue Angels (as long as it’s not foggy). There’s no playground, but who needs to play after that hike!? It is, however, the perfect spot for a picnic and family portrait. Pack some hot cider in a thermos to share, and you’ll be all warmed up for the trek home.

San Francisco Recreation and Parks, http://www.sfgov.org/site/recpark_index.asp