Ft. Funston- a park you can sink your canines into


Vince Biancalana/ The Skyline View

Dogs and humans alike enjoy the scenery.

Want to see what San Francisco looked like before it was colonized? Wandering the dunes of California and dodging packs of Welsh Corgies, I take a trip back in time to Continental America’s first defense against a looming Japanese attack during World War II: Fort Funston.

Fort Funston, which is located west of Lake Merced, has much to offer anyone in the Bay Area looking to get out. Admission to the park and parking lot are free. This is the perfect place to walk a dog in the Bay Area, and I cannot overstate this.

Fort Funston was a military artillery base for the harbor area of San Francisco Bay which was taken over by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Many of the emplacements for the 30 ft. cannons are still intact, including one that serves as a viewing platform over the ocean.

The artillery batteries form tunnels which you can walk through. The top of Battery Davis has two short trails that lead to the top of the hill, which is superlative for picnics at sunset or for a quiet place to write or draw, as many dogs won’t venture up the hill away from their owners.

If you walk off the beaten path, you can find something new each time you go. It’s not uncommon to find large machine gun bullets or spent casings from when troops were garrisoned there during World War II.

Funston is also a very large off-leash dog park; if you bring the family pooch, be prepared for him to glare disappointedly at you when you walk anywhere else.

The sand dunes covered with ivy are one of the favorite spots to romp and there is even a human/dog water fountain for when Pooch gets thirsty.

Once you enter the parking lot, you will probably see hanggliders flying hundreds of feet above you. The sea cliff creates perfect air currents for this uncommon sport. It can be exciting to walk the puppy and suddenly see a man floating above you whose face you can make out.

The scenery at Funston is beautiful, including many areas which look the way San Francisco did before it was settled. Sand dunes covered in non-native ice plants are dominant in the upper area of the park.

The trees just after the dunes hide incredibly amazing hiking paths to beach and city viewpoints.

At the bottom of the hill are more native grasses and flowers atop sand dunes, one which is about 60 or 70 ft. tall. When I was a kid, I used to bring cardboard boxes to this sand hill so I could sled down it. There is rough access (a steep, sandy hill) down to a beach with black sand mixed in.

This makes it look like the sand is dirty or oily; however, the black grains are actually magnetite, which is an iron compound that is magnetic. This beach is also littered with sand dollars.

Past the sand hill, hikers can find a wildlife preserve intended to protect bank swallows, which are a threatened species.

Funston can be very windy; be prepared, bring a jacket. However, this makes Funston an excellent spot to bring a kite. The dunes allow kite enthusiasts to be away from both people and trees to keep their aircraft flying.

Fort Funston is located across from Lake Merced on Skyline Blvd. It is open from dawn until dusk year-round.