Situated on Point Lobos at the main entrance to the California Coastal Trail, Lands End Lookout is one of the newer attractions in San Francisco; so, if you are an old hand at the points to see, it may not be on your radar. It ought to be. Land’s End Lookout was created in 2012, on the ruins of the historic Sutro Baths, and it is part of the expansive Golden Gate National Park. In addition, Lands End Lookout offers wildlife viewing, picnicking, strolling, history, and other recreation activities.
The Visitor Center
Begin your visit at the Visitor Center. Lands End Lookout’s new “green” visitor center includes a museum store, educational exhibits about the natural landscape and cultural history of the site, and a small cafe that has delicious refreshments and good coffee. Also, you will also find information about native and invasive species, as well as habitat restoration and protection. Many native plants and wildflowers have been planted here during the past decade, to restore the bird habitat, minimize erosion, and augment the natural beauty at Lands End.
There’s another bonus of stopping at the Lands End is the Visitor Center. The center itself is an award-winning architectural building. Unexpected materials are used in a pleasing design, including reclaimed redwood cladding. Lastly, look up, to enjoy the recycled cardboard ceiling with laser-etched graphics.
Hikers can find maps and tips about local hiking trails at the Visitor Center. There are hiking paths from Land’s End Lookout that give you more great vistas of the Golden Gate Bridge. The hiking is relatively easy and can be done by kids and most dogs.
Dramatic Views & History
The backstory of Lands End Lookout is fascinating. The Sutro Baths were opened to the public on March 14, 1896. They were the world’s largest indoor swimming pool establishment, a massive structure under glass. They were much like a giant conservatory, along with the lines of the Crystal Palace in England.
Inside the glass-roofed expanse were six different huge swimming pools, five filled with saltwater and one with fresh water. There were grandstands for spectators. In addition, there was a museum, an amphitheater, and an ice skating rink. The Sutro Baths burned to the ground in 1966. Today, you can still see the ruins of the huge swimming pool from the Land’s End Lookout. Some of the hiking paths bring you close to the ruins.
Want to see something magnificent? The whale migration season runs from mid-December through April, and you are going to have a treat spotting them from here. If you look closely, you can even see many of them playing in the ocean, without ever leaving dry land.
The Sutro Baths complex was located near other early San Francisco attractions: the Cliff House, the Camera Obscura, and Seal Rocks. All of them are still there to be seen today when you come to Lands End Lookout. In addition, there are several dining options at the Cliff House, though reservations are highly recommended. The Cliff House has two restaurants – the Bistro Restaurant for casual dining, as well as the more formal Sutro’s.
The Camera Obscura is essentially a giant camera, based on a design by Leonardo da Vinci. It creates stunning live images of the area around Seal Rocks. The images are projected on a horizontal viewing table from a reflected image that comes into the room from the cupola at the top of the building. The view makes a complete 360° revolution in about six minutes. Admission is just $3 for adults and $2 for seniors and children and is worth a peek.
Pacific Ocean Sunset. Sutro Baths, San Francisco, California, USA
Lastly, Seal Rocks reminds us that the Spanish named Lands End’s westernmost promontory “Point Lobos,” after the “Lobos Marinos” (sea lions) that make these rocks their headquarters. At the rocks, you’ll also see roosting shorebirds such as cormorants and oystercatchers.
Read about all of the Golden Gate Recreation Areas in one beautiful guide.
Download the complete PDF guide with visitor information, hi-res photos of each locale, and helpful driving tips by clicking here.