Type: Municipal Hilltop Park, SNRA, 15 acres.
Entrance Location: Three access points discovered. In order of appeal: 1) street parking at Museum Wy/Roosevelt Wy, 2) parking lot at end of Museum Wy, 3) street parking at end of Flint St off 16th.
Facilities: Picnic tables. Tennis courts. Playground. Josephine D. Randall Museum. Restrooms, water, phone not noted.
Fee-Hours: No fee. No curfew noted.
Corona Heights is the rockiest of all San Francisco hilltop parks. It is one place where franciscan chert formations are not occasional, but rather the dominant feature. The result is a hill where outcroppings give way to actual cliffs of rock. Nowhere else in the city can upthrusted chert be found exposed to this extent, not even Bernal Heights. Red franciscan chert is the dominant rock form found in San Francisco away from the dark rock of the coastal cliffs. It was originally formed largely from the seasonal settling of dead diatoms to the ocean floor. It is interesting, therefore, to note that the rock itself is in large part the petrified remains of this ocean biomass, stratified into layers like rings in a tree, terra cotta red in color, compressed over time into rock, and eventually upthrust in these formations. The most visually exciting forms come when clearly stratified sections of rock are upthrust in such a way that they are twisted and convoluted. Such examples can be found here and notably at Bernal Heights and Glen Canyon.
Of course, a premier aspect of Corona Heights is obviously the peak view which can be most easily arrived at from street parking at Roosevelt and Museum Wy. A sizeable flat lawn area sits just below the peak here with picnic tables. It is one of the prettiest table settings in the city, but it should also be noted that high winds are a big factor here. Corona Heights is completely open and there is no wind protection to speak of near the peak. Even the rocks themselves offer suprisingly little protection. The peak gives a tremendous view towards downtown sweeping all the way around to Twin Peaks. Visitation is low to moderate, which begins to strain the threshold of privacy comfort at the peak. People find their own nooks of rock to cuddle into and are respectful of each other, but that does not change the fact that as few as four feels like a 'crowd.'
There are other points in the park which are distinct highlights, maybe even nicer than the peak. Beneath the Josephine D. Randall Museum (featuring children's artwork, Mon-Sat 10a-5p) and associated parking lot at the end of Museum Wy is a 'dogs run free' fenced area and playground which are both superb. Although small in size, this is the most beautiful setting for such a dog area and playground found anywhere in the city. It is a flattened area with an astonishing view, so nice that one could easily be drawn to spend time here even without a dog or kids. A third highlight involves the most impressive face of rock to grace the park and is found at an unlikely low point from Beaver St. off 15th St. A brief asphalt path runs to a small, isolated picnic area/playground which is 'contained' by a 40' high face of rock. The surface appears as natural weathered chert rather than the results of a blown out hillside, which is key. It is impressive not only for its size, but also for the smooth glossy texture of the rock and the way it encloses this interesting space.
Naturally, my initial instinct was to think only of the peak of Corona Heights, how to get there and what it would be like. But there are other treasures here which end up seeming like the real highlights, such as the dog running area and the rock face playground.
Best Features: Excellent view of downtown from this hilltop park. Elaborate chert formations. Very nice playgrounds and open areas around the outer rim of the park. Not crowded. Good neighborhood. Good for a night visit.
Worst Features: Winds at the peak can be extreme, note the weather. Peak feels crowded with just a handful of people.