San Francisco National Cemetery: Tips to Visit the Cemetery in the Presidio

Jill at the Golden Gate Bridge

by Jill Loeffler  •

The San Francisco National Cemetery is in the north central part of the Presidio. It is one of only a couple of cemeteries still within the SF city limits.

The military buried the first person here in 1854. Years later, in 1884, the government declared it an official national cemetery. It was the first one to receive this designation on the west coast.

This one sits on a hill above the SF bay. From it, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge, the city and both Alcatraz and Angel Islands. You can also see the cemetery from Hwy 101 from both the north and south bound lanes.

A view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the San Francisco National Cemetery

The San Francisco National Cemetery started as a small space to bury those serving in the military at the San Francisco Presidio. They expanded it over the years and today it is close to 30 acres.

More than 30,000 people that served in the military are buried here. The most noteworthy are the 35 recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

A view of the bay from the National Cemetery in San Francisco's Presidio

Due to space limitations, the military accepted the last burials here in 1973. The only new burials allowed in the San Francisco National Cemetery are those that reserved a space before the 1973 cutoff date.

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Tips to Visit the San Francisco National Cemetery

You will find a kiosk near the entrance gates that allow you to search for those buried in the San Francisco National Cemetery. Your best bet is to search by last name. The kiosk then provides you with the plot number and location of the person you are seeking.

The gates to it are open from 6 am to 6 pm every day. There is no cost to visit.

The open gates at the National Cemetery in San Francisco's Presidio

If you happen to be around during Memorial Day weekend, then you should stop by for their annual celebration. It takes place on Memorial Day every year and is one of the largest celebrations in the bay area. Click here for details on this year's event.

To access the San Francisco National Cemetery by car, you need to drive through the Presidio. Your best bet is to enter through either the Lombard or Arguello Gates. Follow the signs to the Main Post. Usually you would use Lincoln Blvd., but due to construction, you will need to drive past the main post to Sheridan Avenue. It is then about three blocks off Montgomery Street.

You can also park your car near the Main Post and walk over to the cemetery. While there is a little parking near the cemetery, you might run into problems if there is an event at one of the nearby buildings.

Here is a map showing the location of the San Francisco National Cemetery inside the Presidio. It's the black star on the map. These are the two gates mentioned above.

The blue 'P' on the map indicates the parking area in front of the Main Post. This is also where the Hop On/Hop Off bus stops.

Map showing the location of the National Cemetery inside the SF Presidio

If you enter on foot or by bus, make your way over to the Visitor's Center on Montgomery Street. Once you reach the Visitor's Center, head down Montgomery Street to Sheridan Avenue and walk behind the buildings.

You will walk slightly up hill about three blocks and then enter the main gates of the San Francisco National Cemetery.

SF City Tour Includes Stops in the Presidio

If you don't want to make the trek over to see the Presidio on your own, another option is to take a San Francisco city tour. The most popular is the city tour combined with a trip to Alcatraz.

This tour takes you to see all of the main San Francisco attractions. This is a great way to get some amazing pictures of these famous sites, including the San Francisco National Cemetery. The tour is narrated, so you can also learn quite a bit more about each site and the city.

The entire tour, including your trip to Alcatraz, lasts eight hours. This gives you plenty of time on the island and also a great overview of the city by the bay. Read on to find details and availability of the tour during your visit.

Alcatraz Prison Tours: Are you interested in learning even more about the history of San Francisco? If so, then Alcatraz Island is a must see. This old military base and infamous prison is a small island about a mile and a half from the shores of San Francisco. Find out the difference between their day and night tours, so you can select the one that is right for you.

Fort Point National Historic Site: Another popular stop in the Presidio San Francisco is the Fort Point National Historic Site. This old military building is a work of art. High above the building sits the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge. It's free to enter and you can get some of the best shots of the bridge from its top level.

History Museums: You can also learn quite a bit about the history of SF at some of its dedicated history museums. Learn more about the Cable Cars at the Cable Car Museum. Discover the true story behind the fire that burned for three days after the 1906 earthquake at the Fire Department Museum. You can even learn more about the Beat Generation in San Francisco in the 1950s at the Beat Museum in North Beach.

A Perfect Day in the Presidio: I love heading to the Presidio to get away from the chaos of the city. To make it easy for you to visit as much as possible here in one day, I created this "Perfect Day" itinerary. It includes a visit to the San Francisco National Cemetery as well as stops at Baker Beach and the Disney Museum.

Comments? Questions? Suggestions?

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