This article is about the park with many sites in and around San Francisco and the Greater San Francisco Bay Area. For the urban City of San Francisco park located entirely within San Francisco, see Golden Gate Park
The Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) is a U.S. National Recreation Area protecting 80,002 acres (32,376 ha) of ecologically- and historically-significant landscapes surrounding the San Francisco Bay Area. Much of the park is land formerly used by the United States Army. GGNRA is managed by the National Park Service and is of the most visited units of the National Park system in the United States, with more than 13 million visitors a year. It is also one of the largest urban parks in the world, with a size two-and-a-half times that of the consolidated city and county of San Francisco.
The park is not one continuous locale, but rather a collection of areas that stretch from northern San Mateo County to southern Marin County, and includes several areas of San Francisco. The park is as diverse as it is expansive; it contains famous tourist attractions such as Muir Woods National Monument, Alcatraz, and the Presidio of San Francisco. The GGNRA is also home to 1,273 plant and animal species, encompasses 59 miles (95 km) of bay and ocean shoreline and has military fortifications that span centuries of California history, from the Spanish conquistadors to Cold War-era Nike missile sites.
The park was created thanks to the cooperative legislative efforts of cosponsers Congressman William S. Mailliard (R-San Francisco) and Congressman Phillip Burton (D-San Francisco). The plan for a non-contiguous national recreation area was conceived by Dr. Robert Busha, an administrator in Mailliard's Washington office, as a way to circumvent the prevailing limitation that national park property should be contiguous. In 1972, President Richard Nixon signed into law "An Act to Establish the Golden Gate National Recreation Area." The bill allocated $120 million for land acquisition and development. The National Park Service first purchased Alcatraz and Fort Mason from the U.S. Army. Then to complete the national park in the north bay, the Nature Conservancy purchased the land in the Marin Headlands that made up the failed development project called Marincello from the Gulf Oil Corporation. The Nature Conservancy then transferred the land to the GGNRA. These properties formed the initial basis for the park.
Throughout the next 30 years, the National Park service acquired land and historic sites from the U.S. Army, private landowners and corporations, incorporating them into the GGNRA. The acquisitions range from the historic Cliff House restaurant and Sutro Baths in San Francisco, to large and expansive forest and coastal lands, such as Sweeney Ridge in San Mateo County and Muir Woods National Monument in Marin. Many decommissioned Army bases and fortifications were incorporated into the park, including Fort Funston, four Nike missile sites, The Presidio and Crissy Field. The latest acquisition by the National Park Service is Mori Point, a small parcel of land on the Pacifica coast.
In 1988, UNESCO designated the GGNRA and 12 adjacent protected areas the Golden Gate Biosphere Reserve.
In February 2005, Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation in the United States Senate that would add 4,700 acres (1,900 ha) of natural land to the GGNRA in San Mateo County including a 4,076 acre parcel known as the Rancho Corral de Tierra. The property, located south of Pacifica and surrounding the communities of Moss Beach and Montara, is home to many diverse plant and animal species. The bill passed in the Senate, but did not pass the House of Representatives.
San Francisco Bay, and the city skyline seen from Marin County in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Locations in the park 
Marin County 
- Fort Baker - Former Army post located on the northern side of the Golden Gate
- Headlands Center for the Arts - Set in artist-renovated military buildings in the Marin Headlands, Headlands Center for the Arts is an internationally renowned artist residency program that promotes the role of artists in society. Headlands Center for the arts has Public Programs, including performances, discussions and lectures, and its Project Space, an 1,800-square-foot (170 m2) work space with a rotating roster of artists, is open 5 days a week to the public.
- Marin Headlands - Includes Nike missile site SF-88, The Marine Mammal Center, Fort Cronkhite, Fort Barry, Rodeo Lagoon, Rodeo Beach, Muir Beach, Tennessee Valley and Gerbode Valley
- Muir Woods National Monument – Huge Coast Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) fill this forest, along with Coast Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), Bigleaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum), Tanbark Oak (Lithocarpus densiflorus), and California Bay Laurel (Umbellularia californica).
- Oakwood Valley - bordered by Marin City to the north and the Marin Headlands to the south, Oakwood Valley contains the largest untouched woodland of Coast Live Oak and California bay trees in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
- Olema Valley - 10 miles (16 km) of grassland and forest that stretch from Tomales Bay to Bolinas Lagoon
- Point Bonita Lighthouse - An active lighthouse maintained by the United States Coast Guard
- Stinson Beach – Shark-laden beach north of San Francisco and south of Bolinas Lagoon
- Muir Beach Overlook - A former Army base-end station with a clifftop view of the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco, on State Route 1
Camping sites 
Bicentennial Campground arranged around a small clearing, with each site accommodating a maximum of two people.
Youth Hostel 
Hostelling International USA (part of Hostelling International) maintains a 100 bed youth hostel in the Marin Headlands.
San Francisco 
- Alcatraz Island – The infamous federal prison and the West Coast's first and oldest operating lighthouse.
- China Beach - A small beach located north of the Sea Cliff district in San Francisco near the Presidio of San Francisco.
- Fort Funston - A former coastal fortification and Nike missile site SF-59L; now a popular hang gliding spot.
- Fort Mason - The San Francisco Port of Embarkation National Historic Site now houses non-profit organizations and offers a variety of cultural activities.
- Fort Miley Military Reservation - A former military base that now holds a Veterans' Hospital and picnic areas.
- Lands End - A natural preserve including the Coastal Trail which will bring you to amazing views of the Marin Headlands and Golden Gate. Includes Mile Rock, the site of a former lighthouse and, subsequently, a helipad located offshore at the southwestern edge of the Golden Gate
- Presidio of San Francisco – A former military reservation, and site of the initial Spanish fortification in San Francisco, including
- Ocean Beach - A popular surf spot on the western side of San Francisco.
- The Sutro District - A collection of historic attractions developed by Adolph Sutro in the late 19th Century, including:
- The Cliff House - A historic restaurant first built in 1863, rebuilt following fires in 1894 and 1907. Also houses the Camera Obscura, a historic building containg a device which projects a 360° image.
- Sutro Baths – Concrete ruins of an indoor swimming pool constructed in 1894 by former SF mayor Adolf Sutro dominate the southwest corner;
- Sutro Heights Park
Camping sites 
- Rob Hill Group Camp - Open year-round, free, five 4-person sites.
San Mateo County 
- Milagra Ridge - 240-acre (97 ha) parcel of land that is home to several endangered species and Nike Missile Site SF-51L
- Sweeney Ridge – Location of where Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portolà discovered the San Francisco Bay and is home to several World War II lookout nests and pillboxes as well as Nike missile site SF-51C
- Phleger Estate - Part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, this preserve features Coast Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) and other native plants
- Mori Point - Mori Point is a small parcel located in Pacifica, consisting of a ridge with overlooks of the San Francisco peninsula. Trails lead across the ridge and to Sharp Park beach. The site includes recently restored wetlands and a pond, protecting endangered San Francisco garter snake and red-legged frog habitat. 
- Rancho Corral de Tierra - the GGNRA's newest park. A former Mexican land grant north of Half Moon Bay and on Montara Mountain, this site was preserved through the work of the Peninsula Open Space Trust, which acquired the property and then sold it to the GGNRA. 
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