Mount Sutro is home to a vibrant, 61-acre open space reserve owned by UCSF as well as campus housing nestled amongst the trees in the heart of San Francisco.

This urban oasis – neighboring UCSF’s Parnassus Heights campus, residential homes and the iconic Sutro Tower – includes the UCSF Chancellor's Residence and the Aldea San Miguel Campus Housing and Conference Center. The Reserve also features more than 5 miles of public, multi-use trails, with a 900-foot elevation gain, that cater year-round to hikers, trail runners, dogs on leash and cyclists.

woman walking on the Sutro trail with her toddlerson
Photo by Susan Merrell

Visiting the Reserve

Visitors will enjoy an abundance of rare and native plants, as well as many species of trees including  Monterey Pine, Monterey Cyprus and Blue Gum Eucalyptus. At the summit of Mount Sutro is Rotary Meadow, our native plant garden and demonstration area.

Recreation: Since 2006, the Sutro Stewards – a program of the non-profit San Francisco Parks Trust – have organized volunteers to maintain the Reserve’s trail system. The group has developed a trail map [PDF] and outlined suggested hikes.

Volunteer: Join the more than 1,000 volunteers each year who help build and maintain trails, improve habitat, increase biodiversity, and propagate and care for native plants. Sign up with Sutro Stewards.

Steeped in San Francisco History

Named for its former owner and San Francisco Mayor Adolph Sutro, the Reserve has a history of transition much like many San Francisco neighborhoods.

A successful engineer and real estate investor, Adolph Sutro served as San Francisco mayor from 1894 to 1896. Sutro’s many land holdings included Mount Parnassus, which was renamed Mount Sutro in his honor.

Adolph Sutro was mayor of San Francisco from 1895 to 1897. Image courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress

In 1886, Sutro began planting the hill with imported and native trees to celebrate San Francisco’s first Arbor Day.

Sutro donated 13 acres of land on Parnassus Avenue to the UCSF Regents in 1895 for development into the UCSF Parnassus Heights campus.

Sutro’s death in 1898 led to years of legal battles among his heirs, culminating in 1909 with a deal between the Sutro estate and Consolidated Eucalyptus Company to log and process trees across more than 1,500 acres on Mount Sutro. The logging operation closed in 1934 after a 10-acre fire turned neighbors against the lumber mill.  During the Cold War, Mount Sutro was home to a Nike missile site.

In 1953, UCSF purchased a 90-acre parcel to the south of the original parcel donated by Sutro, and most of that is now the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve. In 1976, UCSF designated 58 acres of the Reserve as permanent open space and subsequently increased the size to 61 acres. The area designated as the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve shall be kept free of any permanent structures or facilities except footpaths and appropriate landscape construction intended to enhance its use as a natural area. 

UCSF is committed to maintaining the Reserve as a resource for San Franciscans and takes seriously its responsibility to keep the site safe and accessible.


Learn more about UCSF

A trail leading through trees on Mount Sutro

Learn more about UCSF’s efforts to preserve Mount Sutro as a healthy and sustainable ecosystem.