An Afternoon at Sutro Baths
Most of my travels are driven by food and drink but I do like giving my wallet a break and taking some time to enjoy the outdoors wherever I am. Before our west coast trip, I got a tip from an Instagram friend to visit the Sutro Bath ruins (thanks Caroline!). We lucked out with a sunny Saturday so we decided to hit the Lands End trail and end at the ruins.
The original baths were a feat of engineering and incredibly beautiful. I wish I could take a trip back in time to see this.
Taking cues from naturally occurring tidal pools on his property, self made millionaire Adolph Sutro constructed ocean pool aquarium among the rocks north of the Cliff House in 1894. Sutro then expanded his ocean front complex by constructing a massive public bathhouse that covered three acres...
A classic Greek portal opened to a massive glass enclosure containing seven swimming pools at various temperatures. There were slides, trapezes, springboards and a high dive. The power of the Pacific Ocean during high tide could fill the 1.7 million gallons of water required for all the pools in just one hour. The Baths could accommodate 10,000 people at one time and offered 20,000 bathing suits and 40,000 towels for rent.
In addition to the bathhouse, the property featured a museum containing artifacts from all over the world, "natural history exhibits, galleries of sculptures, paintings, tapestries and artifacts from Mexico, China, Asia, and the Middle East, including the popular Egyptian mummies."
After Sutro's death in 1898, the property continued to be maintained by the Sutro family then was sold in the 1950s. Unable to keep up with costly repairs of the baths the mid-century owner closed the pools down for good and tried to keep the property going with an ice rink. There were talks of demolishing the property and building high rise ocean front community and in 1966 a mysterious fire destroyed Sutro Baths. Thankfully the housing proposal was abandoned and the property was absorbed by the Golden Gate Park Recreation area.
Ruins are all that remain of Sutro's impressive public bathhouse but the beautiful ocean front area is preserved and remains available for all San Franciscans and visitors.
There is no entrance fee so it wasn't surprising for the park and trails to be packed. Give your toes an icy dip in the ocean, soak up the view and salty breeze.
P.S. The Lands End hike leading to the Sutro ruins provides some beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge. If you're looking for a quiet visit make sure to go during the week. For more information on access to the Sutro Baths click here.
Sources: The Cliffhouse Project