Twin Peaks & Sutro Baths Review: The Hidden Ruins of San Francisco’s coast

On the day I reached the summit of San Francisco, I was given a rare gift: to see all of northern San Francisco in a single glimpse. It was the perfect midpoint to that sunny day since I’d watched the sun rise out of the eastern trees that morning. And though I didn’t know it at the time, by the end of that day I would see it set behind crashing ocean waves.

Apparently, they called this place Twin Peaks, but they might as well have called it The Summit in the Sky; because after a short drive to the top, the entire city was laid out before me in all its beauty.

Mere photography couldn’t capture its radiance.

Looking down Market Street Downtown San Francisco from afar

From here, its lightly colored buildings contrasted uncounted numbers of verdant trees. To my left, the Golden Gate Bridge itself seemed to bow upward slightly as it spanned the Golden Gate in the distance. And to my right, I could see straight down Market Street, all the way to the bay. The cars zipped down the boulevard like distant blood cells transporting oxygen down an artery. And in a way, that’s exactly what they were, moving to keep the economy of San Francisco alive.

Golden Gate Bridge from Twin Peaks

Entering the Ruins

Soon afterward, I arrived at the Sutro Baths. Once a famous bathhouse, all that remained now was a long-abandoned concrete ruin on the western coast of the city. Strangely enough, no one else I’d mentioned it to had even heard of it, including a few people who had lived in San Francisco for years. So it came as no surprise to me when I arrived to find only a handful of people exploring its tortured stairwells and walls, as they were constantly barraged by crashing waves.

Abandoned Sutro Baths filled with swamp grass

By now, not much was left of the ruins, save for a scummy pond, a few walls, a stairwell, and a shallow cave. I followed a steep, rusty path down.

Rusty-Orange sand path to Sutro Bath

As I approached the cave I noticed that the sun was low now, reflecting off of the waves that forever washed up over a lower path.

I thought I saw a man down there, but I can’t imagine how he could have held on.

Entering the Cave

Stone Stairwell leading up around Sutro Cave

I entered the cave, and inside I found a small tunnel which kicked up ocean spray whenever the waves crashed in. At the far end of the cave, the floor dropped off into the ocean. Two thin ropes holding up a warning sign were all that was between me and the torrents crashing on the jagged rocks below.

I walked back, noticing for the first time the small half-moon that hung high above the Cliff House farther down the beach. From here I could also see the famous Seal Rocks formation.

To my great surprise, it contained the hollowed out shape of a heart within.


Cliff House Restaurant perched on cliff above Pacific Ocean

You need to come here.

Having been destroyed by a fire in 1966, the ruins are mysterious and sad, yet somehow truly beautiful. My only regret is not ever finding anyone who knew what was beyond the seemingly ancient sealed-off door that led deeper into the rock. Perhaps it is nothing, I thought. Or perhaps it contains long rusted-away mining equipment. Or perhaps it contains something entirely more secret and sinister.

What do you think is inside?

Old Mysterious Stone Door

Seal Rocks formation with Heart shape

Sunset behind wave crashing onto beach rocks

— Bonus —

Marco the Spacefarer appears in all 24 photos in the accompanying photo gallery. If you’re new to the “Where’s Marco” game, it’s similar to “Where’s Waldo” or “I Spy”, and it’s totally fun!

Learn how to play →
Then find him in the photos! →

Coming up Next:

I complete my exploration of San Francisco with a walkabout that takes me across the Golden Gate Bridge. I nearly got lost in the process but managed to make it back to the bridge as the sun set behind me, meeting a Canadian in the process:

See what happened next →

All accompanying photos are in the Sutro Baths photo gallery. With so much free, high-quality content, why not tell a friend and share this article?

4 bits on Twin Peaks & Sutro Baths Review: The Hidden Ruins of San Francisco’s coast

  1. Wow! this is cool. your story of reaching the summit is a big accomplishment.

  2. I am so jealous of you… I want to visit these places and take pictures 🙂

  3. Great article! how i wish i could visit this place someday. Thanks for sharing these lovely pictures with us and i’m looking forward to read more from you.

  4. I love that rock with heart shape hole ! Well for me those are really awesome and perfect places.. I hope someday I can earn and visit these places.