Best Hidden Lake - 2002
It's hard to hide anything in a city as compact as San Francisco, but Mountain Lake may yet surprise a few San Franciscans. Tucked away in an obscure southern corner of the Presidio, the lake hides in plain sight, concealed behind bushes from traffic zooming toward the Golden Gate Bridge on Park Presidio Boulevard. Yet for all its modesty, the lake is one of the most important historic sites in San Francisco. It was here on its shores in March 1776 that Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and a small advance party camped after a 900-mile trek from Mexico. Three months later, de Anza's main party of 193 settlers arrived to begin building the nearby fort and mission that would become San Francisco. The area, to be sure, looks much different today from the treeless, rolling grasslands de Anza saw. And to be honest, the lake is not quite the idyllic jewel one might hope for, what with the dull roar of traffic next door and the screaming toddlers on the nearby playground. But the park that surrounds it is a lush and charming little neighborhood oasis, complete with tennis courts, Parcourse fitness trail, basketball court, and dog run.