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Tom MacWright


Tom Rates Hills: Holly Park

Entrance to the park

Views: 5/5

Twin Peaks

I’ve run around Holly Park dozens of times but never though to look inside. It always seemed small, unremarkable, tamed.

Bernal heights from afar

And while part of that impression remains - mainly that this hill is a park first and foremost, thoroughly landscaped and planted with lawn grass - I now realize that this park really is the absolute best place for views of this city.

San bruno

San Bruno

Holly is a pretty small hill, a little over 200 feet in elevation, but that’s enough to emerge views of everything.

Bernal heights

Twin Peaks? Check. Diamond Heights? Downtown? San Bruno? Bernal Heights? The bay?

Diamond heights

Diamond Heights

Candlestick park

Candlestick park

Yep, all of it. I’ve lived here for more than two years and never gotten such a thorough vision of the city as I did this morning. And all that without running five or six hundred feet of elevation.

Running: 2/5

Paved paths

Holly isn’t really big enough to support a run, and the narrow paths are heavily used by dog walkers and baby strollers. It definitely can factor into a run, but it won’t be the centerpiece.

Sandwiches: 5/5


This one’s really a park first and a hill second, and as such it’s a perfect spot for sandwiches. It’s also a spot for, I saw this morning, training dogs, learning dance routines, picnics with family, dates. There’s a baseball field and picnic benches which will someday reopen once folks are allowed to be closer.

Baseball field

I like how San Franciso’s urban nature is still so untamed: places like Glen Canyon and Corona Heights feel uniquely rugged, even though they were undoubtedly shaped by hundreds of years of Ohlone civilization and then carelessly mined by early settlers. Holly Park is quite the opposite of that: the paths are paved, the oaks grow out of grass, not clay and chert. Its shape on a map is an perfect and unnatural oval.


But Holly Park is so clearly useful and accessible. It is city infrastructure that really seems to serve city residents, whether they need a place to walk or to do community events and games. It isn’t hidden away. Instead, it seems to anchor a community.

Novelty: 2/5


Purple flower

Holly Park’s views are its highlight, but there’s a little more to the park in the very well-maintained bushes, flowers, and shrubs in the park.

More flowers

But even then, it feels much more like a park in suburban New Jersey than one in San Francisco. If you don’t look out on the incredible city, the park could be anywhere.

Trees: 2/5

Eucalyptus trees

Likewise, the trees in Holly Park are standard fare for the city: dense, controversial, and successful eucalyptus, and then a smattering of coast live oaks. The oaks look bizarre in grass, still moving with the wind, bearing witness to the changing seasons, but instead of doing so hanging onto the crags of a seaside cliff, sitting in manicured, lawnmowed turf.

Holly Park is a real gem of a neighborhood park. It’s pretty easy to get to, has spectacular views, and is a great place to get a sandwich, or to bring a coffee and a good dog.

…read all the other hill reviews

October 12, 2020  @tmcw