The cascading allure of a waterfall is a mesmerizing sight to see, especially when you’re paying a visit to Golden Gate Park. To enhance the experience, the surrounding flora and fauna creates a magical moment that delights visitors of all ages. Golden Gate Park is home to two artificial waterfall systems: Huntington Falls and Rainbow Falls.
Location: Stow Lake
The first artificial waterfall installed in Golden Gate Park was Huntington Falls, which cascades down the length of Strawberry Hill, and spills into Stow Lake. It was former Park Superintendent John McLaren who came up with the plan to incorporate artificial lakes and waterways into a once-sandy landscape. McLaren became inspired to include waterfalls in Golden Gate Park during a hike in the Sierras with naturalist John Muir. Despite the critics, Huntington Falls was his first project (and a successful one) – named after Collis P. Huntington, one of the Big Four railroad barons, who donated $25,000 to the cause.
While you’re at the Falls, don’t be afraid to climb up the adjacent stairs past the surrounding sculpted rocks to look down over the top of Huntington Falls at Strawberry Hill. Explore the lovely rock path situated along the base of the waterfall. Take a walk across the bridge in front of the Falls. With camera in hand, wildlife photographers are never disappointed. Keep a lookout for feathered friends in the park. This location is a popular place for walkers, runners and bike riders. Visitors also enjoy the free parking.
Location: John F. Kennedy Drive near Crossover Drive
In 1930, the colored lights that originally illuminated the falls during its dedication led to the naming of Rainbow Falls. With the nearby Lloyd Lake supplying the water for the falls, circulated water travels into the trench stream located along JFK Drive. Since the peak of the Falls is enclosed by fences, you won’t be about to look down over the cascade, but the sight is a treat nonetheless. Bring along your camera or binoculars to capture the beauty of resident wildlife, such as an egret or heron standing in the waters.
During a visit to Rainbow Falls, you may also want to take the time to explore the intriguing Prayerbook Cross – situated near the top of the falls. Dating back to 1894, a trail leads up the hill to a massive Celtic-style landmark with an interesting historic past. There is a sign that marks the entrance to the trail as you come from John F. Kennedy Drive. Measuring 64 feet tall, the monument is the tallest in the park.