Walk from Old Town to the San Diego Presidio.

Old Presidio Historic Trail leads up hill from Old Town.
The Old Presidio Trail leads up a steep hill from San Diego’s historic Old Town.

Please join me as I walk from San Diego’s Old Town up a short but very steep trail to Presidio Park. We’ll see all sorts of interesting monuments, views, and of course, the location of the old Spanish presidio, whose ruins are no longer visible. The top of Presidio Hill is now home to the Junipero Serra Museum. Follow me!

We begin near the trailhead, beside the small Presidio Hills Golf Course, on the east edge of historic Old Town.

One of several signs along the Old Presidio Historic Trail. This one explains that soldiers and families used to walk down from the Spanish presidio to tend gardens and livestock near the Casa de Carrillo, around the location of the present-day Presidio Hills Golf Course.
One of several signs along the Old Presidio Historic Trail. This one explains that soldiers and families used to walk down from the Spanish presidio to tend gardens and livestock near the Casa de Carrillo, which is now the pro shop at Presidio Hills Golf Course.
The Indian sculpture by Arthur Putnam in Presidio Park.
The Indian sculpture by Arthur Putnam in Presidio Park.

The first interesting thing we see is this sculpture, titled The Indian.  It was created by famous American artist Arthur Putnam in 1905 and placed at the site of an ancient Indian village.  The small village was discovered and named San Miguel by the explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542.

Cross marks where Junipero Serra established California's first mission.
The Padre Cross was erected near the spot where Junipero Serra established California’s first mission.

Up the hill from The Indian stands the Padre Cross. It was raised in 1913 by the Order of Panama and is made up of tiles from the Presidio ruins.  The cross marks the strategic location overlooking San Diego Bay where Franciscan friar Junipero Serra chose to establish a Spanish Catholic mission in 1769. (The mission was moved several miles up the San Diego River 5 years later.)

Bronze statue titled The Padre by Arthur Putnam.
Bronze statue titled The Padre by Arthur Putnam.

Nearby among some trees we find a memorial to the mission’s friars. It’s a bronze statue titled The Padre, completed in 1908 by renowned sculptor Arthur Putnam.

The old presidio rises beyond billowing Spanish flag.
The Serra Museum rises beyond billowing Spanish flag.

Our legs are starting to feel the climb as we reach three flagpoles overlooking Mission Valley.

Looking down at a red trolley in Mission Valley.
Looking down at a red trolley in Mission Valley.

Turning north for a moment, we see the trolley!

View of the old Spanish presidio in San Diego.
View of the Serra Museum on Presidio Hill in San Diego.

Now we’re getting close to the Serra Museum, which was built in 1928 on this historically very important hill. The museum was built, and the land containing Presidio Park was purchased and preserved for posterity, by philanthropist George Marston.

San Diego was born in 1769 at the old Presidio, a Spanish fort in a desert-like wilderness very far from European civilization.  It was located just below the Serra Museum.

Serra Museum employee watches as I approach old presidio.
Serra Museum employee looks down the grassy hill.

Not many people are about at the moment.  Most tourists never venture up this way.

The Serra Museum is packed with numerous historical exhibits.  You can climb the tower for views of San Diego Bay, the San Diego River and Mission Valley.

Row of Spanish Colonial style arches.
Row of Mission Revival style arches.
Large wine press outside the old San Diego presidio.
Large wine press outside San Diego’s fascinating Junipero Serra Museum.
Looking downhill from atop grassy Presidio Park.
Looking downhill from atop grassy Presidio Park.

Now we’ll wander along the hilltop to nearby Fort Stockton, the short-lived camp of the famous Mormon Battalion.

Where a cannon once overlooked Old Town at Fort Stockton.
Where a cannon once overlooked Old Town at Fort Stockton.

Decades ago, when I was a young man, I remember seeing a cannon set in this concrete overlooking Old Town.  I believe that same cannon is now on display in the nearby Serra Museum. Given the name El Jupiter, it was one of ten cannons that originally protected the old Spanish Fort Guijarros on San Diego Bay at Ballast Point.

(A second surviving cannon from the fort is named El Capitan. Today it can be found near the center of Old Town San Diego’s Plaza de las Armas.)

Mural at Fort Stockton of the Mormon Battalion.
Mural at Fort Stockton of the Mormon Battalion.

In 1846, President James K. Polk asked Brigham Young of the Mormons to send a few hundred men to San Diego to help in the Mexican-American war effort.  On January 29, 1847 five hundred men and about eighty women and children arrived at Fort Stockton after a very difficult 2,000-mile march from Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Mormon Battalion Monument by Edward J. Fraughton.
Mormon Battalion Monument by Edward J. Fraughton.

I hope you enjoyed our walk!

Published by

Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

4 thoughts on “Walk from Old Town to the San Diego Presidio.”

  1. What a great article and it still holds up even though I am reading it two and a half years later. The directions are so clear and the walk is well worth attempting. I enjoyed all of the information and also the photos plus it’s so nice not only to have the directions but also to recognize the photos and what they are along the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I didn’t really go all out on this post, and the photos aren’t the best, but I’m glad you enjoyed it! I have a blog post concerning the Serra Museum at the top of Presidio Hill which has many more good photos and much more historical background! Thanks for all your great SDMA tours! Your pal, Richard!

      Like

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