Stow Lake

Go boating on Golden Gate Park’s largest lake. The placid body of water is the home of turtles, ducks and during winter, Canadian geese.  

The biggest body of water within Golden Gate Park, Stow Lake is a popular recreational spot for locals and visitors. Rent a boat from the boathouse and row to Strawberry Hill island to see the artificial waterfall before boating to the Chinese Pavilion.

Stow Lake is not a natural feature, but rather a manmade body of water that was built in 1893. Since its opening, it has served as a recreational space for the people of San Francisco who come here to walk, row and picnic. Join other visitors for several peaceful hours of exploration and relaxation.

Begin your visit in the boathouse, a building that dates back to 1946. If the weather is good, rent a boat. Choose between rowboats, pedalboats or electric boats. As you float around, spot geese and ducks out on the water as well as turtles on the rocks and logs around the lake’s edge.

Make your way to Strawberry Hill, the island in the center of the lake, via the footbridges. Seek out the waterfall, which cascades down from the island into the lake’s water. Though it looks just like a natural waterfall, it is actually an artificial feature, specially constructed to add to the atmosphere of the lake area. The island harbors colorful swallowtail and monarch butterflies.

Look for the Golden Gate Pavilion, a red-and-white pagoda with a decorative green roof designed in typical Chinese style. This structure was a gift to the city of San Francisco from Taipei, a sister city, dedicated in 1981. Follow walking trails on Strawberry Hill up to the summit. At an elevation of more than 400 feet (120 meters), this is the highest point in the park.

Stay until sunset for your chance to see the “White Lady.” According to local legend, she haunts the shores of Stow Lake hoping to find her child whom she lost to the lake.

Find Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park. The park is open daily during daylight hours. No entrance fee applies, though visitors must pay to rent boats.