How to Visit the Bison in Golden Gate Park

Bison in Golden Gate Park San Francisco.

Last updated on March 27th, 2023 at 02:50 pm

Did you know you can get up close to a herd of American bison in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park? Many long-time Bay Area residents don’t know about this unique Golden Gate Park attraction. It’s definitely a fun surprise for a Golden Gate Park visitor to stumble upon these beauties grazing in the grass. You just don’t expect to see a herd of bison in an urban park!

Here’s everything you need to know about visiting San Francisco’s beloved resident bison for the first time.

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San Francisco Travel Resources

Bison herd in Golden Gate Park.

About the Golden Gate Park Bison

The first bison herd was introduced to Golden Gate Park in 1892 when their species was near extinction due to aggressive hunting by European Americans. You’ve heard of Buffalo Bill, right? Well, he got that name due to his ability to hunt (4,000 ish) bison for food for railroad workers.

Eventually, the United States bison population dropped from millions to below 100.

The introduction of bison to Golden Gate Park that started with just one male and one female ultimately began the conservation efforts to save the American bison. This was long before the San Francisco Zoo opened, in 1930. The zoo is currently responsible for caring for the herd.

The herd of Golden Gate Park bison has changed over the years. In 2011 a new herd of 5, Betsy, Bailey. Bellatrix, Buttercup and Bambi, were introduced. Don’t ask me which one is which!

Bison in Golden Gate Park
Bison standing in the field in Golden Gate Park San Francisco.

In March 2020, 5 female baby bison were donated to the park in honor of Golden Gate Park’s 150th anniversary, growing the total number of bison to ten. It’s really hard to tell the young bison from the older bison! They’re all huge!

They used to keep males as well, however, mating season introduced quite a bit of chaos in the paddock. Supposedly one even escaped and took a stroll through the Sunset neighborhood. Can you imagine watching one of these majestic creatures wander past your window!

To minimize bison escape attempts, the park keeps it an all female herd.

Honestly, saying hi to the bison is one of my favorite things to do in Golden Gate Park and I love taking visitors to see them. 

Where to find the Bison Paddock in Golden Gate Park

The bison paddock is located in the western portion of Golden Gate Park. You’ll find the bison paddock on John F. Kennedy Drive in between Chain of Lakes Dr and 36th Ave. You can park along JFK Dr.

There is also a dog park that recently opened behind the paddock, so you can bring your own furry friend to play while you look at the bison grazing!

Just be sure to keep your dog on a leash if you’re walking them by the paddock so as not to scare our bison herd.

Golden Gate Park bison herd.

The Bison Webcam

If you can’t make it to the park to see the bison, check out the bison webcams online! The bison cams show the herd grazing and napping in their paddock. To be honest, they don’t move around too much. In all the times I’ve visited the, I’ve only seen them run once – which was truly magical.

Check out the SF Recreation website to check out the live webcams of the bison from the comfort of home.

Things to do Nearby

Golden Gate Park is filled with fun things to do and the Bison paddock is located near many of those attractions.

In this part of Golden Gate Park you’ll find Spreckels Lake, which is a great place to relax or race a small boat!

The Dutch Windmill is down JFK on the way to Ocean Beach. In the spring beautiful Tulips bloom in the garden surrounding the windmill. It’s quite beautiful!

Nearby is Ocean Beach, one of my favorite beaches in San Francisco!

You can also head to the park’s eastern end to visit Japanese Tea Garden, Botanical Gardens, or to visit the museums.

When you’re visiting Golden Gate Park, definitely make a stop to see the bison. The visit doesn’t require much time but is a rare opportunity to create a unique and lasting memory of your time in San Francisco.

And for local San Franciscans who hav yet to see these longtime residents, what are you waiting for? Go say hi!

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Bison in Golden Gate Park
Bison in Golden Gate Park
Bison in Golden Gate Park

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