Gone, But Not Forgotten: Sutro Baths

Sutro Baths sunset
Historic Sutro Baths was the very first stop on my San Francisco sunset photo tour. Located at the westernmost point of Lands End, the Baths was a lavish 25,000-person swimming facility and museum built in the 19th century by former San Francisco mayor Adolph Sutro. It boasted six saltwater swimming tanks, 517 private dressing rooms, restaurants, and arcades, all enclosed by 100,000 square feet of glass. Sadly, all was destroyed by fire in 1966. Today, the foundations are still visible, and the site has been part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area since 1973.

Making our way onto the narrow ledges of the ruins to set up my tripod was a bit harrowing. Deep shadows, deep water, big drop-offs all around – can anyone say vertigo? But once set up, I had the opportunity to witness and photograph one of the three most stunning sunsets/sunrises I have ever seen. (The other two were in Hawaii – a sunset off the Kona-Kohala Coast; a sunrise viewed from atop Hawaii’s Haleakala Volcano.)

From my spot on the ruins, I pointed my camera south to photograph Seal Rocks while experimenting with water effects. I prefer the composition of the first, but the exposure of the second.

Sunset at Seal Rocks, Lands End, San Francisco

Nikon D7100, 35mm f/1.8 lens, 1.6 sec @ f/22, ISO 200

Sunset at Seal Rocks, Lands End, San Francisco

Nikon D7100, 35mm f/1.8 lens, 8 sec @ f/22, ISO 200

As I swung my camera back around, with the sun’s fading orange glow giving way to the evening’s blue hour, this is the scene that was waiting.

Sutro Baths Sunset ProposalThis guy had all of us witnessing the scene sigh a big, collective “awwww.” And if you’re wondering, she said yes!

Sutro Baths, gone? Yes. Forgotten? As a popular spot for photographers, tourists, and romantic locals, I think not!

Thanks to Sally Mason of Little Hiccups for allowing me the use of her photo, Looking Over the Sutro Baths.
(My vantage point was near the two metal fences on the wider part of the foundation.) 
Sutro Baths Daytime

48 thoughts on “Gone, But Not Forgotten: Sutro Baths

  1. Love them! Colors, light and landscape are beautiful! And as icing on the cake, the wonderful proposal picture! Compliments!


  2. I used to love the Sutro Baths. We used to hike to and around them when I was in college. You’ve really captured some beautiful images and a great sunset! Love them all!


  3. Great images, Stacy. I remember the Sutro Baths, but I was there at midday with cloudy weather. The history of that place is fascinating and worth a visit even with poor shooting conditions. You definitely came back with some real winners. Nicely done.


    • Thanks, Robin! Doc Miles was a wonderful tour guide. He filled me in a bit on the history, but I did some more reading on it when I got back and was amazed by how ambitious a project it was. It was a heck of a way to begin my whirlwind photo shoot 🙂


    • Oh, Amy, what a lovely comment. You are so very welcome. It would have been selfish not to share 😉 And, yes, that last moment was fantastic. What I didn’t share in the post is that he had a group of four standing back on solid ground behind where I was, each holding up a sign with one word that spelled out the sentence “Will you marry me?” Certainly, the signs weren’t needed for his message, but the group had a great time participating 🙂


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