tunnel under Cliff House

At Land’s End, usually frequented only by raccoons, is a forgotten tunnel under the Cliff House in San Francisco.  In 1891 a grizzly old miner announced there was a fortune in the coal vein he’d found. On March 28 of that same year, readers of the Chronicle were greeted with astonishing news: Coal Discovered in the City! “An old miner has found a vein hugging the coastline below the bluff at the Cliff House (left photo). ‘Do try to buy up that land,’ miner Charles Jackson told Superintendent H.H. Lynch of the Cliff House and Ferries Railway. ‘There is a fortune in it, for I am sure there are thousands of tons of good coal in that district.'”

Tunnel Under Cliff House:

But the vein and tunnel under the Cliff House (right photo) sat on land owned by Adolph Sutro, the Comstock Lode magnate who would later become mayor of San Francisco as well as build the famous Sutro Baths. Sutro immediately went to work. He put a crew of miners digging a tunnel about 200 feet below the Ferries Railway track, which was then about the same distance from sea level.  Miner Jackson’s discovery was confirmed: There was indeed coal under Land’s End. But the mine was never fully developed despite the city’s reliance on coal in the late 19 century. No one knows why.  Today the story of San Francisco’s coal mine is largely forgotten. The tunnel is still there, although in decaying condition, thanks to decades of erosion. Mudslides, earthquakes and storms have collapsed portions of the tunnel and nearly buried its eastern opening.  Accessing the tunnel is no picnic.  Technical climbing and careful attention to tides is required.  For more on the Secret Tunnels of San Francisco, scroll to the bottom of this page and click on “Tunnels”.  Cheers and happy adventures!

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