Bootlegger's Steps

Volunteers and staff from the Stewardship Team weed and repair the steps.
Volunteers and staff from the Stewardship Team weed and repair the steps.

Quick Facts

Scenic View/Photo Spot

During Prohibition, a similar series of steps were used by "rumrunners" to bring illegal shipments of liquor ashore. These steps were used to supply the speakeasy at the Mori Inn and restaurant, located at the top of the bluff. Bootlegging was a profitable but dangerous endeavor. Operating outside of the law meant bootleggers could face violent attack from both lawmen and, in some cases, the more dangerous threat of hijackers, determined to rip off liquor shipments.

Legends in Rock

The large, white boulders along the trail near the base of Bootlegger's Steps are limestone. Mori Point is one of the few places in the San Francisco area where limestone occurs in industrial quantities. Mori's limestone has always been of interest to people living in the area. Archaeological evidence shows the native Ohlone people quarried the white rock for construction, decoration and trade. Beginning in 1776, the Spanish used Indian labor to quarry Mori's limestone in building construction at the Presidio and Mission. Soldiers also used the lime in the pits to make whitewash for Presidio structures.

After the US takeover, the quarries were mostly idle until reconstruction started after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. Later in the century, World War II needs created a need to reinvigorate quarry activity. By the 1980s, the quarries were shutting down for good, but local scientists became interested in how these isolated limestone blocks had formed.

Careful study of the marine fossils in the rocks showed the limestone bodies had formed on the shallow tops of submarine volcanoes in the central Pacific. Between about 130 and 80 million years ago, these volcanoes took a ride towards North America on an ocean plate conveyor belt. When they arrived at the continent, the mountain peaks with their white limestone caps became lodged in the side of the continent rather than slipping under it like the rest of the ocean crust.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Last updated: February 1, 2021