Three Western forts offer a
glimpse into the past and sweeping view.
Tucked under the Golden Gate Bridge’s south anchorage, Fort Point is the West’s only brick-and-mortar fortress—an armed stronghold that has never had to fend off an attack. Completed in 1861, it stands in the Presidio just 14 feet above sea level. The fort offers vistas of the bridge, the bay, the Pacific Ocean, and Angel and Alcatraz islands. Amid what site supervisor Theresa Griggs calls its “beautiful, graceful arches and intriguing brickwork,” visitors can view exhibits and even see a cannon being loaded. (415) 556-1693, nps.gov/fopo .
Fort Columbia State Park faces the Columbia River from Highway 101 in Chinook, Wash. Four defense batteries and 12 historic buildings, some with period furnishings, rest on 593 acres filled with trails, wildlife, and rhododendrons. (360) 777-8221, parks.wa.gov .
Russians built Fort Ross near what’s now Jenner, Calif., to supply settlers in Alaska. Its period redwood structures sit between a misty hillside and the ocean. Visit on Memorial Day to take in special Russian Orthodox chapel services. (707) 847-4777, fortrossstatepark.org .
Photography by Melissa Barnes 
This article was first published in May 2010. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.