When outdoorsy San Franciscans need a nature fix, they head to the Marin Headlands, a wildlife haven on the coast known for its hiking trails, Pacific Ocean views, and historic sites. Part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the headlands sit just across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County.
The Marin Headlands make a great destination for a half-day trip or as part of a longer day trip to Muir Woods or Sonoma County. Go for a few hours to hike on the Tennessee Valley Trail, visit dog-friendly Rodeo Beach, or enjoy exceptional photo ops of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Golden Gate View Point on Conzelman Road. Bay cruises and helicopter tours give you the chance to admire the wild headlands from afar.
The southwest end of the headlands is home to the Point Bonita Lighthouse, Headlands Center for the Arts, and military attractions such as the Cold War–era Nike missile sites, gun batteries, Fort Barry, and Fort Cronkhite.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Marin Headlands are ideal for nature lovers and history buffs.
- The visitor center is located at Fort Barry, on the way to Rodeo Beach.
- Bring your own water and food; there are a few picnic sites, including at Battery Wallace.
- Accessible restrooms can be found near Rodeo Beach and at the visitor center.
How to Get There
From San Francisco, drive north over the Golden Gate Bridge and take the Alexander Avenue exit off US 101 to reach the Marin Headlands. If you’re feeling active, you can bike there.
When to Get There
If you wake up to a sunny day, go early to avoid the traffic, especially on weekend mornings when locals take the bridge out of the city. Photo and wildlife enthusiasts will want to visit in the early morning or evening for the best light and prime chances to see wildlife.
Marine Mammal Center
Near Rodeo Beach and Fort Cronkhite, the Marine Mammal Center works to rescue, rehabilitate, and release marine mammals who have been injured, caught in nets, or a variety of other conditions. Educational programs and tours are open to the public.