Marin Headlands

Located just north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge the Marin Headlands is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Located just north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge the Marin Headlands is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area

It is hard to believe such a vast, beautiful, and diverse wilderness is so close to San Francisco. Most visitors only visit the overlook of the Golden Gate Bridge. There is so much more to explore in the Headlands.    

The Marin Headlands is a crown jewel of the Golden Gate National Parks abounding with places of natural wonder and beauty  Rodeo Lagoon/Valley, Gerbode Valley, Hawk Hill, Tennessee Valley  and remarkable historic sites Point Bonita Lighthouse  Fort Cronkhite, Nike Missile Site, Battery Townsley.

In addition to a vast network of multi-use trails, amenities for visitors include the Marin Headlands Visitor Center and four unique campgrounds.

Not to Be Missed: 

Marin Headlands Visitor Center

Open: Every day except Tuesday —9:30 AM to 4:30 PM  Location: Fort Barry, Building 948 Sausalito, CA 94965.  The Marin Headlands Visitor Center is located in the historic Fort Barry Chapel, at the intersection of Field and Bunker Roads. The Visitor Center is approximately 3 miles from the entrance to the Marin Headlands.

 

Point Bonita Lighthouse

At the southwestern point of the Marin Headlands sits Point Bonita Lighthouse. A secret jewel of the Bay Area, the Point Bonita Lighthouse, built in 1855, was the third lighthouse built on the West Coast and helped shepherd ships through the treacherous Golden Gate straits. Today, the lighthouse is still active and is maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. Discover Point Bonita's wild landscape, geology and fascinating history by hiking the partially steep half mile trail to the Point Bonita Lighthouse! It's located at the end of a very skinny finger of land that extends into the Pacific Ocean.

 

Fort Baker

Tucked almost directly beneath the Golden Gate Bridge this former army post is on the threshold of the dramatic coastline of the Marin Headlands. After a post-to-park transformation completed in 2008, Fort Baker now houses Cavallo Point (the first national park lodge of the 21st century) as well as the Institute at the Golden Gate, leveraging the power of parks to advance environmental and social progress. Kids love the hands-on art, science, and play activities at the Bay Area Discovery Museum, which focuses on bay history and ecology. Please note: The museum charges an admission fee.The pier on Fort Baker’s shore is a popular location for fishing and an amazing spot to photograph the Golden Gate Bridge. 

 

Fort Cronkhite and Rodeo Beach 

Located in the Marin Headlands north of Rodeo Lagoon, Fort Cronkhite is a former World War II military post that stands at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Fort Cronkhite is one of the few examples of these World War II "mobilization posts" remaining in the country. The fort's barracks, mess halls, and other structures are preserved to tell the story of the soldiers who waited here for an enemy that never came. Today, Fort Cronkhite's buildings are today used as offices and housing for the National Park Service and its park partners.



The Marine Mammal Center

The World’s Largest Marine Mammal Hospital. The Marine Mammal Center is nestled in the Marin Headlands in the beautiful Golden Gate National Recreation Area, just minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge. We offer educational programs and tours; plus, you are welcome to explore on your own – view exhibits and our animal patients. Admission is FREE but tours are highly recommended (the small fee helps save our seals and sea lions!)

 

Nike Missile Site

Nike Missile Site, a Cold War museum in the heart of GGNRA. During the tense years of the Cold War, from 1953 to 1979, the United States Army built and operated close to 300 Nike missile sites in the United States. These sites were designed as the last line of defense against Soviet bombers. Today, a dedicated group of volunteers works in partnership with the Golden Gate National Recreation Area on the continuous task of restoration at site SF-88L, the only fully restored Nike missile site in the country. This museum is an enduring reminder of the Cold War and allows visitors to reflect upon the realities of the Cold War and their influence on today's society.

 

Battery Townsley

Battery Townsley was a casemated battery that mounted two 16-inch caliber guns, each capable of shooting a 2,100 pound projectile 25 miles out to sea. Completed in 1940, the guns and their associated ammunition magazines, power rooms, and crew quarters were covered by dozens of feet of concrete and earth to protect them from air and naval attack.

Battery Townsley is located one ½ mile up from the Fort Cronkhite parking lot, following the Coastal Trail; the walk up to the battery is strenuous so please allow at least 45 minutes

 

Tennessee Valley

Tennessee Valley is an amazing offshoot of the Marin Headlands, with hiking trails to suit the whole family. The Tennessee Valley Trail is mostly level; it begins at the parking area and travels 1.7 miles to Tennessee Beach. For the more adventurous hiker, there are a number of other trails leading into the hills above Tennessee Valley.

In the spring, the vegetation of the valley is lush and green and/or blooming. The valley will come alive with lupine, checker-bloom, blue-eyed grass, California buttercup, and California poppy. In summer, the grasses turn golden, and by late summer you can find fennel, lizardtail, sagebrush, sticky monkey flower, and blackberry bushes. In winter and early spring, rains turn the golden grasses back into green field

 

Dogs, even on leash, are not allowed on the Tennessee Valley Trail. Please do not feed or approach wildlife.

 

Hawk Hill

The centerpoint of the Marin Headlands skyline is the 920-foot (280 m) Hawk Hill, the lookout point for the largest known flight of diurnal raptors in the Pacific states.

Each autumn, from August into December, tens of thousands of hawks, kites, falcons, eagles, vultures, osprey, and harriers are funneled by the peninsular shape of Marin County into the headlands. Hawks avoid flight over water since warm thermals that provide lift are rare. Abundant populations of small mammals protected by the park are one resource that helps maintain the large number of visiting raptors in the Headlands during the fall, but the strong onshore winds hitting the hills of the Headlands provide cold updrafts and hot late summer days provide warm thermals that allow these birds to fly more efficiently.

 

Volunteers with the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory  count and track this fall migration using bird-banding and radio-tracking techniques, all in cooperation with the National Park Service.




You have two fun tour options that can include part of the Marin Headlands: 

3+ Hours Morning or Afternoon - Includes Sausalito and Golden Gate Bridge. Perfect for up to 4 Adults plus 2 children

Ultimate City Tour plus Giant Redwoods, bayside town of Sausalito and Golden Gate Bridge Tour with your own guide in an open air Jeep. 6 Guest per Jeep - perfect for up to 4 Adults plus 2 children 7 + Hours

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