Golden Gate NRA, Marin Headlands - Visit Planning


What? : 

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area protecting 82,027 acres of ecologically and historically significant land surrounding the San Francisco Bay Area. At this blog I will describe in short visit planning to the section north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

For most of the park attraction point I wrote a dedicated blog, just follow the title link to the full blog on each location.


Where? : 

Located north of San Francisco at Marin County, just after crossing the Golden Gate bridge.

Google Map Link


When? : 

Year round hiking, vista viewing and other attractions; at hot summer days the park offer large beach for day use.


Due note 1: This is a crowded park, especially during weekends, try to come early.


Due note 2: Some of the park roads are one-way, check your planned route in advance.


Due note 3: There are many old militaries bonkers in the area, dated WW2, part of the fun is to explore them.


Due note 4: Check for Point Bonita Lighthouse opening hours, it is not simple to find it open ….


My thoughts: 

There are a lot of things to see and to do at this section of the Golden Gate NRA, it can be as short as 20 minutes stop at the north Golden Gate Bridge viewing point or a full long day, hiking at the large open space hills and coastline or relaxing at the beaches this park has to offer.


Link to additional blogs

The visit:


Plan on spending at least a few hours in the park, exploring the scenic drives, enjoy the view or hike to a particular point of interest.

You can spend few relaxing hours at the Rodeo Beach and if time permits, you could take a longer hike.

Much of the Golden Gate NRA, Marin Headlands section is a land formerly used by the United States Army there are many old bonkers you can visit, usually they have excellent viewing point on the landscape.


Few visiting options:

When coming from San Francisco and crossing the Golden Gate bridge it is highly recommended to stop at the North View Vista Point (only accessible northbound), this is probably 20 min stop.


From here reconnect back to the 101 north and immediately take the first exit on your right into Alexander Ave. take left into Bunker Rd, cross the tunnel and you are at the park.

Here you can drive directly to Rodeo Beach, enjoy the beach or hike at the hills north of the beach.

Another option:

Instead of driving directly to Rodeo Beach, you can take left into McCullough Rd, it will climb the ridge and at the roundabout turn right into Conzelman Rd west, in the direction of Hawk Hill.

(If you will turn at the roundabout left you will drive down in one way road to Battery Spencer and back to highway 101.

We will take right at the first exit and climb up the hills, stop at viewing points and explore the bunkers.

From here keep driving at the one-way road and arrive to Point Bonita Lighthouse parking.

Check if the Lighthouse is open and if it is than I highly recommended to visit it, 0.5 mile trail to the hidden lighthouse below.

From the lighthouse you can go and visit the Rodeo Beach.

During all the times I visit here the lighthouse trail was close, maybe next time ...


On your way out of the park you can use the same tunnel Bunker road you came in (may be close at mid-day) but I recommend you take McCullough Rd right.

The road climbs the ridge and at the roundabout turn, this time, left into Conzelman Rd east, in the direction of 101 exit.

Stop at the amazing Battery Spencer viewing point, park along the roadside where it allowed, or hike from here down to the Kirby Beach at the cove below.


List of point of interest:


Golden Gate Bridge View Vista Point (North):

Just after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco to north, you will see a turnout into the viewing parking lot.

Excellent view of the bridge, the city across the bay opening, Alcatraz Island in the bay and the north bay hills.

Slackers Hill:
For unique view of the Golden Gate Bridge, the bay and San Francisco you can hike up the 0.5 mile steep trail leading to Slackers Hill ridge.
Park your car at the small parking lot located right on the roundabout. Walk down the road and pass the road to the other side. From here the wide trail climb up and to the left.
From the end of the trail there is a nice view of the bay and the bridge.


Battery Spencer:

Easy walk up to one of the best high-level viewing points of the Golden Gate bridge.

Old WW2 bunker location viewing the bridge from above and San Francisco on the other side of the bridge.

Battery Spencer is one of the best viewing points over the Golden Gate bridge and San Francisco, it may be difficult to find parking space in the small parking lot. Most of the parking is on Conzelman Rd roadside, it is one-way road, so you need to come from within the park (use the north main park entrance road).


Kirby Beach:

A small, beautiful beach viewing the Golden Gate Bridge from the ocean level.

In order to reach this cove, you need to park near the popular Battery Spencer viewing point and take the 1 mile hike to the beach below.


Rodeo Beach:

A popular beach at warm summer days, a large inland lagune and excellent hiking starting point into the surrounding hills and old WW2 bunkers.

Drive across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco and take the Alexander Ave exit (Exit 442). Turn left following signs to Marin Headlands via Bunker Road. Pass through the Baker Barry Tunnel continue driving past the Marin Headlands Visitors Center to Rodeo Lagoon parking.


Point Bonita Lighthouse:

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.

Located at the far west of the park on the mouth of the bay to the ocean.

Check for visiting hours, currently it is close as result of Covid19 situation.

Point Bonita is still an active lighthouse, its beam can be seen for 18 miles across the water under clear conditions. In dense fog when the light signal cannot be

seen, a sound system comes into play.

A half-mile trail that is steep in parts. The tunnel halfway to the lighthouse is open only during visiting hours, you cannot see the lighthouse from the trail.

The nearest place that has the lighthouse view is from the nearby “antenna hill”. This is “non-official” trail, not maintained and for a short section you are hiking right on the cliff edge, be careful!


Nike Missile Site SF-88:

Restored Nike missile launch site located in the declassified Fort Barry in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Welcome to the Nike Missile Site, the most fully restored Nike missile site in the country. 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 to be the last line of defense against H-Bomb carrying Soviet bombers that had eluded the Air Force’s interceptor jet aircrafts.

For opening hour information contact Marin Headlands Visitor Center.



Tennessee Valley:

Tennessee Valley trail (3.5 miles out and back) will take you through the small valley down to the Pacific Ocean secluded cove. Located at the north section of Golden Gate NRA Marin Headlands. The entrance is through Tennessee Valley road exiting hwy 1 (just after you are taking hwy 1 exit from the 101 north).







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