Golden Gate NRA, Rodeo Beach


What? : 

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


Where? : 

rive 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.

Google Map Link

Related blogs:


When? : 

Late spring and summer for beach activity, all year round for hiking starting point.


Due note 1: This is popular beach at warm summer days. Don’t plan on swimming, the ocean water is cold and dangerous !


Due note 2: Restroom facilities at the main (northernmost) beach parking lot.


My thoughts: 

A long popular beach at warm summer day. I parked my car at the large parking lot and went to long hike exploring the surrounding hills to the north. From here I also took a shorter hike to Point Bonita Lighthouse.


The visit:

Rodeo Beach is a wide pebble beach on the sand spit that separates Rodeo Lagoon from the ocean.

The beach is dark colored and made up of small pebbly dark colored stones.

On its south side you can see the large Bird Rock, covered with white bird guano, and has a small arch in the center. Here you can see cormorants, gulls, and pelicans.


Near the road you can see the old building of Fort Cronkhite, large former World War II military base with preserved barracks. The coastline was protected from the south by Battery Smith-Guthrie and from its north side by the 2 large 16” anti-ship canons at Battery Townsley.


You can enjoy the beach or explore the miles of backcountry trails that meander through open landscape coastal hills.


Recommended Hikes:


1. Hike to the ocean cliff and hills north of the beach:

All the way to Hill 88 this is 4 miles hike with 1,000f elevation gain.

From the north end of the beach the Coastal Trail goes north along the bluff to coastal overlooks and old military bunkers, climbing up the trail will bring you to Battery Townsley.

Those are 2 huge bunkers that hold 2 large 16” anti-ship cannons protecting the entrance to San Francisco bay during WW2.

When you hike up the exposed grassland hills you will enjoy the landscape below.

Keep hiking the Coastal Trail, when the road ends (landslide), follow the signs to a narrow hiking trail where it climbs the hills. You can explore few more old bunkers on your way up.

Later the trail connects again to the eroded deserted road that will lead you to Hill 88.

This is an abandoned radar site base that was used during the cold war for early warning and Nike Missile guidance. Few standing crumbling buildings, a lot of graffiti and 360 degree as-far-as the eye can see panoramic view.


2. Cliff labyrinth (2 miles):

A shorter option (2 miles round trip) and with less climbing is hiking to the headlands cliff labyrinth.

Head north from Rodeo Beach, if you branch off the main trail and stay at the cliff edge section (do not climb the hills) you’ll find a labyrinth on a flat cliff head and wonderful views of the rugged Marin Coast to the north.


3. Hike South of the beach:

This is 3 miles not difficult hike.

Here you can find stunning views of Rodeo Beach, Bird Island and the Point Bonita Lighthouse.

As well as enjoying the views, you can explore the nearby Battery Smith-Guthrie, Battery Alexander and Battery Mendell on your hike.

If you reach Point Bonita Lighthouse and it is close you can go to the nearby viewing point and see the lighthouse from above (link to Point Bonita Lighthouse blog).