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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? : 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.
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.
Rodeo Beach is
a wide pebble beach on the sand spit that separates Rodeo Lagoon from the
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.
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
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):
option (2 miles round trip) and with less climbing is hiking to the headlands cliff
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
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).
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