Choose your own adventure along the California Coastal Trail

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An image of multiple signs on a trial.

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is home to a host of spectacular trails boasting one-of-a-kind views and deep histories with statewide and national significance. The  California Coastal Trail (CCT), a 1,230-mile public route following the Pacific coastline from Mexico to Oregon, is one of our unique connecting points in the parks. You can find segments of the braided trail in Mori Point in Pacifica and in the Marin Headlands at Hawk Hill and around the batteries at Fort Cronkhite. On the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge, you’ll find the trail at Fort Funston and in the Presidio, where a 2.7-mile segment provides multiple access points to beaches, overlooks and historic batteries, as well as a path to the iconic bridge. 

For as long as people have lived in the area, California’s coastlines have been used as trails: Ohlone and Coast Miwok tribes maintained temporary and permanent villages in marshlands and along the coasts, using the beaches and bluffs for hunting, fishing, and gathering as well as for transportation and trading routes. European colonization and the establishment of present-day California changed the lives and landscapes of the original peoples in the area. Through the years, the land along the coasts was used for military garrisons and civilian settlements before much of it entered public park systems.

In the 1970s, California voters passed a proposition that declared that “a hiking, bicycle, and equestrian trails system shall be established along or near the coast” noting that “ideally the trails system should be continuous and located near the shoreline.” At its simplest, the proposition established that the coast belongs to all Californians and guaranteed the public right-of-way or access to the coastline. 

As of 2021, nearly 70% of the CCT—that’s 875 miles!—is complete. The Coastal Commission and Coastal Conservancy, who manage the trail, have announced a three-year project to complete the remaining 30% of the trail and have released this digital map showing the current segments.

Some of our favorite ways to get onto the CCT are in the Presidio: Walk along Baker Beach, winding your way up sandy stairs or follow along the flat path at Battery Chamberlain to get to the official path at Lincoln Blvd. Alternately, you can start at the 25th Avenue Gate and follow the path along Lincoln Boulevard that way. . For a bike ride or accessible hike, the widest and most stable path is alongside Lincoln Blvd. and has stopping points at the Pacific Overlook, passing by multiple batteries on its own route to the Golden Gate Overlook.

One of the best parts of the multi-use trail here is that it has accessible paths with alternative routes for every type of park user. For a more strenuous hike, you can take the Batteries-to-Bluffs detour down to Battery Crosby and Marshall’s Beach before climbing back up the stairs to the Golden Gate Overlook

Finding ways to access and connect the coastlines can be a way to connect with our neighbors and with the history of the land. However you get there, whichever path you take, snap a picture and document that you’ve arrived. And once you’ve arrived, why not keep going? There are more trails, like the Bay Trail in front of you and the Bay Area Ridge Trail behind you. The CCT can be just the beginning of your adventure. 
 

Beatrice Kilat

Beatrice Kilat is the Media & Communications Specialist for the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy's Marketing and Communications Team.

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