It’s hard to believe such a vast, beautiful, and diverse wilderness is so close to a major metropolitan area. 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).
See specific web pages for more information on each individual site.
In addition to a vast network of multi-use trails, amenities for visitors include the Marin Headlands Visitor Center and four unique campgrounds.
Plan Your Visit
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- Ride the Marin Headlands Shuttle: This free shuttle operates each weekend through September. The shuttle picks up every thirty minutes from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. along Bunker Road, Field Road and Fort Baker. Stops include: Bay Area Discovery Museum, Smith Road trail head, Marine Mammal Center, Rodeo Beach, Visitor Center, Nike Missile Site, Battery Alexander and Point Bonita Lighthouse.
- Begin your explorations at the Marin Headlands Visitor Center, open daily from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.
- The SF-88 Nike Missile Site is open the first Saturday of every month from 12:30–3:30 pm featuring an open house, with docents and Nike veterans sharing their stories (check online calendar). For more information, visit the NPS site.
- Battery Townsley, considered the zenith of military technology in the 1940s, is open the first Sunday of every month from 12–4:00 pm. For more information, visit the NPS site.
- Point Bonita Lighthouse is open Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays from 12:30-3:30 pm.
- Accessible restroom facilities are available at the Fort Cronkhite parking lot by Rodeo Beach, and also at the visitor center.
- Bring your own snacks; there are no food vendors in the Headlands.
- Picnic at Battery Wallace, near the Point Bonita trailhead. This is one of the parks’ most scenic picnic spots, complete with tables and grills (no water on site).
- Take a drive along Conzelman Road from the northern foot of the Golden Gate Bridge to Point Bonita. This five-mile road offers breathtaking views of San Francisco and the Pacific Ocean.
- Don’t plan on swimming (the ocean water is cold and dangerous).
- Survey the majesty of the Golden Gate Bridge from Kirby Cove.
- Visit park-partner organizations located in the Headlands, such as the Marine Mammal Center and the Headlands Center for the Arts.
- In the fall, watch Golden Gate Raptor Observatory volunteers monitor the autumn migration of birds of prey. Each year, more than 20,000 raptors fly over the Headlands.
The sea cliffs and road cuts of the Headlands have exposed some of the finest examples of pillow basalt and radiolarian chert.
Millions of years ago, these rocks formed at the bottom of the sea, several thousand miles from the coast. The black pillow basalt was created from lava spewing from vents, while the red-brown radiolarian chert formed as the remains of radiolarians (microscopic protozoans) collected in layers.
As the seafloor moves slowly east, it slides under the North American continent and leaves behind scrapings of radiolarian chert and pillow basalt.
The Parks Conservancy has supported numerous projects in the Marin Headlands over its 40-year history. Critical habitat for endangered Mission blue butterflies and threatened California red-legged frogs have been restored. Invasive plants have been removed, and rare species protected. Historic forts, batteries, and other cultural treasures have been preserved. And trails, wayfinding signage, overlooks, and other visitor amenities have also been created or improved.
But our work is not done. Ongoing efforts, especially at Hawk Hill, will continue to protect sensitive habitats and rare species while creating an improved trails and visitor access.
Learn more about what the Parks Conservancy is doing in the Marin Headlands.