Tennessee Valley meanders for approximately two miles through serene, rolling hills down to the Pacific Ocean. The 1.8-mile, well-groomed trail to Tennessee Cove begins at the trailhead parking lot, about a mile down Tennessee Valley Road.
Sandwiched between the bluffs on either side of the cove lies a pocket beach. During low tide, it is possible to get around the southern end to reach another small, sandy beach with interesting rock formations, but beware of hazardous surf. Swimming is not recommended.
Much of the partially paved trail is wheelchair-accessible. The trail also offers a leisurely bicycle ride, with bike racks provided halfway down the valley and at the cove. Sausalito and Tiburon bike paths and local roads connect with Tennessee Valley.
The Miwok Livery Stables—one of the many partners of the Golden Gate National Parks—provides unique opportunities for riders, visitors, and students, including interpretive guided horseback rides to Muir Beach and other areas.
Plan Your Visit
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- Coordinate your visit with a low tide and seasonal sand alignments to see the engine of the shipwrecked SS Tennessee.
- If exploring the cove, be careful not to get cut off from the main beach by high tides.
- Look for the hole high in the black rock cliffs that was carved by ocean waves.
- Golden Gate Transit buses stop at the intersection of Shoreline Highway and Tennessee Valley Road.
- Dogs are not allowed on the main trail.
It was a gray Sunday morning in March 1853 when the fog lifted just enough to show Captain Mellus of the SS Tennessee that he’d missed the Golden Gate and was about to collide with an unknown shore. Rather than crash against the rocks, the captain steamed his vessel right up onto the beach at what is now Tennessee Cove.
All 550 passengers (about 100 of whom were women and children) climbed safely off the ship onto dry land. There was even time to salvage 14 chests of gold before heavy surf broke the Tennessee’s oak hull to pieces at the southern end of the cove.