|Distance||About 10 miles|
|Duration||Around 4 hours|
|Highlights||Unbeatable views of the Pacific|
From San Francisco, you can walk over the bridge...to the Marin Headlands and Fort Cronkhite. An intersecting series of trails afford some of the most beautiful views you will ever encounter. For a while you’ll be able to see San Francisco—on a clear day it glints white in the sun. After a while the city disappears. Except for other hikers, you’ll be alone with your companion, the sea, the sky, and occasional glimpses of wildlife.
Here’s a great overnight hike for San Francisco residents and visitors alike. No problems whatsoever if you don’t have a car as long as you’re willing to put a few miles under your feet.
On weekends and some holidays, the #76 line runs from San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge to the Marin headlands and Ft. Cronkhite, which an excellent starting point for this hike. Otherwise, You can get there by walking over the bridge. San Francisco Muni bus line #28 will bring you close to the eastern end of the bridge; from there you can walk over the bridge — a great experience — to commence your hike.
Fort Cronkhite is a former World War II military post sitting right on Rodeo Lagoon and the Pacific Ocean. Former barracks, mess halls, supply buildings, and other structures have been preserved, and the Fort is home to a Marine Mammal Center, The Headlands Institute, the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory and other organizations.
From here you can follow an intersecting series of trails that afford some of the most overwhelmingly beautiful views you will ever encounter. For a while you’ll be able to see San Francisco—on a clear day it glints white in the sun. After a while the city disappears. Except for other hikers, you’ll be alone with your companion, the sea, the sky, and occasional glimpses of wildlife.
The first big breaking point is Tennessee Cove and Beach, a favorite hiking spot for anyone who lives nearby (on weekends it’s packed, but during the week you’ll often find yourself alone in this sensational spot). Tennessee Cove was named for a passenger steamer that went aground here in 1853.
The trail is actually a series of trails, mostly unpaved. Much of the time you will be high above the sea. A trail might meander slightly eastward for a while before turning northwest again. Sometimes you’ll have to go out of your way to detour around private property. It’s impossible to get really lost—the sea will be to your left the entire time, after all. However, to have a sense of place and to prevent backtracking, it’s a good idea to travel with a map. I use a map I’ve had for years, A Rambler’s Guide to the Trails of Mt. Tamalpais and the Marin Headlands.
Because of all the detours, I’ve always found it impossible to estimate the mileage of this trip: I’m guessing around 10 miles. Let’s just that it can be done very pleasantly, with time out for a picnic, in about 5 hours.
I’ve stayed at two very different accommodations in Muir Beach.
The Pelican Inn, modeled after British country-style inns, is comfortable, stylish, and sits right on the beach. The seven rooms are beautifully decorated (rates start at $190/night) and include a full English country breakfast. On weekends this place is really popular thanks to its wonderful restaurant and bar. You’ll dine well on modern cuisine or traditional Brit fare like bangers & mash, an English dip sandwich made with prime rib, and so on. At the bar you enjoy a real Black & Tan and anything else you’d like. During the winter a huge fireplace is always blazing.
The other place I’ve stayed is Green Gulch Farm, owned by the San Francisco Zen Center (which also owns the fabulous vegetarian restaurant, Greens, also in SF). Green Gulch is a place you either get or you don’t—me, I get it, and I’ve stayed there a few times over the years. It’s a quiet, spiritual place, where you can do your own thing—hiking, hanging out at the beach—or sit zazen, help out in the garden, and enjoy a Dharma talk. Three vegetarian meals a day are included, and the food is superb. Rates start at $90/night.
#76 line map
Muni Route Map showing lines
Bay Area Hiker
Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)
California Coastal Trail
Golden Gate National Recreation Area/Tennessee Valley Trails
San Francisco Bay Trail
San Francisco Bike.Org
San Francisco Municipal Transit
San Francisco Tourism
The Pelican Inn, right on the beach, has British country-style rooms, full English breakfast, and a bar where
you can get an authentic Black & Tan. The Inn is part of a network of "Romantic Places" - unusual properties in breathtaking locations. Check them out here.
At Green Gulch Farm, you'll find rooms with gorgeous views of the beach, superb vegetarian meals, Dharma talks and gardening if you choose.