Visiting the Marin Headlands
The Marin Headlands are a perfect escape from the city if you’re visiting San Francisco. Not only does it give you some beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the city and Angel Island, there’s also some great hiking opportunities, beaches and Point Bonita Lighthouse. I had done quite a bit of research on this place before visiting and it seems to be that there is a big difference on what to do if you’re a tourist vs. a local. So we did a little bit of both.
We only had several hours here, so we were unable to explore as much as we would have liked to, but the little we got to see was simply gorgeous. I would love to go back and spend a day. If you are looking to get your national parks passport stamped, you can do that at the visitor’s center here. It’s actually a pretty cool visitor center if you have the time to stop. There’s also restrooms here and when we were there, they had complimentary coffee and water, which I always appreciate!
From the Visitor’s Center, we went to Hawk Hill. I had been told by a friend of mine this was the best place to see the Golden Gate Bridge from the Headlands. I was also told that the first pull off to get photos would be crowded. He was right! I was also told that the third pull off is usually pretty empty. Well, he was wrong on that one. All of them were full, like packed to the brim full. So we continued to drive and there was actually a parking lot at the bottom of the hill with a trail leading up to the top, so we took that option. I hate driving around looking for parking and I love to hike so it worked out perfectly! The view is stunning from there and definitely a great place to take some photos.
I was pretty determined to see Black Sand Beach as I’ve never been to Hawaii or Iceland and we obviously don’t have anything like that here in Ohio. So here’s the thing. Black Sand Beach is BEAUTIFUL, uncrowded(we only saw 3 other people) and the sand really is black.
But be prepared to make an adventure of it if you do plan to go. There are somewhere close to 300 steps(we lost count) to get to and from the beach from the parking lot. And not like perfect little steps with a handrail. The descent is not the issue, its coming back up. It’s really not that bad, but it’s definitely good to know. Don’t make the trek down if you’re unsure if you can make it back up!
Also- it’s pretty easy to get to as far as finding it, but the road that takes you there is a one-way, 15mph, curvy, descending road. It’s really not that bad, but if you’re not used to those kinds of roads, just remember to slow down and pay attention and you’ll be fine! There is a small parking lot here with restrooms and it’s located right off Conzelman Rd. The drive to the beach is very scenic, with some beautiful photo opps of the bridge, so pull over and take it all in.
Just GORGEOUS. You can also see Point Bonita Lighthouse from the beach too!
*Note: this is considered a clothing optional beach. We didn’t see anyone here choosing that option, but at least now you’ve been warned!
I’d also recommend stopping at Rodeo Beach while you’re in the area. This beach has some really unique sand(more like tiny pebbles!), gorgeous views, trails and you can spot lots of wildlife here. While it’s definitely more crowded than the last beach, it wasn’t really what I would consider “crowded”. This is a great place to watch surfers and you can bring your dog here too! You can also check out Fort Cronkite while you’re here for a little bit of history. Parking is free and there was plenty of it when we arrived. This is pretty easy to find as there are signs throughout the Headlands directing you to it, but it’s located at 931 Bunker Rd.
Unfortunately, that had to end our trip. I’d love to take more time to explore the area, but I suppose that will be for another day! Check out the Marin Headlands and see what they have to offer here .
Point Bonita Lighthouse has very limited hours. If it’s on your must-see list, make sure you plan your trip around that. It is open Saturday thru Monday 12:30-3:30.
It can get very windy in this area. Dress in layers as you may not need a jacket while hiking, but you might need one once you reach your destination.
Remember that Conzelman Rd will turn into a one-way road as you are heading toward Black Sand Beach. Any stops you want to make for photos should be done on the way there as you will not be returning the same way you came.
GPS signal can be spotty at times; ours worked most of the time and there are signs to direct you to most things(minus Black Sand Beach) but bring printed directions or a screen shot of your google maps directions just in case.
There is a tunnel leading to the headlands with a 5-minute stoplight. If for some reason you’re in a serious time crunch, keep that in mind.
Be prepared for curvy and sometimes narrow roads. They’re not bad if you slow down and focus on the road, but it’s good to be aware of it if that’s not what you’re used to!