• View of the Golden Gate Bridge, taken from the Marin Headlands, looking towards San Francisco at sunrise.

    Golden Gate

    National Recreation Area California

Marin Headlands

Welcome to the Marin Headlands! One of the most unique areas in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the Marin Headlands covers various types of histories from the Miwok Indians to the Military, including historic Fort Barry and Fort Cronkhite, the NIKE Missile site and the 150 year-old Point Bonita lighthouse. Other attractions include varied hiking trails, dog friendly Rodeo Beach, and astonishing views of the coast and San Francisco. The explosion of wildflowers in the spring and raptor migration in the fall fill the headlands with year round excitement.

The Marin Headlands is an example of open spaces still available in the Bay Area for visitors to enjoy.

Tips and Highlights

  • Begin your explorations at the Marin Headlands Visitor Center, open year-round from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. Closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas day.
  • 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.
  • Tour the workings of Nike Missile Site SF-88-L, and gain insights into the Cold War era.
  • 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.

Nature

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.

Marin Headlands Visitor Center

Open
Daily from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM

Park lands are open from sunrise to sunset.

Closures
Please note, the Marin Headlands Visitor Center is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

Phone
(415) 331-1540

Location
The Marin Headlands Visitor Center is located in the historic Fort Barry Chapel, at the intersection of Field and Bunker Roads. The Visitor Center is approximately 3 miles from either entrance to the Marin Headlands.

Public Transit

Check out Transit 511.org for MUNI 76 Service on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

Driving Directions

Click here for driving directions to the Marin Headlands Visitor Center.

To MAHE VC from San Francisco

Go north on highway 101. Take the Alexander Avenue exit (second exit after crossing the bridge). Stay to the left on the exit ramp to get onto Alexander Ave. Drive under 101 and turn right onto Conzelman Road right before the ramp heading back to San Francisco. Follow along Conzelman until you get to the roundabout and proceed turning right onto McCullough Road until you reach a stop sign at McCullough Road and Bunker Road. Turn left onto Bunker and drive approximately 1.5 miles. Turn left onto Field Road. The visitor center will be on the right side of the road.

To MAHE VC from the East Bay

Take 580 west to the Richmond/San Rafael bridge. Cross the bridge( toll this direction will cost $2). Take the second exit after the bridge, go through Larkspur and get on 101 south. Follow 101 south through the Waldo tunnel. Take the last "Sausalito" just before the Golden Gate bridge. Turn left at the end of the exit ramp and turn right onto Conzelman Road right before the ramp heading back to San Francisco. Follow along Conzelman until you get to the roundabout and proceed turning right onto McCullough Road until you reach a stop sign at McCullough Road and Bunker Road. Turn left onto Bunker and drive approximately 1.5 miles. Turn left onto Field Road. The visitor center will be on the right side of the road.

To MAHE VC from the North Bay

Follow 101 south through the Waldo tunnel. Take the last "Sausalito" just before the Golden Gate bridge. Turn left at the end of the exit ramp and turn right onto Conzelman Road right before the ramp heading back to San Francisco. Follow along Conzelman until you get to the roundabout and proceed turning right onto McCullough Road until you reach a stop sign at McCullough Road and Bunker Road. Turn left onto Bunker and drive approximately 1.5 miles. Turn left onto Field Road. The visitor center will be on the right side of the road.

Special Programs

Volunteers answer questions and lead scheduled interpretive walks and programs. For more information on park programs please see our quarterly Park Adventures.

The Point Bonita Lighthous is open Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 12:30-3:30 PM.

The Nike site is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 12:30-3:30 PM.

Battery Townsley is open the 1st Sunday of each month from 12:00-4:00 PM.

Exhibits

The visitor center's exhibits includes: An introduction to the Headlands' natural history and an investigation into the Headlands' human history (Miwoks through modern times). There is a Miwok shelter which we encourage you to sit inside and listen to present-day Coastal Miwok people talk about their culture. You will be able to see how cramped the living quarters of the enlisted men stationed in the Headlands were. Don't forget to smell the native plants also present in the visitor center. Perhaps you would rather examine and identify various animal bones instead? Or read about the daily life of an 1850's lighthouse keeper. In addition, you can also pick up a book or field guide from the center's comprehensive bookstore and learn more about the Marin Headlands.

Available Facilities
Bathroom facilities are available outside the visitor center in the parking lot.

Click to find out about our Partners, Programs & Services

Did You Know?

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You can Do Your Part to fight global warming and help your National Parks by calculating and pledging to decreased carbon emissions at www.doyourpartparks.org