Rodeo Beach is a beautiful pebbly beach popular with surfers. Down the hill from Battery Townsley and nestled between Fort Cronkhite, and the Lagoon, Rodeo Beach is a great place to start a day's visit in the Headlands. On-site barbecues and picnic tables make it possible to grill out with a group.
Trails at Rodeo Beach
For access to trails, park along Bunker Road near the Marine Mammal Center. Take Old Bunker to the Coastal Trail and Battery Townsley. The trail continues both further inland as well as down to the coast where it meets the Tennessee Point Trail, which features beautiful bluffs. You can tailor your hike to your interests and time, but a full circuit of the Coastal, Wolf Ridge and Miwok Trails will take you a good half day to complete.
Where'd the Beach Go?
Big changes could be ahead for Rodeo Beach and the lagoon. When we burn fossil fuels for energy, we add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. This buildup acts like a blanket that traps heat, warming and expanding ocean waters, and melting glaciers. As a result, sea level is rising and storms are becoming more powerful.
Barrier beaches like this become submerged during rapid sea level rise. Winter storm waves already wash across the barrier. Without its protective beach, Rodeo Lagoon would become much saltier and pose environmental challenges to rare species who make their home here, such as the tidewater goby and California red-legged frog.
Rodeo Beach Geology
Rodeo Beach formed about 5,000 years ago when sea level rise slowed after melting of the last glacial period. At that time, this sandy barrier beach dammed an ancient stream valley to form Rodeo Lagoon. Strong waves and currents produce the unusually coarse pebbly beach sand here today.
Watchful beachcombers can find a rainbow of pebbles dotting the shore. The vibrant colors are the result of the most common rock found in the Marin Headlands: radiolarian chert. Trace amounts of iron in the chert pebbles are oxidized in different amounts to produce a wide spectrum of colors, including green, yellow, red and black. Admire these natural beauties all you like, but please don't take them from the beach.