I stumbled on Marin Headlands’ Rodeo Beach by accident (another wrong turn and GPS confusion as well) but it turned out to be one of my favourite hiking adventures in San Francisco.
It helped that it was a gorgeous day with a slight breeze and a warm sun overhead. There were surfers catching whatever sloppy waves they could, families picnicking on the beach and kids flying kites.
SERENE & QUIET
Have you ever been surrounded by people and been surprised by how beautifully quiet it is? That was my experience on the cycling and hiking trails overlooking Rodeo Beach, which is part of the Golden Gate National Park. Gorgeous spring wildflowers, unending winding trails, eagles soaring overhead, and silence.
Silence except for a lone tolling bell, which I suspect was coming from a buoy out to sea, although I can’t confirm that theory.
With views like these though, I can see why there was hardly any sound. Just drinking in the scenery was enough to keep my brain occupied and happy.
The best part is that Rodeo Beach is just three miles north east of the Golden Gate bridge, so it’s easy to get to (there’s even a bus service on weekends) if you’re looking to take in some fresh air!
WORLD WAR II FORTS
The first thing you’ll notice as you roll up to the beach are the long white buildings opposite – this is Fort Cronkhite, a former World War II military post looking out over the Pacific Ocean.
It’s known as a mobilisation post, and is made up of barracks and mess halls where soldiers lay in wait for the enemy that never arrived.
The more interesting structures are the Battery’s that are built into the sides of the cliffs. Painted green to blend with the mountainside shrubbery, Battery Townsley was constructed in 1940 and pointed two 16-inch caliber guns out to sea.
Those guns could shoot up to 21 miles (33 kilometres) out to sea, but of course to test them out, soldiers had to wait for a Karl the Fog-free day, which took a while. More than 100 soldiers lived in Battery Townsley, but they never fired the guns in battle, only in practice.
Battery Townsley is open on the first Sunday of the month from midday to 4pm. It’s an uphill walk to the Battery though, so make sure you allow enough time to get there.
Usually I’m a bit of a skittish hiker, especially if I’m in the bush (woods) and can’t see where the trail is leading or gauge where I am.
But I was happy to explore the many different trails that headed off in different directions on the Rodeo Beach coastal trail.
From cliffside views, to mountains that reminded me of the Scottish highlands, there’s something lovely to see at every turn. And since I visited in springtime there were birds and butterflies whizzing past all the time.
Rodeo Beach is three miles north east of Golden Gate Bridge.
By Bus: Bus 78X (Express) leaves Van Ness Avenue and Clay Street every hour on the weekends and takes 45 minutes to reach Fort Cronkhite car park, with a stop at the Golden Gate Bridge toll plaza. Get the detailed route map here.
By Car: From Market Street, San Francisco, the trip takes about 35 minutes, depending on traffic. The trip takes you over the Golden Gate Bridge, and you can stop at the popular Marin Overlook on the way, where you can get great shots of the bridge on a clear day.