Rodeo Beach to Muir Beach, Marin Headlands - Rodeo Beach, San Francisco: Marin Headlands - Mt Tamalpais - Point Reyes, California

Rodeo Beach to Muir Beach - 11.8 miles

Marin Headlands - Rodeo Beach

Looking north from the bluffs over Rodeo Beach on the Coastal Trail

Looking north from the bluffs over Rodeo Beach on the Coastal Trail

Round-Trip Length: 11.8 miles (includes reaching both beaches)
Start-End Elevation: 25' - 0' (857' max elevation)
Elevation Change: -25' net elevation loss (+3,515' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate-Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Rodeo Beach to Muir Beach - 11.8 Miles Round-Trip

The Coastal Trail is Marin County's longest, stretching 17 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge to Fairfax-Bolinas Road. A 5.9 mile segment connects Rodeo Beach with Muir Beach, a challenging route with exceptional views, variation and destination points throughout:

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The Coastal Trail begins on the north side of Rodeo Beach and immediately splits for hikers and bikes. The hiking trail levels along ice plant-covered bluffs with terrific views of the beach and several turbulent coves.

Note that, while this well-worn path travels north for some time, it quickly rejoins the paved bike path, which is the main trail. The paved path winds steeply through open coastal hills with commanding views over the beach, lagoon, and San Francisco.

Two sets of steep, rugged stairs interrupt an otherwise steady climb to the trail's high point at the Wolf Ridge Trail - Hill 88 junction (1.7 miles : 857').

Here the trail drops 800' in 1.15 miles on winding switchbacks into Tennessee Valley. This long descent is lined with heavy, diverse brush and wildflowers, a good place to find wildlife.

Grades moderate on the valley floor to a bridge (2.8 miles : 44') leading through wetlands to the Tennessee Valley Trail (2.85 miles : 52'). Follow signs for Muir Beach.

The Coastal Trail, now a groomed fire road, climbs 453' up the north side of Tennessee Valley to the Coastal Fire Road split (3.7 miles : 567'). It crests here with terrific views of the valley and coast, and of the long path you'll follow to Muir Beach.

The Coastal Trail narrows once again on single track and drops steeply and unevenly into a ravine where a Pacific Coast Trail sign marks the unlabeled spur to Pirates Cove (4.1 miles : 145').

It rises out of the brushy ravine on an inland turn, then straightens on relatively moderate, rolling grades. (4.6 miles : 360'). The trail crests one last time over Muir Beach (5.5 miles), but you'll have to scale social trails to see it. The main trail widens on a service road and winds behind coastal bluffs to Muir Beach (5.9 miles).

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N37 49.941 W122 32.412 — 0.0 miles : Rodeo Beach - Coastal Trailhead
  • N37 50.253 W122 32.633 — .65 miles : Battery Townsley
  • N37 50.582 W122 32.139 — 1.7 miles : Wolf Ridge - Hill 88 junction
  • N37 50.853 W122 32.667 — 2.8 miles : Cross bridge into Tennessee Valley
  • N37 50.880 W122 32.688 — 2.85 miles : Turn left on Tennessee Valley-Coastal Trail
  • N37 50.942 W122 32.755 — 2.95 miles : Veer right on Coastal Trail
  • N37 50.997 W122 33.388 — 3.7 miles : Trail crests at Coastal Fire Road split
  • N37 51.136 W122 33.650 — 4.1 miles : Pirates Cove spur
  • N37 51.350 W122 33.866 — 4.85 miles : Moderate travel on northerly heading
  • N37 51.605 W122 34.490 — 5.9 miles : Muir Beach

Worth Noting

  • This is a fairly strenuous out-and-back hike with several steep hills in each direction. Plan travel time accordingly.
  • There are many social trails emanating from the hiking path over Rodeo Beach, and it's possible to head north for some time with exceptional views up the coast. Despite their maintained appearance, these are not designated trails, and eventually dissipate in heavy brush, or dead end on cliffs. Help minimize erosion and avoid poison oak by remaining on established trails.
  • Pirates Cove is partially visible from the Coastal Trail, but to fully enjoy it you'll need to scramble off-trail. This small, rocky cove features turbulent waters and sea stacks just off shore.
  • Tennessee Beach is an easy and worthwhile 1.2 mile roundtrip detour from the Coastal Trail.
  • Discrepancies between trail signs and the ProTrails distance can be attributed to when Muir Beach is officially reached. Trail signs accurately point out that your first views come at 5.5 miles on the bluffs over the south end of Muir Beach; ProTrails has measured the full distance down to the beach.
  • Redwood Creek runs down the high slopes of Mt Tamalpais to the ocean, a critical habitat and passage for coho salmon and steelhead trout. Redwood Creek slows down before spilling into the ocean at Muir Beach, forming a lagoon and protected nursery for young fish. Adult fish can be seen in the winter making their way up Redwood Creek - coho typically arrive December - January, and steelhead January - March.
  • The Coastal Trail is part of the greater Bay Area Ridge Trail system, a 310+ mile route that runs through all nine counties of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Camping and Backpacking Information

There are four campgrounds in the Marin Headlands. Reservations are required year-round:

Haypress Campground: 415.331.1540
Haypress Camp is located on the north side of Tennessee Valley, an easy .75 mile walk from the Tennessee Valley Trailhead. Haypress has five sites, each accommodating up to four people. Groups may reserve the entire campground from Nov 1 - March 31. The rest of the year, a maximum of three sites may be reserved per group. Maximum stay is three nights per year. No water is available. No wood or charcoal fires allowed. No pets. No fees.

Bicentennial Campground: 415.331.1540
Bicentennial Campground is the most accessible campground in the Park, approximately 100 yards from the parking area near Battery Wallace. There are three sites, each accommodating up to three people with one tent. Water is available at the Visitor Center approximately one mile away. Campers may use BBQ grills in the Battery Wallace picnic area. Maximum stay is three nights per year. There's no water available for drinking or cleaning. No fires or pets are allowed in the campground. No fees.

Hawk Camp Campground: 415.331.1540
Hawk Camp is the most remote of GGNRA's campgrounds, located high above Gerbode Valley. There are three sites, each accommodating up to four people. The campground is accessible by a strenuous 3-mile hike up the Bobcat Trail from the Marin Headlands Visitor Center, or a 2-mile hike from the Tennessee Valley parking area. Groups may reserve the entire campground from November 1 to March 31. The rest of the year, only one site may be reserved. Maximum stay is three nights per year. Facilities: chemical toilets and picnic tables. There is no water available for drinking or cleaning. No wood or charcoal fires allowed, however gas camp stoves may be used. No pets allowed. No fees.

Kirby Cove Campground & Picnic Area: April 1 - October 31 : 1.877.444.6777
This popular, recently restored campground in the Marin Headlands has spectacular views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate from a wooded, secluded setting. Campsites are available only by reservation but the public is welcome on the bluffs and beach.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs are permitted on the Coastal Trail, and must be leashed at all times.

  • While horses and bikes are allowed on portions of the Coastal Trail, neither are allowed on the contiguous segment from Rodeo Beach to Muir Beach.

Directions to Trailhead

Rodeo Beach is located just west of the Marin Headlands Visitor Center at the end of Bunker Road. The visitor center is located in the historic Fort Barry Chapel at the intersection of Field and Bunker roads, approximately 3 miles from either entrance to the Marin Headlands.

From Highway 101
Take the Alexander Avenue exit (second exit after crossing the bridge). Stay to the right on the exit ramp to get onto Alexander Ave. Turn left on Bunker Road (a brown sign saying Marin Headlands Visitor Center marks the intersection).

Go through the one-way tunnel and follow Bunker Road west past Rodeo Lagoon to the parking area at Rodeo Beach. The Coastal Trailhead is located on the north side of the parking lot.

Contact Information

Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Marin Headlands Visitor Center
415.331.1540
Open All Year 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM (closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day)

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.

Park Headquarters and Information Center, Fort Mason
415.561.4700

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.



Comments

"Great trail run. I'd emphasize the potential for confusion near Rodeo Beach. Many trails lead to good views along the bluffs, but are not the main trail and I had to backtrack."
Peter Yang  -  San Francisco  -  Date Posted: April 17, 2017

 

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