Marin Headlands GGNRA Golden Gate View Areas
ALERT: CLIFF-TOP LOCATIONS. PLEASE RESPECT WARNING SIGNS.
If you stay behind the rails and fences you’ll be fine. The trails marked by signs are well-maintained. Just remember that other view spots (including those just past the railings) can be very dangerous:
- Steep cliffs are just beyond the railings in many places. These are not good places to explore at night.
- You’ll see unmarked trails that have warning signs that label them as dangerous. The trails look wide next to the parking areas, but they’re actually clifftop deer paths that peter out at dangerous places above steep drop-offs. There are cliff-related deaths and rescues every year.
- The abandoned forts have had their railings removed and it’s easy to make a wrong turn and fall off.
- If you park here and go hiking, put anything valuable in your trunk. Car break-ins are common.
Visiting the Marin Headlands Golden Gate View Areas
Conzelman Road runs along the top of the bluffs in the Marin Headlands. About half of the picture postcards ever issued for the Golden Gate Bridge were photographed from here.
The drive along this narrow five-mile length of road only takes about 20 minutes, but the second half of the drive is a one-way road and you have to loop back through Rodeo Valley. Many of the parking areas are small (with space for as few as 8 cars) and are often full.
Insiders Tip: If you’re a bike rider it can be easier to visit these five fabulous spots than if you’re driving a car, since you don’t have to worry about parking. The catch: steep climbs and equally steep and technical descents.
Insiders Tip: The middle of the day is always the busiest time at these parking lots. Late afternoon is lighter, but the early morning offers beautiful potential camera shots and is the time when it’s easiest to find a place to park.
Here are links to each of the turnouts and parking areas, with maps and tips on visiting, listed from the east (closest to the Golden Gate Bridge) to the west (closest to the Pacific Ocean):
The closest turnout and a small parking lot after the main Conzelman Road Parking Lot, with great views of the Bridge. Battery Spencer is an abandoned 19th century artillery position and fort hidden above the Bridge.
Overflow parking with a few additional spaces just up the hill from Battery Sepncer, with its own great view angles for photos of the Bridge.
A small parking turnout area below the peak of Slackers Hill, with benches and a fantastic view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Located at a key Marin Headlands crossroads, this parking lot serves a trailhead and has its own spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Rodeo Valley.
Perched at one of the highest points in the Marin Headlands, the Hawk Hill parking turnout also provides parking for visiting the abandoned SF-87 Nike missile control base just up the hill. You’ll also see a variety of hawks or other birds gliding on the uplifting wind currents.
This also serves as the parking lot for the steep trail down to Black Sands Beach. Great views of the Golden Gate and western San Francisco but so far out along the coast that you don’t see the Golden Gate Bridge.
Abandoned military installation with no railings and high drop-offs, but great views. It looks like there are interesting trails but they lead to dangerous cliffs. Visit with care — unlike Battery Spencer this area has not been adapted for visitors and its railings and other safety elements were stripped away when it was closed after World War II.
This lot serves as a trailhead for marked trails that head inland into the valley above Rodeo Beach and for unmarked trails along the clifftops (and warning signs are posted about sheer cliffs and dropoffs). Also the parking area for the nearby SF-88 Nike Missile Site and Museum.
For one more spectacular view, you can also continue down the road to:
The historic lighthouse is open to visitors. The walk is steep in places but the vistas are beautiful.
When this area was a series of army bases Conzelman served the installations there. Over a century ago they were artillery batteries like Battery Spencer and Battery Wallace, while during the Cold War 50 years ago they were Nike Missile Control Bases like SF-87 (now largely derelict) and SF-88 (now restored and paired with a Cold War Museum).
When Fort Baker, Fort Barry and Fort Cronkhite (the three forts that included almost all of the Marin Headlands) were deactivated and the land became part of the GGNRA, Conzelman Road went from being a military supply road to being part of a National Park. Five different road turnouts were either created or upgraded to offer a series of spectacular Golden Gate views, and vistas of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Each of these five small parking areas also serves an additional purpose beyond its Golden Gate views:
- Battery Spencer and West Battery Spencer provide parking for the old fort and its spectacular Golden Gate views, from an angle close to the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge. West Battery Spencer parking is also close to the top of Kirby Cove Road.
- Hawk Hill and Lower Fisherman’s parking lots are near trailheads and old Nike missile bases SF-87 and SF-88, respectively.
- Upper Fisherman’s Parking Lot is at the top of the steep trail that leads down to Black Sands Beach.
Note: The maps on the individual pages for each turnout will give you a better idea of their precise location, and we have comments to help guide you to each. Many Google maps refer to this area under Mill Valley’s zip code but it’s actually served by Sausalito and the destinations here have Sausalito addresses.
To get Google Maps to highlight this stretch of Conzelman Road on the map below we had to skip some of the parking turnouts (e.g. the turnout west of Battery Spencer) since the Google Maps data base does not recognize them. The Nike Missile Control Base SF-88 is just up the hill from the Lower Fisherman’s parking area, but is the only landmark Google Maps recognizes nearby. Finally, ignore the squiggled route north of the Lower Fisherman’s lot, which is a bug because of a connector road that Google’s data base does not recognize. In that context, the map below shows you the route of Conzelman Road along which these Golden Gate view spots are placed.