San Francisco Top Trails

Marin Headlands
By David Weintraub
Key Info

0.0 – Take dirt-and-gravel path north from trailhead
0.1 – Right at T-junction on Miwok Trail
0.2 – Straight on Miwok Trail at junction with Bobcat Trail
2.5 – Miwok Trail ends; straight on Bobcat Trail
3.2 – Straight on Bobcat Trail at junction with Bay Area Ridge Trail hiker/horse route
5.2 – Left on Miwok trail
5.4 – Back at parking area

Trail Use:
Hike, run, bike
5.4 miles, 3 to 4 hours
Vertical Feet:
1 2 3 4 5 +
Trail Type:
Surface Type:

Summit, wildflowers, birds, great views, photo opportunity, camping


Excerpted from Top Trails: San Francisco by David Weintraub

BEST FOR WILDLIFE: Birders in the know head for the Marin Headlands in fall to scan the skies for migrating raptors. Bring binoculars and stop often to look for hawks, falcons, and perhaps an eagle.

Finding the Trail
From Hwy. 101 northbound, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, take the Alexander Ave. exit, go north 0.2 mile, and turn left onto Bunker Rd. After 0.1 mile you reach a one-direction-only tunnel where traffic is controlled by a stop light. After emerging from the 0.5-mile tunnel, go a total of 2.5 miles from Alexander Ave. Just past a horse stable, left, there is a parking turn-out on the right shoulder of Bunker Rd.

From Hwy. 101 southbound, just south of the Waldo Tunnel, take the Sausalito Exit, which is also signed for the ggnra. Bear right (despite the left-pointing ggnra sign) and go 0.25 mile to Bunker Rd. Turn left, and follow the directions above.

The trailhead is on the north side of the parking area, at its midpoint.

Trail Description
Walk north on a dirt-and-gravel path to a wood-plank bridge that crosses a creek. In another 75 feet or so you come to a T-junction with a dirt road. Just before the junction is a trail post, left, telling you the trail ahead is open to hikers, equestrians, and bicyclists. You turn right onto the dirt-and-gravel road, the Miwok Trail. Bicyclists may use the Miwok and Bobcat trails to connect with the Bay Area Ridge Trail, which is farther east. The route here is level, and soon you reach a junction. Here the Bobcat Trail goes right, and your route, the Miwok Trail, continues straight. Now the Miwok Trail begins a relentless and unshaded climb toward the east end of Wolf Ridge. The hillside, right, falls steeply to Gerbode Valley.

This loop takes you into some of the best wildflower terrain in the Bay Area. In spring, especially after a wet winter, the hills are decorated with a dazzling display of California poppies, mule ears, paintbrush, Ithuriel's spear, yarrow, blow wives, and blue-eyed grass.

Soon you reach a notch at the east end of Wolf Ridge. From this vantage point, you can look northwest to Mt. Tamalpais and west to the Pacific Ocean. A few paces ahead is a junction with the Wolf Ridge Trail, left. This trail is for hiking only, and dogs must be leashed. Your route, the Miwok Trail, which from here on is closed to dogs, continues straight and uphill.

With Mt. Tamalpais and the north end of San Pablo Bay in view, you pass a faint trail through the grass to a viewpoint, left. You route bends right, and in a few hundred feet reaches a junction with a single-track trail, right, that climbs to a vantage point beside a fenced-in communication facility, used by the FAA to direct commercial aircraft. Just left of this junction are a few large rocks, a convenient place to sit and rest.

After enjoying the scenery, you continue uphill on a gentle grade. The high point on the ridge dividing Tennessee and Gerbode valleys, a 1,041-foot summit and home of the FAA facility, is uphill and right.

Now you come to a four-way junction. You turn left and begin walking downhill. There is a sign here, partially obliterated, that reads Miwok Trail North, which is open to hikers and horses but closed to bikes. You continue downhill through an unattractive area that resembles a gravel pit.

Soon you reach a trail post signed for the Bobcat Trail, and about 30 feet farther, a junction, left, with the Marincello Trail, part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. This trail is open to hikers, horses, and bikes.

You continue following the Bobcat Trail, a dirt road that descends and then levels. After passing a steep dirt road that joins from the left, and an eroded dirt road, right, you come to a junction with the road to Hawk Camp, also right, one of three walk-in campgrounds in the Headlands.

Past the road to Hawk Camp, a trail post, right, with the Bay Area Ridge Trail emblem, marks a junction. Here, hikers and equestrians on the Bay Area Ridge Trail turn left onto a route which is closed to bikes. Your route continues straight on the Bobcat Trail, which is multi-use.

After passing through a eucalyptus grove, you enjoy a level walk parallel to the creek. Soon you pass the Rodeo Valley Trail, a dirt road heading uphill and left. Now you cross the creek draining Gerbode Valley, which passes under the road through a culvert, and in about 50 feet, you come to a T-junction with the Miwok Trail you passed at the start of your trip. Here you turn left and retrace your route to the parking area.

Article © Wilderness Press. All rights reserved.

Published: 4 Oct 2004 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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