For my third trip to The Bay Area I wanted to venture out of the city.
I had already done most of the “touristy things” San Francisco had to offer. Oh boy, are there a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I love San Francisco and all, but this time I wanted to head north and explore The Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Since it’s such a large area (over 80,000 acres), we narrowed in our focus to The Marin Headlands to do a bit of outdoorsy stuff. I did a little research on some hiking in the area and found that a small tucked away campground called Kirby Cove offered one of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco. Why not? Let’s do it.
My next step: figure out how to get there.
If you plan on just taking a walk down to the cove and not camping, you will have to park at the North Tower Golden Gate Parking Lot and walk along Conzleman Road to the “trail” entrance. When we were there in May, most of the parking areas along Conzleman Road were blocked off with concrete barriers. This meant that we had to either park at the North Tower Lot (“Additional Parking” on map) or up the road by the roundabout (more than a mile) and then walk along the road to the “trail” entrance to Kirby Cove Campground. I attached a little map to show the area and such.
Being a visual learner, I like being given maps and pictures to mull over.
Maybe you do too. If that’s the case, you’re welcome.
If the barriers are gone (they should be) you may be able to park as close as the small lot (“Park Here” on map) near Battery Spencer. If not, walking is good for you.
On this lovely trek to Kirby Cove, you have various opportunities to branch off and see a few historical military sites like Battery Spencer, an unnamed battery along the Kirby Cove road, and Battery Kirby. The one pictured below is the unnamed battery along the trail. There’s a slippery (watch out for a ton of loose gravel) trail off the dirt road that gets you to the little outlook (on the right side of the panorama) and another little trail that gets you to the lower battery (in the center of the panorama).
Come on, look at that view!
Before this trip I had visited Old Fort Jackson on the Savannah River and Battery Garland on Tybee Island in Georgia, so I was a bit familiar with the structures, their uses, and such.
Call me a nerd, but I absolutely love visiting old historical sites and learning about what happened there decades earlier.
FINALLY, when you get to the cove, you’re overwhelmed with this beauty!
In my opinion, this is hands down THE BEST view of the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge there is. On a fogless day, you can clearly see the unique San Francisco skyline right below the bridge in the distance. Not only is the view beautiful, but the surrounding trees provide an amazing wind barrier. The mighty gusts of wind felt along Conzleman Road (that would run any tourist away) are reduced to a gentle breeze as you descend further and further into the cove. These trees were actually planted by the military occupants of Battery Kirby over the years they manned the battery. They were planted to provide cover from enemy ships entering the bay. They also, as stated above, act as a great wind barrier. I found this little bit of information very interesting.
Bonus: This wonderfully secluded location also has…
wait for it… a SWING!
You read that right. Throwback to your childhood with this gem! This well placed swing is perfect for that #kirbycove pic on Instagram! No, really though… What better way to take a picture of yourself in the foreground of the Golden Gate Bridge, than taking one swinging from this swing! I may or may not have forgotten how to swing and needed a bit of a push. Don’t judge. I picked it up quick again, like “riding a bicycle,” which coincidentally enough, I have never forgotten how to do.
Point Bonita and More History!
If you’re feeling adventurous, venture further down Conzleman Road. Make a day of it! There are tons of places to stop and take in the beauty. If you decide to stop, you better hold on to your hat. That wind is fierce!
There are quite a few other historical military sites to visit. You can visit the Nike Missile Site, Hawk Hill, Battery Mendell, Battery Wallace, Battery Alexander, Battery Rathbone McIndoe, Fort Cronkhite, and Point Bonita Lighthouse. My mom joined us in San Francisco for our stay and we both absolutely love lighthouses, so Point Bonita Lighthouse was a must see for us.
It’s a nice 1.5 mile stroll (from the far parking lot) to the lighthouse. They even offer an audio tour via cell phone about the lighthouse and its history.
This jaunt is absolutely beautiful, offering unique views of the Golden Gate Bridge, barges going in and out of the bay, rock formations of pillow basalt, and you can even catch sight of different kinds of ocean animals. All along the trail we spotted seals hanging out on the pillow basalt rock formations in the water. We even got to see an elephant seal basking in the sun on a formation not too far out from the lighthouse. Right before we left, the blow of a whale was spotted by a park ranger farther in the mouth of the bay.
Once you get to the lighthouse you can explore inside and learn even more about the old lighthouse, the new lighthouse, and even learn about the outrageous number (it’s more than you think it is) of shipwrecks that happened in the mouth of the bay. Treacherous waters, they be! Arghh!
The view from this point is absolutely breathtaking, but I’m one of those people that can stare at the ocean all day.
One more lighthouse to cross off my list!
Like I always say, take your time. Take in the sights. Enjoy your surroundings.
If you enjoyed this article SUBSCRIBE HERE
and get ALL the new updates on my travels!
PSSSSTTTT… You may even get some free stuff, like videos, guides, PDFs eBooks, etc. I love FREE Stuff!
Like my page on Facebook: HERE!
Follow me on the Instagram: HERE!
Subscribe on my Youtube channel: HERE!
Follow me on the Twitter: HERE!
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.” -John Muir