Home > Hike, Muni, North Bay > Headlands for the Holidays (and Sundays): Rodeo Beach to Tennessee Beach

Headlands for the Holidays (and Sundays): Rodeo Beach to Tennessee Beach

November 20, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

This hike takes advantage of the Muni 76 bus, which runs from San Francisco to the Marin Headlands on major holidays and on Sundays. Starting at Rodeo Beach and Fort Cronkhite, this hike’s route travels up and out of the Rodeo Valley on the Coastal Trail and down into Tennessee Valley to Tennessee Beach and back. Optional side trips offer additional views on this scenic coastal hike.

Places visited: Rodeo Beach, Tennessee Beach (both part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area)
Approximate Length: 7.5 miles (8-8.5 with optional side trips to the SF-88 site and to Tennessee Point)
Hiking Time: 4-5 hours
Map: Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Marin Headlands
Terrain: Paved and dirt trails, some steep sections
Transit schedule: Muni 76 Marin Headlands
Start and end point: Muni 76 stop, Fort Cronkhite
Getting to the start point:

  • From San Francisco, catch Muni 76 anywhere along its route through San Francisco. The 76 route map shows the connections with numerous other Muni bus and Metro lines. Get off at the final stop in the Marin Headlands, which is in the Fort Cronkhite parking lot.
  • From the Peninsula and South Bay, take Caltrain north to its final stop at Fourth Street and King Street in San Francisco. Catch the Muni 76 bus outside the Caltrain depot. Get off at the final stop in the Marin Headlands, which is in the Fort Cronkhite parking lot.
  • From the East Bay, take a San Francisco BART train to Embarcadero station. Exit the station on the south side of Market Street. Turn left at Fremont Street, and cross the street to the Muni bus island to catch Muni 76. Get off at the final Muni 76 stop in the Marin Headlands, which is in the Fort Cronkhite parking lot.
  • From North Bay, take Golden Gate Transit 10 or 70/80 southbound over the Golden Gate Bridge. Get off at the toll plaza stop. Head down and underneath the toll plaza, and up to the transit stop on the east side of the bridge. Take the Muni 76 to its final stop in the Marin Headlands, which is in the Fort Cronkhite parking lot. If you want to avoid going over the bridge and back, another option for Golden Gate Transit 10 riders or those in south part of Sausalito would be to walk through Fort Baker and take the trail underneath the bridge to the west-side parking lot, then continue a short distance to the Muni 76 stop at Conzelman Road.


  • The Muni 76 line runs only on Sundays and on the following holidays: New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, July Fourth, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I recommend taking one of the first two buses (arriving around 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.) so that you have plenty of time to spend exploring and relaxing at the beaches. The last bus leaves at 6:30 p.m.; there are no other nearby transit options, so plan on being back in time if you do not want a long hike back to San Francisco or Sausalito! Also note that based on my experience and that of other frequent Muni 76 riders, this bus may not be running on schedule. Luckily, it is probably one of the most scenic places you’ll have to wait for the bus; but be prepared to wait awhile and remember to bring warm layers on this trip.
  • Bring food with you on this hike, as there is nowhere to buy food near the trailhead. If you are connecting to the Muni 76 from BART, you could walk to the Ferry Building first for some food; many of the other take-out restaurants in the Financial District are closed on the weekends. If you are connecting to Muni 76 from Caltrain, there is a Safeway half a block east on King Street.
  • This hike can be done year-round, but if it has rained expect some mud on the Coastal Trail between Wolf Ridge and the Tennessee Valley Trail. On sunny days, the views are excellent on this hike. On the other hand, the beaches will be less crowded on colder and foggier days.
  • This is a well-signed hike. Despite the posted warning signs and the past injuries and deaths, you may see hikers off the trail in the cliff-side areas between Tennessee Point and the Fort Cronkhite. I highly recommend staying on the main trails here and heeding the warning signs.
  • If you are interested in military history, you may wish to plan your trip on the first Sunday of the month when Battery Townsley is open to the public. On other days, you can use the National Park Service’s Fort Cronkhite History Walk brochure to take a self-guided tour of the grounds near the bus stop.


  • From the bus stop, walk behind the buildings and head towards the trailhead. Watch for cars here that are turning around or pulling up for a view.
  • Stay right, heading up on the paved Coastal Trail. (You’ll be taking the other route on the way back.)
  • Pass Battery Townsley on your left, which you can explore a bit if you wish before heading on.
  • Just past Battery Townsley, turn left and make a quick right to follow the Coastal Trail sign.
  • Continue hiking on the Coastal Trail until you reach a slide area. Carefully follow the Coastal Trail around the washed-out section of the trail.
  • You will come to a signed Coastal Trail/Wolf Ridge Trail intersection where the paved road continues ahead of you, and a dirt trail on your left heads off in two directions. Here you may choose to take the optional side trip to Hill 88.

Optional trip to Hill 88 to explore the remains of a Nike missile site and (on clear days) enjoy the views:

  • Continue straight ahead of you on the paved road, walking uphill for a short distance.
  • At the top of the hill are the remains of several buildings, which you can carefully explore. If it is not foggy, you will also have great views from up here.
  • When you are ready, head back the way you came to the intersection with the Wolf Ridge Trail.

end of optional side trip

  • If you have not taken the detour to Hill 88, you will be making a sharp left (off the paved path and onto the dirt trail) and down the hill to continue on the Coastal Trail. If you have taken the side trip to Hill 88, the dirt trail will be on your right, and you will veer off the paved path to follow the Coastal Trail down the hill (don’t make the sharp right to the Wolf Ridge Trail).
  • Follow the Coastal Trail, watching your step in steep parts. As you head down into Tennessee Valley, you will see the Tennessee Valley Trail ahead of you. Watch for birds and other wildlife as you get down into the valley.
  • Turn left at the intersection onto the lower Tennessee Valley trail.
  • Follow the trail to Tennessee Beach at the end. This is the turnaround point for the hike. If you wish, stop to enjoy the beach and eat some lunch.
  • When you are ready, head back the way you came on the Tennessee Valley Trail.
  • Stay right to continue back the way you came on the lower Tennessee Valley Trail.
  • Turn right at the Coastal Trail and head back up the way you came.
  • At the intersection with the Wolf Ridge Trail, make a sharp right onto the paved path and head back down the way you came. (If you did not visit Hill 88 on the way out, you may also choose to take that side trip now before continuing.)
  • As you get close to the bottom of the trail, look for the dirt Coastal Trail option for hikers off to your right. Take the trail, and then stay left to continue down towards Rodeo Beach. At this intersection, you may also wish to take the side trip to Tennessee Point.

optional side trip to Tennessee Point:

  • From the intersection of the paved and dirt sections of the Coastal Trail, turn right, and then continue to the right on a trail that heads back up the coast.
  • Shortly you reach the end and a lookout point where you can see (if it’s clear) over to Tennessee Cove where you stopped earlier.
  • When you are done, head back the way you came on the trail.
  • Stay right, continuing on the dirt Coastal Trail rather than the paved path.

end of optional side trip

  • Stop at the lookout spot if you wish, which comes just before you are back to the parking lot.
  • At the parking area, head over to the Muni 76 stop, or wait nearby at the beach. Congratulations, you made it!
Categories: Hike, Muni, North Bay
  1. Joe
    November 20, 2009 at 10:43 am

    There are a few ways to get real-time MUNI arrival/departure info for the trip back to San Francisco:
    1. Use a smart phone to access http://www.nextmuni.com
    2. Call 511, say “departure times” and use the stop ID 14728 for Fort Chronkhite.
    3. Send a text message to: 41411
    nextbus muni 14728

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