California Coastal Trail
Golden Gate National Recreation Area, California
If you are in the San Francisco area, and you want to get away from the city for an easy hike with spectacular views, then this is the trail for you. The trailhead can be found by walking under the south side of the Golden Gate Bridge on the paved hike/bike path, where you will then see a prominent sign marking the trail. It is possible to hike this trail as far as Land’s End, but we opted to hike only as far as Baker Beach, making the trek approximately 1.5 miles one-way. The dusty trail immediately begins a descent towards the coastal bluffs, which are beautiful in and of themselves, but if you are hiking south don’t forget to turn around for the spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge! Along the Coastal Trail, there are several little spur trails that lead to excellent vistas of the coast and of the Golden Gate Bridge, but some are very steep with loose rock, so watch your footing. The views of the bridge are incredible, especially if you get a nice sunny day with a blue sky, but in any weather the photo opportunities are endless. At one point along the hike, you will come to a set of wooden stairs that lead past an old WWII battery, just after this landmark you will notice that the astounding views of the coast really start to open up. Unfortunately, the serenity of the views is soon interrupted by a section of the trail that parallels Lincoln Boulevard, which quickly snaps you back to city life, but luckily this section is short-lived. To keep your mind of the traffic whizzing by, look for the WWII pillboxes up on the hill on the other side of the street, they offer a nice distraction. Then once again, the trail will return to the forest, where fragrant Eucalyptus and Cypress trees grow. The trail repeats this pattern a few times—skirts the road, return to the forest, and pass a military battery, until finally you come to a beach access sign, marking the entrance to Baker Beach. In order to get to Baker Beach, you must hike down a 400 step sand ladder, which leads to expansive views of the Pacific Ocean, the wide sandy beach, and the Golden Gate Bridge.