Golden Gate National Recreation AreaLeave review
About Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Campgrounds in Golden Gate
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Site #1 is the most scenic by far. Views of the city, bay, and Golden Gate Bridge from your tent & from your camp. But, if you have a big group, try to book sites 2 & 3 together. Site 4 is the most private, but is back in the woods, farthest from the beach.
This is not a first come first serve site. You must make reservations, and you must make the reservation 1 month out. For instance if you want to camp Sept 15 you must call August 15th and make a reservation. No fires allowed but camp stoves are ok.
You can reserve a site one month in advance by calling the visitor center. The site is free but only one tent per site. The hike is short(2.5mi from Tennessee trailhead parking lot) but most of it is uphill with no shade. The last 100 meter or so is a steep uphill. There's no water at the site so you'll have to bring enough for the hike to/from plus cooking. The lowest site has a great view of the headlands and you can see parts of San Francisco. The upper two sites are less secluded(you can see directly from tent to tent) and the trees block the view a bit more. All in all Hawk camp is pretty cool but definitely prepare for a tough uphill hike.
Haypress: my ol' reliable when the camping itch strikes but I don't want to drive too far to sleep under the stars. While there is no fee (and a yearly cap on visits), permits are required and can be obtained from the Marin Headlands Visitors Center. They're open til 4pm, but if you can't make it before they close they'll stick the permit in a little drop box outside for you to pick up. At the end of Tennessee Valley Road, you'll find a large parking lot (although this will overflow on the weekends). Follow the paved path .3 miles til you see a dirt track heading back into the hills. After about .6 miles you'll find a clean pit toilet and 5 comfortable sites, all of which are excellent base camps for adventures in the Headlands.
If you're looking for seclusion, you won't find it here. Bicentennial is one of 3 free sites you can reserve via permit from the Marin Headland's Visitor's Center (3 free nights per year per license plate!) and the most accessible of all three. You can only have 2 neighbors, and if you can overlook the noise of the tourists at the picnic site above as you set up camp, you're in for a great night. Push through the pines for unobstructed views of the bridge and the city all lit up as the sun sets behind you. If you're shy about answering the call of nature, there's an ancient port-a-potty adjacent to the campground, and a fancy pit toilet at the picnic grounds above. Don't forget to check out the battery ruins. Expect raccoon drive-bys.
The campsites in Kirby Cove are gorgeous, but prone to heavy morning fog so bring a jacket
This is one of those super hard to reserve campgrounds. But I've snagged a site with a few days notice, probably due to a cancellation, and it's worth cancelling work to go.
Ear plugs can be helpful if fog and boat horns annoy you. There are usually several wheelbarrows at the parking area to haul gear, but sometimes people forget (cough) to bring them back from sites for others to use.
A nice trick is to get a campsite, then reserve the day use area so your pals can come down and enjoy the beach for a day. You get some parking, and the day use area is fabulous too.
Very accessible, with good access to beach and coastal trails. Subject to the marine layer more than most West Marin coastal locations due to its gradual grade down to the Pacific, so days that may be sunny in nearby Mill Valley many never clear at Haypress. I've twice seen bobcats along the trail to Haypress, so keep your eyes peeled.
You gotta be lucky to get a spot but it is so worth it. I had two broken ankles when I had my reservation for 1 night but I still made it out anyway. We were lucky enough to be there on a night without the blaring fog horn, but its the Bay Area, and it gets foggy sometimes so be prepared with noise canceling head wear. A WONDERFUL SCENIC VIEW from the beach!
History of Golden Gate National Recreation Area
At Golden Gate National Recreation Area, history and culture span an extraordinary timeframe with a rich layering of themes and subject matter. There are five individual National Historic Landmarks and over 10 National Register properties in the park.
The park's cultural resources are tremendously varied. Dramatic view sheds of contrasting rural and urban environments lead to historic landscapes ranging from dairy ranches and seaside recreation sites, to maritime resources like lighthouses and shipwrecks. Golden Gate has been part of the homelands of Coastal Miwok and Ohlone people for thousands of years and still contains archeological sites and landscapes influenced by native land management. The park includes the largest and most complete collection of military installations and fortifications in the country, dating from Spanish settlement in 1776 though the Nike missiles of the Cold War. Golden Gate contains eleven former Army posts whose military architecture and historic landscapes comprise the heart of the park.