There’s a point when you’re hiking up the moderately inclined trail at the Marin Headlands Coastal Trail at Fort Cronkhite, legs pumping, eyes focused on the trail and the surrounding flora, that you come to a level spot and pause to survey the scene. You turn around and… holy cow, what a view: the gleaming Golden Gate Bridge, the sunlight dancing off the ocean, boats trailing plumes of white as they cruise in and out of SF bay, and the city laid out in a patchwork beyond. And you’re only a quarter of the way up the 960-foot summit. Because the treeless, south-facing bluff is made up of coastal succulents and scrub grass, hikers have complete and unobstructed views, and 360-degrees when you finally get to the top of Wolf Ridge.
The hike offers something of a history lesson, as the trail meanders from one rusting, hulking military fortification to another. These were mobilization posts active during the 1930s and ‘40s, ready to ward off attacks that never came. It’s also one of the few such places remaining in the country.
The abandoned outpost at the top of the peak, aka Hill 88 in military terms, has a number of empty shells of buildings that make for interesting exploring and photos. The plateau here also offers the most stunning of views. The trail begins and ends near Rodeo Beach, an inviting and lovely sandy cove where you can cool your feet after the 5.2 mile hike.
But one of the best things about this hike is its proximity to the city. Cross Golden Gate Bridge and you’re a mere 5-10 minutes from the trailhead. And yet city views aside, you definitely feel fully in the midst of nature.