Looking for the best way to see the Golden Gate Bridge while getting a hike in? The Batteries to Bluffs Trail in San Francisco is not to be missed!
Come and spend a relaxing day on the west side of San Francisco just before the Golden Gate Bridge. The Batteries to Bluffs trail takes you along the beach with some of the best coastal views in the city. This adventure takes just about an hour, and is a popular trail for both locals and tourists. In fact, this place attracts many photographers as well!
After walking around the city, it’s always nice to have a bit of nature to slow things down. In this article, I’ll be sharing what you need to know before hiking the Batteries to Bluffs Trail. I’ll also share a mistake we made the first time we hiked here.
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Batteries to Bluffs Trail Overview
The official Batteries to Bluffs Trail is what you’ll see on Google Maps and some trail signs along the way. However you can also check out the AllTrails version of it that continues onto the Golden Gate Overlook via the Coastal Trail. Note that no dogs are allowed on this trail. Overall, the trail is easy to moderate as there are stairs involved.
Official Batteries to Bluffs Trail (Presidio): 1.4 miles (2.2 km) round trip
AllTrails version of Batteries to Bluffs Trail: 2.3 miles (3.7 km) round trip
Where is the Batteries to Bluffs Trail
Nestled along the rugged coastline of San Francisco, the Batteries to Bluffs Trail is a hidden gem within the Presidio of San Francisco. With its historical military batteries, stunning ocean views, and unique geological formations, this trail promises an immersive experience for nature enthusiasts and history buffs alike.
The Batteries to Bluffs Trail goes all the way from Baker Beach to Marshall’s Beach. It can be enjoyed as part of a longer walk along the Coastal Trail, such as a hike from Land’s End all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. By the way, you also get to see the nice houses along Sea Cliff if you go the long route from Land’s End.
Cool history facts
Speaking of history, did you know that the Batteries to Bluffs Trail traces its roots back to the 1800s? Originally built for military defense during the Civil War, the batteries along the trail played a crucial role in protecting the San Francisco Bay. Today, they stand as silent sentinels and some are covered in graffiti, adding a fascinating layer to your hiking experience.
Location and map
Here are the main locations to note for the official Batteries to Bluffs Trail. Simply input these coordinates into Google Maps for the actual location. I like starting the hike from the south and heading northwards so that the Golden Gate Bridge is always in view.
Start of trail: (37.796843, -122.479450)
End of trail: (37.802076, -122.477933)
- Baker Beach free parking lot with restrooms (37.792834, -122.483183)
- Limited roadside parking near Baker Beach Sand Ladder (37.796451, -122.479592)
- Golden Gate Overlook parking if you’re starting from the opposite direction (37.803514, -122.476793). Restrooms are available nearby at Fort Scott Ballfield.
How to get to Batteries to Bluffs Trail
To start your adventure, head to Baker Beach for free parking.
If you’re coming from San Francisco, I recommend taking a 20-minute Uber/Lyft ride as it is much faster than public transportation. Otherwise if you are staying close by, simply walk through the quiet neighbourhoods to get to the trail.
I recommend taking Highway 280 if you’re driving northwards from the Bay Area peninsula, and then switching to Highway 1 in San Francisco all the way until you pass the Golden Gate Park. Once you’re almost at Baker Beach, make a sharp left onto Bowley Street, then right onto Gibson Road. You’ll see the first parking lot just before the road makes a fork with Battery Chamberlin Road, which leads to a second one that’s bigger.
Once you’re ready to start the trail, get onto the Coastal Trail which takes you past Battery Chamberlin. From there, you’ll walk towards the start of the trail which is after the Sand Ladder above Baker Beach.
Best time for the Batteries to Bluffs Trail
If you’re trying to get a nice picture of the Golden Gate Bridge, I recommend going at sunset.
However, my friend, a local photographer who’s done multiple photo shoots here, told me that you’re not going to see the sunset most of the time. That’s because of the fog that blocks your view of the bridge – famously named Karl the Fog.
Although the Batteries to Bluffs Trail is great for hiking all year round, you’ll probably have less fog from winter through early spring. If you’re going in spring, you may see some pretty wildflowers along the way.
Hiking the Batteries to Bluffs Trail
Overall, this trail is well-maintained with wooden steps and clear signs. You’ll be able to see the Golden Gate Bridge together with the coastal cliffs pretty much throughout the trail. It’s a much nicer view here compared to just driving across the bridge.
First, the trail leads you towards Battery Crosby. It is actually named after a lieutenant who was lost in the civil war in 1863. During the World War II, this artillery had a range of 8 miles and was used to defend the harbor entrance as well as minefields near the Golden Gate Bridge. It was able to fire at two rounds per minute – I’m shuddering as I think about it.
I love the flight of stairs going down into Marshall’s Beach, and the way it made the trail look so surreal. Make sure you look for the stairs to go down instead of scrambling down some rocks. This trail is supposed to be easy! Similarly, go back up the same way to continue the trail towards the Golden Gate Overlook. In addition, avoid taking shortcuts to prevent unnecessary erosion of the surroundings.
If it looks like you’re about the enter a strange bush – avoid it! We made the mistake of trying to go through a shrubby growth at Marshall’s Beach just because it looked like someone had gone through it before. If you do go through it, you may have to navigate through less than ideal terrain in order to get back. As a summary – there’s no short cuts here, just follow the trail!
Golden Gate Bridge Photography spots
Don’t forget your camera! This trail boasts some of the most iconic views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Here are some of the points of interest you can take note of.
Battery Crosby Vista Point
One of the trail’s highlights is Battery Crosby Vista Point. Here, you’ll be treated to a panoramic view of the Golden Gate Bridge, with the Marin Headlands as a backdrop.
For a unique perspective, take a slight detour to Marshall’s Beach. While it involves more stairs, the view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the beach is absolutely worth it. It’s a serene spot where you can feel the waves, so take as much time as you want here.
Golden Gate Overlook
After you complete the official Batteries to Bluffs Trail, continue ahead on the Coastal Trail northwards towards the Golden Gate Overlook. This is what the AllTrails version recommends, which is great for those who don’t mind a longer walk for more Golden Gate Bridge viewpoints. Here, you’ll also pass by more Batteries, named after Godfrey, Boutelle, Marcus Miller, and Cranston.
Best Hotels near Batteries to Bluffs Trail
After a day of exploration, you’ll want a cozy spot to rest your adventurous soul. Consider staying on the western side of San Francisco to be closer to the trail.
- Unique and affordable near Fisherman’s Wharf: HI San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel ($)
- Japanese-style boutique in Japantown: Hotel Kabuki by Hyatt ($$)
- Conveniently located in Marina district: Infinity Hotel by Hilton ($$)
Can’t decide on where to stay? Here’s an article to help you choose where to stay in San Francisco if safety is a concern.
Helpful things to know
San Francisco is notorious for its microclimates, so layering is key. Even on a sunny day, bring a light jacket – you never know when that infamous fog might roll in. Check the forecast before your hike and be prepared for a bit of wind, or even rain.
Trail Etiquette and Rules
Respect the trail, fellow hikers, and the environment. Stay on designated paths, pack out what you pack in, and keep an eye out for wildlife.
Essential Gear and Clothing
Comfortable hiking shoes are a must – you’ll be tackling a variety of terrains. If you have difficulty with stairs and slopes, consider bringing a trekking pole for support.
Dress in layers to accommodate changing weather conditions, and don’t forget a hat and sunscreen for that California sunshine. If there’s likelihood of rain, do bring a rain jacket. In addition, pack your backpack with water, snacks, and a camera – you’ll want to capture every moment.
See more of my travel resources here!
While Batteries to Bluffs Trail is generally safe, it’s always wise to be prepared. Bring a basic first aid kit, print the map, download it offline on your phone or some GPS device, and let someone know your hiking plans. Cell phone reception can be spotty, so having a plan in case of emergencies is essential.
More of my travel guides to help you plan your classic California experience
Lassen Volcanic | Lake Tahoe | Yosemite | Point Reyes | San Francisco Day Trips | Half Moon Bay | Pescadero | Big Sur | Santa Cruz | Monterey | Carmel-by-the-Sea | Catalina Island | Death Valley | 10-day California Road Trip | Rental car tips
Not sure where to start? I have some ideas for your California trip!