Visiting the Marin Headlands always leaves a sense of awe at nature's resilience and it's ability to survive and thrive amid sometimes rugged conditions. Plants and animals living along the coast must contend with fog, sun, wind, predators, erosion and human intervention. This struggle for life and growth is ever present in the Marin Headlands.
As early as the late 1800s, humans commandeered the land for military defense as threats from the ocean were perceived. The land was given back to nature in the 1960s as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA).
In spring, the weather can be grand. We visited on a sunny, calm and spectacular day. The hills and valleys that flank the beaches and bluffs are full of grasses and shrubs that support a multitude of wildlife. Our hike took us up Bobcat Trail, along the ridge around the verdant Gerbode Valley and back down Miwok Trail.
One of our striking observations was the amount of scat (wild animal feces) we saw along the trail. The area is home to bobcats (thus the name Bobcat Trail), as well as foxes, coyotes, raccoons, rabbits, and numerous small mammals like mice, gophers and voles. We saw lots of wildflowers and identified the purple-flowered Vetch, the happy yellow Mule's Ears flowers, and delicate pink Morning Glory flowers.
The route up and around Gerbode Valley contains amazing views at every point. The sparkling Pacific ocean and Rodeo Beach tantalize the senses. The trail is also an access point for the out and back trail to Hawk Hill. Hawk Hill is a small knoll close to the southern-most point before the Golden Gate. Every fall, raptors (hawks, kites, falcons, eagles, etc) make a southern migration along the coast. The geography of the terrain funnels them over Hawk Hill before they attempt the water crossing at the Golden Gate. The hill makes an excellent spot for birding and nature observation. We saw a Red-tailed Hawk carrying a small bird in its talons, only a short distance from Hawk Hill.
The headlands also have numerous other attractions for visitors. We like to head out to Rodeo Beach to watch the waves, and then stop by the fabulous restaurant at Cavallo Point Lodge beneath the Golden Gate Bridge for a drink or a bite to eat.
See the book "Hiking Marin: 141 Great Hikes in Marin County" for more details. Click here to go the Marin Trails website, where you can find more information about the book.