Fort Baker,
Golden Gate National Recreation Area/National Park Service,
Marin County
In brief:
1.1 mile loop hike/walk through hills above Fort Baker and streets, with great views of the bay.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 1.1 mile loop hike is easy. Trailhead elevation is about 75 feet, and the hike's high point is under 300 feet; total elevation change for this hike is about 170 feet.

Mostly exposed.

Trail traffic

Trail surfaces
Dirt fire roads and trails.

Hiking time
Under 1 hour.

Good anytime.

Getting there:
From US 101 in Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, exit Sausalito (southbound)/Alexander (northbound). Drive east toward Sausalito on Alexander a short distance, then turn left onto Bunker Road (look for a brown "parks" sign for the Discovery Museum). Just before the Barry-Baker Tunnel, turn right and descend into the fort area. At a stop sign and junction with Murray Circle, turn right. At the next stop sign, turn left onto East Road. Proceed past the Discovery Museum, to a big dirt parking pullout on the left. If you pass a pullout on the right signed "Bay Trail Parking," you've gone too far.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:

GPS coordinates* for trailhead:
Latitude 3750'9.92"N
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Stores, restaurants, and gas north in Sausalito. No camping at Fort Baker, but there are a few camping options nearby in the Marin Headlands.

Trailhead details:
Parking in a broad dirt roadside pullout. No parking or entrance fees. There is a map under glass, but none to take with you. No facilities at the trailhead: drinking water, restrooms, and pay phone just down the road at the Bay Area Discovery Museum. Several Golden Gate Transit buses run along Alexander Avenue. You could walk to the trailhead (and the Discovery Museum) from the bus stop. Visit the Transit Info website for more information. No designated handicapped parking, and trails are not well-suited to wheelchairs.

None posted, except for signs stating dogs are permitted on leash only.

The Official Story:
NPS's Fort Baker page

Map Choices/More Information:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Map of Fort Baker area from Bay Trail (html)
• Bay Trail's Golden Gate Bridge/Fort Baker page
Hiking Marin by Don and Kay Martin (order this book from has a good map and descriptions of the featured hike.

Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

This hike through the hills above Fort Baker is not much of a destination, but you might stumble upon the trailhead on the way to the Bay Area Discovery Museum, or on a traffic-evading dash to the Golden Gate Bridge. TrailheadIt's a short hike, just a little over a mile, but there are great views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands, and Angel Island. Consider this a viable option to a summertime Vista Point trip for out-of-town guests, or a perfect destination for a lazy afternoon of picnicking while watching the boats on the bay. If a visit to the Discovery Museum fails to sap the energy of your brood, kids can burn off extra energy and look for butterflies on this hike.
     A second trailhead just north of this one services a Bay Trail segment stretching from the south edge of Sausalito all the way across the Golden Gate Bridge to Crissy Field. Fire roadAlthough the parking lot near Conzelman makes for a shorter walk across the bridge, you could easily start here at Fort Baker, and avoid the crowds. There are knockout views of the Golden Gate Bridge from near Horseshoe Cove; if you don't care to walk, follow the signs to "waterfront parking," and drive to a small parking area near the Coast Guard station, just before Conzelman crosses beneath the bridge.
     The grassy hills surrounding Fort Baker were a strategic spot for the defense of San Francisco Bay. At the edge of the Bay Trail's parking area the remains of Cavallo Battery perch above the shoreline (protected by a fence). Drown Fire RoadAccording to a sign attached to the fence, "this earthen fortification with 15 emplacements for 15 inch sea coast cannons is the best preserved earth work fortification of the post Civil Way Era in San Francisco." You can't go into the battery, but a diagram helps you visualize what the fortification looked like.
     The entire Fort Baker area is easy to explore on foot, and the following hikeis a good introduction to both the military and natural history of this small Golden Gate National Recreation Area property.Chapel Trail
     Start up the wide fire road. Eucalyptus tower over the trail as it easily ascends in broad switchbacks. At a break in the tree cover on the right there's a good view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Escaped "exotic" plants broom and cotoneaster compete with natives toyon, coast live oak, and poison oak. The fire road levels out, and on the left views open up to the Headlands and the Golden Gate Bridge. At 0.40 mile, just past a water tank on the right, the fire road veers left. The informal path that led uphill to old bunkers is now closed, to protect endangered Mission blue butterflies. Look right for a view across the bay to Angel Island. Chapel
     Follow the fire road as it sweeps left. Coyote brush, bush lupine, and sagebrush cling to the grassy hillsides on both sides of the trail, where California poppy blooms well into summer. On foggy summer days foghorn blasts punctuate the gloom. At 0.50 mile, the fire road approaches gated Alexander Avenue. Turn left onto a trail built in 2004, unofficially named Chapel Trail.
     Dogs and bikes are prohibited from the trail, which descends on steps and then winds downhill past some eucalyptus trees where you might see or hear scrub jays. Off the trail to the right a big colony of fennel flourishes in summer.Parada grounds A last set of steps runs along the side of the pretty chapel, and then the dirt trail ends at the edge of the fort complex, at 0.68 mile. Head left down paved Seitler Street one block, then turn left onto Kober, and left again onto Murray Circle.
     This road surrounds the fort's old parade grounds, and the buildings on the left include former barracks. At 0.95 mile, turn left onto East Road, and carefully walk along the side of the road the remaining 0.2 mile back to the trailhead.

Total distance: 1.10 miles
Last hiked: Tuesday, August 24, 2004