Hawk Hill,
Golden Gate National Recreation Area/Marin Headlands,
National Park Service, Marin County
In brief:
0.57 mile loop to a spectacular viewpoint and bird watching hotspot.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 0.57 mile loop hike is easy, with little elevation change.

Full sun.

Trail traffic

Trail surfaces
Dirt trail and steps.

Hiking time
1/2 hour or more.

Nice any time, best in autumn for birdwatching.

Getting there:
• From northbound US 101 in San Francisco County, cross the Golden Gate Bridge and exit at Alexander (the first exit past the view point turnoff). At the base of the exit ramp bear left, then turn left onto Alexander, pass under 101, and just before the merge back onto 101, turn right onto Conzelman. Drive uphill on Conzelman Road to the roundabout junction with McCullough. Continue on Conzelman 0.6 mile, to roadside parking just before Conzelman becomes one way.
• From southbound US 101 in Marin County, exit Sausalito (the last exit before the bridge). Drive uphill on Conzelman Road, and follow Conzelman to the roundabout junction with McCullough. Continue on Conzelman 0.6 mile, to roadside parking just before Conzelman becomes one way.

GPS coordinates* for trailhead:
Latitude 37°49'37.20"N
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Trailhead details:
Side of the road parking. No entrance or parking fees. Pit toilets at edge of parking lot. There are handicapped-designated parking spots, and the trail is wheelchair accessible, but it is poorly suited to chairs. No maps or water available at trailhead.

Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, restaurants, and stores about 6 miles north in Marin City. There are a few camping options in the Headlands, including small camps at Kirby Cove and Bicentennial.

On this hiking-only trail dogs are permitted on leash.

The Official Story
NPS's GGNRA page.
Marin Headlands Visitor Center 415-331-1540

Map Options:
• Parks Conservancy Hawk Hill page
Map from GGNRA (download Marin Headlands Trail Map)
• Tom Harrison Maps' Southern Marin Trail Map (order this map from Amazon.com) is a good guide to the area.
A Rambler's Guide to the Trails of Mt. Tamalpais and the Marin Headlands, map from Olmsted and Bros (order this map from Amazon.com).

Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

Autumn is a prime birdwatching season in the bay area, and Hawk Hill is one of the best known destinations for raptor observing. trailheadThe bare Headlands hilltop also offers eye-popping views of the surrounding Marin hills, the Golden Gate, and San Francisco.
     Begin at the signed trailhead on the north side of Conzelman. A sign points the way through the tunnel (you could also head up the gated fire road to the left, but I like this way better). On the other side, magnificent views open up to the north and west, including Point Bonita, all the Headlands hills, and Mount Tamalpais. The trail bends right and at a nearly level pace, passes through coastal scrub where you might see quail. The area around Hawk Hill is mission blue butterfly habitat, so in summer months keep an eye out for the lovely tiny butterflies. At 0.14 mile, a trail heads steeply downhill to the left -- continue straight. Soon after, the trail turns sharply right and a short set of steps ascend. When the stairs end, the trail continues uphill, at an easy grade. At about 0.29 mile, you'll reach the hilltop and the best views of all -- 360 degrees of beauty. From this concrete pad, turn left. Follow the ridgeline slightly uphill to the birdwatching area. Here on a September visit, my son enjoyed comparing his "wingspan" to that of the birds that pass through here -- the bird folks made a neat visual aid by sticking tape strips on the concrete. Each strip represents the wingspan of the migrators (plus California condors, for the wow factor). Hawk Hill
     Things weren't always so serene on this hilltop. Hawk Hill used to be known as Battery 129, and housed two large anti-aircraft guns. Concrete platforms are all that remains.
     During raptor migration (autumn), you'll often find scores of birdwatchers observing, counting, and sometimes catching and banding birds as they fly over, heading across the Golden Gate. Prime time is 10-2 on fog-free days. On weekends there are often docent-lead talks. Expect to see many different hawks, as well as falcons, harriers, eagles, and more.
     When you're ready, head back downhill to the west, this time following a broad dirt fire road. The trail offers one last stunning view of the Golden Gate, then ends back at the side of Conzelman.

Total distance: 0.57 mile
Last hiked: September 22, 2013