The Batteries to Bluffs Trail is a gorgeous hike along the western edge of San Francisco with stunning coastal views. While this trail is relatively short, it packs a big punch with incredible views of the Golden Gate Bridge, 470 stairs along the bluffs for a great workout, and 5 coastal batteries. The Batteries to Bluffs Trail is part of the California Coastal Trail that will one day cover 1200 miles of coastal trails. This section was completed in 2007 and some of the materials used in construction were delivered by helicopter to protect the surrounding sensitive habitat. It also won a well-deserved beautification award in 2008.
We began the hike from Baker Beach and took the Presidio Coastal Trail with the Batteries to Bluffs option all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge Overlook and back which is 3.5 miles roundtrip. The Batteries to Bluffs trail is only a 1.2 mile section of that hike. While I recommend doing the entire 3.5 miles to the bridge, the Batteries to Bluffs trail alone is still worth doing if you have limited time.
How to get to the Batteries to Bluffs Trail
Access the Batteries to Bluffs trailhead from either the parking lot at Baker Beach or from the parking lot at the Golden Gate Bridge Overlook. We prefer beginning the hike from Baker Beach as we find it easier to access, the lot is bigger, it’s free, and there are restrooms. There is limited parking at the Golden Gate Bridge Overlook and it’s metered with enforced time restrictions.
In addition to the better parking situation at Baker Beach, I prefer hiking toward the Golden Gate Bridge on the way out. With kids, I find it’s a way to keep them motivated as they watch the bridge grow closer and know it’s their turnaround point. Plus the bridge overlook is a perfect spot to stop halfway and enjoy the spectacular view and a snack.
Batteries To Bluffs Trail Details
- 3.5 miles
- Difficulty: moderate
- 450 feet elevation gain including 470 stairs
- Kid-friendly (though all the stairs may be too much for some younger kids )
- No dogs allowed on the 1.2 mile Batteries to Bluff trail, but they are allowed on other trails mentioned here
- Free Parking at Baker Beach
Just past the Sand Ladder, the Batteries to Bluffs trail veers left towards the coast. The trail crosses right on top of Battery Crosby.
At the end of the Battery, you’ll see a trail marker and then descend down 150 stairs.
The trail is really easy to follow and the views are stunning.
Views across the channel to the Marin Headlands.
Just follow the signs to the Golden Gate Bridge – it’s in view nearly the entire time so you know you’re on the right track. The path leads under the bridge and you can hear all the cars driving above.
Golden Gate Bridge Overlook
We stopped at the Golden Gate Bridge overlook and admired Goldie. From here, you can walk down to Fort Point (seen here just below the bridge) or follow the path along Crissy Field. On cold days we like to stop at The Warming Hut for coffee or hot chocolate!
The Coastal Batteries
The outside structure of the batteries are accessible. We climbed to the top of a few to take in the views. The kids liked jumping from ledge to ledge and exploring the many staircases. The first forts were constructed in the 1860s and 70s on either side of the Golden Gate straight (Fort Point in San Francisco and Fort Lime in Marin). Beginning in the 1890s more forts were completed to help protect the seaport – they were armed with guns that could fire at a range of 7-10 miles. The guns from Battery Boutelle were removed in 1917 for use in WWI. Battery Crosby remained in operation until 1943. We passed by 5 batteries on our hike, but there are many more along the coastline.
The trail marker to Marshall Beach. We didn’t go there this time – the kids vetoed that idea – I should have suggested it on our way out when the kids had more energy and not on the way back! If you do want to go, be sure to check the tide chart as there is not much beach at high tide, but at low tide, you can walk for a while!
Baker Beach & Sea Cliff
Baker Beach is off in the distance and is another great pit stop. It’s dog friendly too. We also like admiring all the homes along the bluff in Sea Cliff!
Other San Francisco Hikes Near the Batteries to Bluffs Trail
The Batteries to Bluffs trail is just north of Lands End, another one of our favorite hikes! Hiking all the way from Lands End to the Golden Gate Bridge is a great option for a longer hike ~8 miles. Or you can simply hike Lands End separately.