The Golden Gate views from the Marin Headlands are stunning! One of the best Golden Gate Bridge viewpoints is from Slacker Hill in the Marin Headlands. The best way to get to Slacker Hill is to hike via the SCA Trail. You might go for the Golden Gate views, but really the entire hike to Slacker Hill is incredible and is one of the best hikes in Marin. Here’s what to expect when hiking to Slacker Hill, as well as some additional nearby Marin hikes and other fun things to do in Marin with kids.
Slacker Hill – What to Expect
- Well maintained & well-marked trail
- Incredible views of San Francisco, the Bay, Pacific, Alcatraz, Marin, and the Golden Gate Bridge
- Large viewpoint area with 360-degree views
- Unpredictable weather. It can be cool and foggy here even in summer and when it’s sunny a few miles away. It can also get hot (most likely late spring through fall), and this is exacerbated by minimal shade on the trail
- Slacker Hill is a popular hike so it’s likely you will see other hikers on the trail. It can get crowded at peak times of day or during good weather
- Not dog friendly
Best Route: Slacker Hill Via the SCA Trail
Slacker Hill Overview
- Distance: 3.3 miles roundtrip
- Elevation: 810’ gain
- Our rating: Easy
- Total hiking time: 1 – 1.5 hours
- Dog Friendly: No
- Parking: Northwest Tower (Headlands) Parking Lot near Golden Gate Bridge. Go early! Lot fills up quickly on weekends and nice days!
- Restrooms: Port-a-potties in parking lot, but they’ve been locked the last few times we were there!
Begin on the Coastal Trail (.25 miles)
The hike to Slacker Hill begins on the Coastal Trail where you’ll climb up through tall grass and seasonal wildflowers. Very quickly you’ll have glimpses of the bridge.
After a quarter of a mile, the trail intersects with Conzelman Road. Cross the road and pick up the SCA Trail straight ahead.
SCA Trail (.9 miles)
At this point, the SCA trail climbs in elevation and the views toward the bay open up.
First, the trail overlooks Fort Baker, Cavallo Point, and the Bay Area Discovery Museum – and out towards Angel Island and Belvedere with the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and San Francisco to the south.
Slacker Trail (.3 miles)
After about a mile, turn left onto Slacker Trail. The trail heads west with views out toward Rodeo Beach, Hill 88, and the Pacific and then toward the San Mateo coastline.
Slacker Ridge Trail (.2 miles)
After a quarter of a mile, turn left onto Slacker Ridge Trail. This trail rounds back towards the bridge and reaches a large plateau at the top of Slacker Hill.
There is a great spot to sit on the hillside overlooking the bridge, which looks enormous from this vantage point, and San Francisco a little further in the distance. Hiking time is approximately 90 minutes, but plan for longer because you’ll want to stay and admire the views for a while!
Best Time to Hike Slacker Hill
There’s really no bad time to hike to Slacker Hill. Morning, noon, evening, summer, winter, clear skies, fog – each will provide a different experience and perspective of the bridge and surrounding views.
However, if you’re flexible, timing your hike to Slacker Hill when there are fewer crowds is worth it. The best chance for this is early morning, late afternoon, or a weekday. Fewer crowds mean easier parking, less foot traffic, and a better chance to have Slacker Hill to yourself.
Sunrise & Sunset
Slacker Hill at sunrise or sunset makes for incredible views overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and likely fewer crowds.
Getting to Slacker Hill
Slacker Hill Parking
Northwest Tower (Headlands) Parking Lot
- Access from Alexander Avenue and turn left onto Conzelman Road down a small hill into the lot.
- Free parking (4-hour limit)
- Approximately 40 spots
Slacker Hill Weather
Bay Area weather is unpredictable. Marin Headlands weather can be cool, foggy, and windy any time of year. It can also be hot – and most trails, including Slacker Hill, are exposed to the elements. It’s best to dress in layers and bring a warm fleece or jacket even if you end up leaving it in your car.
We always hike with a backpack and use it to carry extra layers or shed unwanted ones.
Key Marin hiking apparel:
- Hiking Boots
- A hat for sun protection
- Fleece or jacket
- Wind breaker/Rain jacket
- Water Bottle
Nearby Marin Hikes
Some of the best hikes in Marin can be found in the Marin Headlands. The great thing about this area is that the hiking trails are all interconnected and it’s easy to begin from many different points and customize a path that works for any desired hiking level or time constraint.
Hawk Hill in the Marin Headlands is just west of Slacker Hill and also boasts amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge. While there is a parking lot at the base of Hawk Hill, I like to work for my views and chose to hike from the small parking lot near Black Sands Beach. From there, we hiked up the Coastal Trail (which follows Conzelman Road) for approximately half a mile until the trail crosses Conzelman Road and heads up the hill via an impressive staircase towards Hawk Hill and Battery Construction 129. We used this route as a guide, but only followed it to Hawk Hill and then turned around.
Hawk Hill is expansive and there is a lot of space to explore with many different vantage points of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco. The views from this Marin hike extend down the San Mateo coastline and even out toward Point Bonita and Rodeo Beach. And yes, we saw a lot of hawks too!
The hike to Kirby Cove takes you down to the beach for views of the Golden Gate Bridge that are larger than life! To get to this Marin Headlands hike, park at the Northwest Tower (Headlands) Parking Lot and begin your hike along the Coastal Trail (the same start as Slacker Hill), but instead of crossing Conzelman Road to the SCA trail, turn left and follow Conzelman Road until you reach Kirby Cove Road on the left side. This road descends down to Kirby Beach.
This trail passes by two batteries: Battery Spencer and Battery Wagner. The bridge views from Battery Spencer are also amazing and the .25 mile detour is worth it! The Battery Spencer trail is just off Conzelman Road by the small parking lot (where you’ll also find some bathrooms). At the end of the short Battery Spencer Trail, you’ll have one of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge and find a chainlink fence that is slowly being covered by locks.
Tennessee Valley Trail
Tennessee Valley Trail, which is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, is one of our family’s favorite hikes in the Bay Area. This easy 3.4 mile well-maintained Marin hike begins through shrublands & wetlands and ends at Tennessee Valley Beach. The beach is huge with plenty of space to spread out and rocks to climb. This is a popular spot on weekends and when the weather is nice, but if you’re willing to go mid-week or when it’s not as nice, you may have it mostly to yourself. From the beach, there’s a path that leads up the hill to a WWII bunker with an incredible overlook.
Rodeo Beach – Miwok Trail – Coastal Trail Loop
The Rodeo Beach – Miwok Trail – Coastal Trail 5.3 mile loop is a great workout with 1000+ feet elevation gain. There is very little coverage so there are gorgeous views of the ocean and surrounding headlands, but there is also a lot of sun. There is a large parking lot at Rodeo Beach and I’ve never had an issue finding a spot here.
Another option is to take the Coastal Trail from Rodeo Beach all the way to Hill 88. This out-and-back trail is only 3.8 miles but still has an impressive 1000-foot climb.
Bonus: both of these Marin hikes are dog-friendly.
Nearby Things To Do in Marin
There are so many fabulous hiking trails in Marin but there are plenty of other non-hiking things to do in Marin as well! Here are a few of our favorites that are nearby and definitely worth a stop!
Point Bonita Lighthouse
Point Bonita Lighthouse is one of the most stunning lighthouses on the California coast. Built in 1855 to help ships navigate their way through the Golden Gate Strait, this was the third lighthouse on the west coast. It sits precariously out on a rock that falls sharply into the ocean below. To get to the lighthouse, walk half a mile along a path that winds above the ocean and has stunning views of the Headlands and the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. We saw harbor seals in the water below too. Once there, you must walk across a wooden bridge to the rock where the lighthouse sits.
Inside the lighthouse, we learned more about its history, as well as how ships navigate through the treacherous strait which I found fascinating. Check out the Point Bonita website for current hours and closures, and to learn about docent led tours and seasonal sunset tours.
Rodeo Beach is a great place to come hang out, picnic, and play. Our kids love this beach because it’s huge and has lots of ocean treasures to discover, as well as plenty of driftwood for making forts. This is also a great spot for bird watching. There are white covered crags just offshore where you can watch gulls and pelicans. In fact, the cliff-top trail is one of the best spots to watch pelicans. Rodeo Lagoon, which is right next to the beach, has ducks, egrets, and other birds that feed and shelter in the shallow wetlands.
Children’s Discovery Museum
Children’s Discovery Museum is a Bay Area family favorite! Its exhibits are all playful learning experiences that inspire discovery. Situated at Cavallo Point, just below the Golden Gate Bridge, it doesn’t get much more scenic than this. The museum takes full advantage of the location as many of the exhibits are outside including 2.5-acre Lookout Cove, BADM Beach, Sea Caves & Tidepools (replicas of the real thing), and gravel pits. Inside there are art studios to try hands-on activities, areas to learn about how everyday things work, a studio that encourages STEM skills, and a separate area just for infants & toddlers.
The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday. Admission is free to Bay Area residents on the first Wednesday of every other month (must show ID or proof of residency in one of the 9 Bay Area Counties). Check current exhibits & admission hours and prices here.