Bay Trippin’: Marin Headlands

Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands.

Annie Sciacca

Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands.

Christian Villanueva

The downpour slowed to a sprinkle, then to a mist and finally dissipated entirely at an empty turnout overlooking the Golden Gate.

Far over the Pacific, a single ray of sunlight ripped a hole through the grey cloud cover revealing clear blue skies. It quickly spread east to the shore and soon the entire bridge was visible and then the City.

It was almost T-shirt weather  in the Marin Headlands as an Inquirer photographer and I headed for Kirby Cove, a secluded, red-sand beach that lies just west, almost in the shadow, of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Seclusion is perhaps what is most beautiful about this place; most people don’t know it exists.

Beginning at the top is Battery Spencer, a 100-year-old structure where huge-turret-mounted guns once guarded the Bay. Ignore this and start down the dirt trail to the right of the battery.

About a third of the way down Battery Wagner appears.

This battery has a series of dark creepy rooms littered with empty alcohol bottles and who-knows-what, that is fun to explore for a little spook. Up on top, graffiti artists regularly put up new murals, some quite beautiful.

At the bottom of the trail sits Battery Kirby, just above the beach. Fragrant fennel plants have taken root in the cracking concrete. To the right of the battery, a small calla lily lined stream flows into an old brick tunnel that pops out on the beach below and is passable most times of the year.

The beach itself is unique in that the sand is red, its grains more like tiny pebbles. It drops quickly, and the current is strong and the water cold. Yet on a warm day, a quick dip is possible.

The sun sets on the beach before it sets on the horizon, which allows time for a hike up to Battery Spencer to watch the sunset. The views of the bridge and the Bay are incredible, and one avoids the tourists who crowd the vista earlier in the day.

Kirby Cove offers a mix of history, modern art and, of course, nature.

Most importantly you feel like you’ve got away from it all.


To see a map of where Christian went, go to:


Contact Christian Villanueva at [email protected]