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Adventures: Hiking the Coastal Trail & Hill 88 Loop
by Ann Marie Brown

Golden Gate National Recreation Area
The Coastal Trail leads from Rodeo Beach to the top of mighty Hill 88 in the Marin Headlands, providing what many consider to be the finest views in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area -- a park rife with memorable views.

Once you reach the top, you don’t have to retrace your steps. Head back down via the Wolf Ridge Trail and Miwok Trail, then cruising alongside Rodeo Lagoon, and you'll have completed a 5.5-mile loop. One more incentive for this route, if it’s needed: spring wildflowers along Wolf Ridge are exemplary. From April to June, these grasslands are peppered with colorful shooting stars, California poppies, and fringe cups.

All the way up and down, the path offers an abundance of high coastal viewpoints. For background music you'll have the clanging bell of an offshore fog signal. Along the way you'll pass dismantled World War II-era military buildings erected to protect the coast against a possible aerial attack.

The prospect from Hill 88’s summit is a jaw-dropper: Before you lies an enormous expanse of ocean and bay, along with Mount Diablo to the east, Montara Mountain to the south, Mount Tamalpais to the northwest, Tennessee Valley to the west, and a multitude of San Francisco landmarks -- Twin Peaks, Ocean Beach, the tall buildings of downtown, and so on.

After you’ve seen enough, retrace your steps to the junction with Wolf Ridge Trail. Heading steeply downhill, you’ll gain views of Mount Tamalpais, Tennessee Valley, and pristine Gerbode Valley. As you admire its green expanse, consider that in the 1960s, developers planned to build a community of several thousand homes here. Although the gateposts had already been set, dedicated conservationists fought the development and won -- hooray for that.

The Details
Length: 5.5-mile loop
Difficulty: Strenuous
Best Season: Best in spring for wildflowers, but good year-round on any clear day
Highlights: Coastal views, wildflowers
Map: Golden Gate National Recreation Area map (free at Marin Headlands Visitor Center, just east of Rodeo Lagoon)
Trail Guide: 101 Great Hikes of the San Francisco Bay Area (Foghorn Outdoors)
Park Information: GGNRA/Marin Headlands Visitor Center, (415) 331-1540
Getting There: Take MUNI bus #76 to Fort Cronkhite/Rodeo Beach (bus runs on Sundays and holidays only)