San Francisco, CA: Pirates Cove Loop, Golden Gate National Recreation Area - Backpacker

San Francisco, CA: Pirates Cove Loop, Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Ahoy matey! Come along on a foggy, mysterious hike to Pirates Cove in Golden Gate National Recreation Area just outside of San Francisco, California.
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Hike to the sounds of foghorns from the nearby iconic Golden Gate Bridge on this beautiful foggy hike to Pirates Cove. This secluded beach hike in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area has it all from the famous Muir Beach and cliff side views without the crowds. BY MELISSA AVERY, Chasqui Mom

Trip Stats
Distance: 5.9 miles (Loop)
Time: 6 hour 13 minutes – 1 mile per hour (Hiking with Children)
Distance from San Francisco: 30 minutes
More Information: National Park Service – Golden Gate National Recreation Area

1. There are no entrance or parking fees, but arrive early on the weekends. Tennessee Valley Trailhead to Tennessee Cove is a popular hiking route which tends to crowd the parking lot.
2. Facilities: There are restrooms and picnic areas at the trailhead but NO WATER. Bring all your water beforehand.
3. For Families: This is a moderately long hike for families with children but the hike is broken up with beach playing at Pirates Cove. Plan this hike as an “all day” hike to include beach play and actual hiking.

Mile 0.0: Start at Tennessee Valley Trailhead/parking lot on a flat paved trail.

0.4: Turn right on Fox Trail, a dirt fire road, for a steady uphill climb to “Coyote Ridge”. There will be great views of Tennessee Valley will be to your back during the hike up, so turn around!

1.4: Fox Hill Trail becomes Coastal Fire Rd in two directions at the T-Intersection, left and straight. Continue STRAIGHT on Coastal Fire Rd, reach the “summit” of the hike. Then enjoy the hike down with views of Muir Beach and the great California coastal cliff sides.

2.4: Turn left on Coastal Trail, a single track hiker only trail. Hike along right along the coast to the sounds of ship’s foghorns and the ocean.

3.5: Make a sharp right on an unnamed trail down to Pirates Cove beach. To the left will be stairs which continue on Coastal Trail (used on the way back out). Enjoy the secluded beach. NOTE: The unnamed trail to Pirates Cove is very steep and rocky, please hike down with extreme caution especially with children. Check tide levels and be careful with strong waves especially around the large rocks.

3.6: After climbing out of Pirates Cove beach, turn slight right at Coast Trail and head up the wooden stairs.

4.0: Continue straight on Coastal Trail at the T-Intersection of Coastal Fire Rd and Coastal Trail.

4.8: At the cross intersections of Coastal Trail and Tennessee Valley Trail, continue straight (very slight left) onto Tennessee Valley Trail for the remainder of the 1.1 mile back to the trailhead/parking lot.

1. Weather: Bay Area coastal weather makes this a hike that can be done through the year but make sure you dress in layers. Bay Area coast is notorious for foggy days which brings much cooler weather than the rest of the area. The hike can be sunny hot to misty cool in one day.
2. San Francisco City Views: See the famous San Francisco Twin Peaks radio towers coming down Coastal Trail into Tennessee Valley. If it’s a clear day, more of San Francisco can be seen.
3. Pirates Cove Beach: The highlight of this hike! Due to the distance of this beach, it is a pretty secluded beach compared to Tennessee Cove. Explore the coves rocks for marine life or rock scramble to the top of the giant boulder in the middle of the beach!
4. For Families: Even though this is a moderately difficult “Family-Friendly” hike, kids will enjoy hiking to the sounds of “Pirate” foghorns and seeing ships (if not foggy) coming in from the Pacific Ocean. The fogginess lends to a mysterious character pirate-styled hike especially down at Pirates Cove beach. There

Family Hiking Day
Temp: 67 F, Sunny (Fall-November)
Who: Seven Adults, two toddlers
Family Gear: One Day Pack, One Framed Kid Carrier, Soft Kid Carrier, two sets of hiking poles
Snacks and Lunch: Water, Salami, Fruit, Banana Chips and Backpacker Magazine Chicken Curry Wrap

Trail Facts

  • State: CA
  • City: San Francisco
  • Distance: 0.0
  • Land Type: National Recreation Area

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