Located on the northern edge of the Golden Gate, the Marin Headlands offers some of the most unique historic and recreational opportunities in the Bay Area. With sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco, this area is not to be missed.
Like many sites around the mouth of the San Francisco Bay, this location was of strategic importance. Beginning in the 1898, the military installed artillery batteries to protect the port from enemy warships.
The land of this national park encompasses the former sites of both Fort Cronkhite and Fort Barry.
The remains of numerous fortifications dot the landscape, which served the military from the Spanish-American War through the Cold War. Fortunately, these were never needed. The bases were decommissioned in 1974, with the land ultimately handed over to the Park Service. The land was incorporated into the Golden Gate National Recreation area.
The abandoned artillery encasements are available to explore. A former Nike missile silo has been converted into a museum. Additionally, the park has hundreds of trails, miles of beaches and an abundance of wildlife.
Many non-profit organizations, such as the YMCA, NatureBridge, and the Headlands Center for the Arts utilize the old military buildings. Notably, the Marine Mammal Center operates a rescue and rehabilitation facility here. They care for injured marine wildlife, with the goal of returning them to the wild.
The Marin Headlands is also of geologic interest. This land was formed undersea, and over the course of millions of years, plate tectonics carried it northward until it collided with the North American contenent. Formations of pillow lava, basalt and chert are visible througout the park.
Access to the park is near the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge, on Highway 101. Take exit 442, to Alexander Avenue. Follow that and make a left turn onto Bunker Road. Entrance to the park is via the half-mile long Baker-Barry Tunnel. This 20-foot-wide tunnel is only large enough to allow one-way traffic at a time, metered by a stoplight.
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Mt. Rose Trail
A good way to escape the heat in Northern Nevada is a trip to the mountains. Mount Rose is prominently located between Reno and Incline Village. At an elevation of 10,800 feet, it is a challenging day-hike.
From the trailhead parking lot on Highway 431, it is roughly a 5 mile hike to the summit. Along the way you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of Lake Tahoe, a waterfall and plenty of wildflowers.
The first segment of the trail offers a glimpse of Lake Tahoe and commanding view of Tahoe Meadows below. There is a slight elevation gain on this section. You’ll encounter lots of chipmunks, squirrels and birds. At the end of this segment is the Galena Creek Waterfall. Many hikers, especially those with young children, choose to trek only to the waterfalls. It’s a fairly short, easy hike, well suited for little legs. The waterfalls provide a nice area to splash in the water and have a snack.
The second segment gets a little more difficult. From the waterfalls, the trail climbs across a talus slope (loose rocks). Where the path crosses the creek, there is an abundance of wildflowers, even into late Summer. Once you’re through the rocky section, the trail begins an ascent up a small canyon. At the top of this section is a nice, open meadow where you can relax and prepare for the final push to the summit. If you have a windbreaker in your pack, now would be a good time to get it ready.
The third and final segment of this hike will take us above the tree-line. The wind can be quite strong and cool, even if it’s warm and calm in the valleys below. The trail begins to switchback up the mountainside. In this section, some of the trees are bent and deformed by the strong winds. Many have been struck by lightning. These trees will take decades to decompose. Their gnarled and twisted forms take on a surreal beauty as they slowly decay.
Once above the tree-line you’ll have a nice view of Truckee and Donner Lake. On a clear day, the peak of Mt. Lassen is clearly visible on the horizon, some 116 miles away. On the ground there are small patches of Alpine wildflowers, bunched together as a defense against the wind. At this elevation there is little vegetation. The stark beauty of the barren, rocky terrain is a sharp contrast to the forest below.
As the highest point in Washoe County, the summit of Mt. Rose will provide you with an unobstructed 360° panoramic view. From here you can see Reno and Sparks to the north, Carson City to the southwest and most of Lake Tahoe to the South. This, in addition to the view of the Sierras previously described.
On the summit you’ll meet some new friends. Marmots and golden squirrels will be there to greet you, and take any trail mix you can spare. Be forewarned though, these cute little critters will crawl into an unattended backpack to get a snack.
In the rocks on the peak, you’ll notice some iron eye-bolts. These are remnants the historic Mount Rose Meteorological Observatory. In 1906, Dr. James Church, a professor from the University of Nevada Reno, built this weather observatory. He developed a method to determine the water content of the snowpack, a system that is still in use today.
The Mount Rose Trail is extremely popular. On the weekends the trailhead parking lot fills up early. You’ll likely encounter hundreds of fellow hikers on the trail.
Although the trail is well-marked and maintained by volunteers from the Tahoe Rim Trail Association, always come prepared. Sturdy footwear is recommended. Bring plenty of water, food and sunscreen. Be prepared for changes in the weather, such as afternoon thunderstorms.
Cell phone coverage is generally good on most of the trail, but it can be spotty in areas. However, you should be able to post selfies on Instagram, live from the summit.
A good website, with up-to-date trail conditions and route maps is: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/nevada/mount-rose-trail
For more information on the Tahoe Rim Trail Association: https://tahoerimtrail.org/
By Jeremy Dunn, Select Group Videographer