Abandoned military sites and sweeping ocean views make for a memorable stroll.
Two abandoned gun emplacements with marvelous ocean views bookend this 4-mile round-trip Marin Headlands hike from Battery Mendell to Battery Townsley. The coastal trek takes you across a lofty, iceplant-covered dune and along a beach that edges a lagoon frequented by large and small waterfowl.
After arriving at the parking lot near Battery Mendell (see full directions below), explore that emplacement. Atop a bluff overlooking the Pacific, Battery Mendell (sometimes spelled Mendel) exists in a photogenic state of decay.
Walk north up Field Road to the Battery Alexander parking lot; at its northwestern corner you’ll find a trail that leads across a dune to Rodeo Beach.
Enjoy the views of the Pacific to the west and Rodeo Lagoon to the east before continuing north up the hiking portion (a dirt path, as opposed to the paved biking section) of the Coastal Trail to Battery Townsley.
From here you can backtrack directly to Battery Mendell or extend your hike on the 1.5-mile Rodeo Lagoon Trail Loop before returning to Mendell.
Battery Mendell to Battery Townsley Details
Difficulty level: Easy to moderate
Why locals love it: Rugged beauty; varied terrain; coastal views
Cut to the chase: Explore Battery Mendell and hike to Rodeo Beach.
Battery Mendell is at the intersection of Field Road and Mendell Road.
The easiest way to visit the headlands is by car. As of August 2021, the Muni 76x Marin Headlands Express bus from San Francisco remained suspended because of COVID-19. When in operation, the bus will get you to the Battery Alexander / Field Road stop. From there, head south toward Point Bonita Lighthouse.
If heading north from San Francisco: Just after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, take the Alexander Avenue exit, and turn left at the first opportunity. (As you make the left turn, you’ll see signs for the Marin Headlands coastal and tunnel routes. Follow the one for the coastal route.) After you pass under U.S. 101, you’ll be heading south back toward the bridge. Just before the bridge, head west (right) up Conzelman Road.
If heading south on U.S. 101 from anywhere in Marin: Take the Alexander Avenue exit (the last one before the Golden Gate Bridge) and immediately turn left, following the brown sign that reads Marin Headlands Coastal Route. In a hundred or so feet, head west (right) up Conzelman Road.
Once on Conzelman Road: Stop at any Conzelman Road vista points that strike your fancy, continuing on Conzelman when it becomes one-way heading west. After 2.3 miles make a left on Field Road, which dead-ends at Battery Mendell.
Tip: If the lot near Battery Mendell is full, you can park at the YMCA (it’s at Conzelman and Field roads) or nearby Battery Alexander.
More Hikes Locals Love
Coastal Trail to Bass Lake and Alamere Falls
Coastal, Wolf Ridge, Miwok Trails Loop
East Peak Mount Tamalpais
Mount Tamalpais Muir Woods Loop
Olompali State Park
Rodeo Lagoon to Point Bonita Lighthouse
Rodeo Lagoon Trail Loop
Roy’s Redwoods Open Space Preserve
Steep Ravine to Matt Davis Loop
Tule Elk Preserve
This story first appeared online in 2017; it was fact-checked and updated in 2020.