Great Marin County Hikes – Marin Headlands Battery Mendell to Battery Townsley

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.

Rusting door and window grates at Battery Mendell.

Battery Mendell

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.

Rodeo Beach rocks as seen from dune trail above.

Rodeo Beach

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.

The army mounted two 16-inch caliber guns like this one at Battery Townsley; following a 1940 test the army concluded the guns could fire a projectile weighing more than a ton about 25 miles.

Battery Townsley

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.

Reward yourself:  Head over to Firehouse Coffee & Tea or Lappert’s Ice Cream, both in Sausalito.

Enjoy the Pacific views from this bench on the dune between Battery Mendell and Rodeo Beach.

Getting Here 

Battery Mendell is at the intersection of Field Road and Mendell Road.

By Bus

The easiest way to visit the headlands is by car. As of October 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.

By Car

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.


Marin Headlands Visitor Center
Battery Mendell
Trailhead, Battery Alexander parking lot

More Hikes Locals Love

Abbotts Lagoon
Coastal Trail to Bass Lake and Alamere Falls
Coastal, Wolf Ridge, Miwok Trails Loop
Dipsea Trail
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
Tennessee Valley
Tule Elk Preserve


This story first appeared online in 2017; it was fact-checked and updated in 2020.

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