If you would ask me for a paradise within 45 minutes of San Francisco, no doubt, I would say “Marin Headlands”. There are beaches, a lighthouse, the best view on Golden Gate Bridge ever, and uncountable trails. This Marin Headlands trail run loop is about 20 miles (somewhat 30km) but one should not underestimate the elevation gain (more than 2500 ft as the hillcrests are to be crossed multiple times.
Best starting point is Rodeo Beach, there are restrooms and a drinking fountain and it plays well with the plan of returning from Tennessee Valley via Hill 88. I ran into Gerbode Valley, up the hill until Alta Trail. If you are there, make sure you go right first – it is a dead end but you have incredible views (you are exactly above 101 there) and you can sit on the bench dedicated to Mr. Clyde Wahrhaftig. You don’t stay long on Alta Trail, later it is better to take Oakwood Valley Trail until you cross Tennessee Valley Road. On Rhubarb Trail to the parking lot, actually a few feet before make a right and go up on Miwok Trail. It was hot, just incredibly hot! I ran on Miwok trail – which is really long – to Highway One.
After crossing Highway One I ran on Dias Ridge – it was still extremely hot – with spectacular views on Mount Tam down to Muir Beach. Finally – the was a bit cooler there. Once again (and not the last time), I went uphill and followed the coastal trail. Unfortunately the trail goes down to Pirates Cove. The elevation gain – just gone! Up along a steep trail with wooden steps. There is no wind – really a rare condition, up above the Pacific Ocean.
Finally I came to Tennessee Beach Overlook, I visited it coming from the large hill (the way down is pretty dangerous, if you slip you might end up a few hundred feet down in the water). Time for a short break as it is so beautiful it is impossible to just go without inhaling the stunning scenery there. It would be good to get something to drink, but no chance.
Now it’s going down again to the next beach, Tennessee Beach, back up through the valley to the intersection with the north-side trail to Hill 88. Currently not recommended for people with allergies, as you run directly through grass and all sorts of plants. The way up is long but somehow interesting, so you feel it goes by very fast.
Suddenly I was on the old road to Hill 88, and of course I did the extra half mile to go to Hill 88 (and back there) and later down to the parking lot. The sunset is beautiful, I take pictures before it is finally becoming too dark. A great place to run.