This Tucked Away California Beach Boasts Incredible Golden Gate Bridge Views

As one of the 100 most popular American tourist destinations, the Golden Gate Bridge is beautiful to look at from just about any angle. You can pass right under the bridge's iconic towers as you walk, cycle, or drive across it on your way into San Francisco. Across the water, in the city of Mill Valley, California, you can also see an elevated view of the bridge from scenic overlooks like Golden Gate View Point. Cruise operators like Red and White Fleet let you sail under the bridge, too, while touring around Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. It's a bit more unique to see the bridge in an uncrowded spot where land meets water, but that's the appeal of Marshall's Beach. Though lesser-known, this is actually the nearest beach to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Marshall's Beach is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the Presidio of San Francisco, a public park that was once a military base. The Presidio calls it "San Francisco's most hidden beach," while the National Park Service notes that it "has some of the most spectacular ground-level views of the Golden Gate Bridge." Yet if you catch it at high tide, Marshall's Beach might not even be there, since it's a narrow strip of sand that's easily overtaken by water. Just plan around the local tide forecast, and you could be rewarded with an amazing, up-close view of the bridge — as long as you don't mind possibly encountering a nudist or two.

Take the Batteries to Bluffs Trail to Marshall's Beach

Marshall's Beach can only be reached by way of the Batteries to Bluffs Trail. The trail takes its name from the gun batteries and coastal bluffs along the Presidio's western shore. Locals recommend starting from the northern end of the trail since it's closer to bus stops and leads directly away from a free parking lot near the Golden Gate Overlook. This lot, Langdon Court, is sometimes labeled as the "Overlook Lot" on signs. You'll find the trailhead at the back of the lot; look for a dirt path on the left, shaded by trees.

The trail, with its panoramic views of the water, runs less than a mile if you go the full length of it. Nonetheless, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy rates it as a strenuous hike since it involves hundreds of steep wooden box steps. Coming in from the northern end, you'll see a sign for Marshall Beach on the right, with another 320-foot path veering off from the main trail and descending to the shoreline.

Once you get down there, you'll have a picturesque view of the Golden Gate Bridge across a beach studded with old landslide rocks and serpentinite blocks. Marshall's Beach isn't a nude beach, per se, but it is clothing-optional, and some visitors do take advantage of that. The beach is only around 1,000 feet long by some estimates, but it's even closer to the Golden Gate Bridge than the popular Baker Beach.

Explore San Francisco sightseeing near Marshall's Beach

Baker Beach is one of several nearby sights you could combine with a visit to Marshall's Beach. You can catch a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge from this beautiful beach, too, though it's bigger and more likely to have groups of people picnicking or doing disco yoga in headphones. If you park on the trail's southern end by Baker Beach, you can also reach Marshall's Beach that way, but you'll have to walk farther and you'll need to ascend a precipitous sand ladder. Note that the restrooms in that lot are some of the closest ones to Marshall's Beach, which has no amenities.

The nearest option for food to Marshall's Beach is the Round House Cafe by the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center. This 360-degree diner, now run by Equator Coffees, first opened in 1938, just a year after the bridge (which it overlooks). It might be an ideal rest stop for those who plan to walk across the bridge. Read our first-timers' guide to walking the Golden Gate Bridge for more on that.

Before crossing the bridge, Alfred Hitchcock movie fans will want to visit the Fort Point National Historic Site. There, you can relive a key scene from "Vertigo" and enjoy another commanding, ground-level view of the Golden Gate Bridge. As for Marshall's Beach, it's a little more off the beaten path, but just think of it as the setting of an upcoming adventure film where you'll be the star.