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November Bay Trip Part 5; Marin Headlands

The main attraction for last Saturday was hiking out in the Marin Headlands across the Bay from the city of San Francisco.






After leaving the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge I took Sir Francis Drake Boulevard from I-580 west through San Rafael to US 101.  Sir Francis Drake Boulevard from I-580 west to California State Route 1 was envisioned to be the never built California State Route 251.

CAhighways.org on CA 251

Heading south on US 101 I was able to get a shield picture for CA 131 which was one of the routes I was missing.  I thought about trying to clinch 131 given it is a short route when I was planning this trip but I wasn't feeling like slogging through suburban streets after Mount Diablo.





Approaching the Marin Headlands required passing through the Robin Williams Tunnel (formerly Waldo Tunnel named after a Californian political figure during the Gold Rush era).  The first bore of the Robin Williams Tunnel was completed in 1937 to coincide with the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge.  The second bore was completed in 1954 and was the last major update to the tunnels.  The name change to the Robin Williams Tunnel occurred in 2014.  Generally there is a painted rainbow on the Robin Williams Tunnel arches but for some reason they weren't present on my trip.





I pulled off of US 101 to reach the Marin Headlands via Bunker Road.  The Marin Headlands is the name of the peninsula on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County.  The Headlands largely have a history of military encampments, bunkers, fortifications, and even Nike Missile sites.  The Marin Headlands is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is managed by the National Park Service.  Access into the Headlands is via the one-way Bunker Road Tunnel.






The two major Army installations on the Marin Headlands were Fort Cronkhite and Fort Barry.  Fort Cronkhite was built on north end of Rodeo Lagoon and was in operation from the 1930s until 1974.  I took this picture of Fort Cronkhite from the Chapel Building at Fort Baker which serves at the National Park Visitor Center.





Fort Baker is much older than Fort Cronkhite and dates back to a series of coastal batteries up on Hawk Hill which were constructed in the 1890s and 1900s.  I had a look at some of the older military buildings from Fort Baker along Simmonds and Rosenstock Road.  Like Fort Cronkhite the closure of Fort Baker occurred in 1974.








Crossing over Hawk Hill via McCollough Road accesses Conzelman Road which is one of the most scenic roadways in all of California.  Conzelman Road hangs pretty close to the 923 foot Hawk Hill and hugs the coastline high above San Francisco Bay.  Really the view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Conzelman Road is probably the best view of the structure.  Downtown San Francisco, Alcatraz, Treasure Island, Oakland, the Bay Bridge, and even Mount Diablo are visible from the overlook on Conzelman Road.


Hawk Hill has various bunker tunnels and batteries near Conzelman Road which are easily accessible from the parking areas.








From the Hawk Hill batteries there is a really good overlook at the grade of Conzelman Road in addition to the mouth of San Francisco Bay.





Conzelman Road is no joke with 18% posted grades on a one-way path west from Hawk Hill to Battery Rathbone.  I used first gear to get down off of Hawk Hill and I still had to press the brakes for a good portion of the descent.  The 18% is the third steepest signed grade that I'm aware in California behind CA 4/Ebbetts Pass at 24% and CA 108/Sonora Pass at 26%.  Conzelman Road has recently appeared in a car commercial but I can't recall for what model.








Battery Rathbone was built in 1900 and had four six inch guns mounted to it.







Conzelman Road crosses within view of Nike Missile Site SF-88.  SF-88 was in operation at Fort Baker from 1954 until 1974 when all the military fortifications in the Marin Headlands closed.  The Nike was a series of surface-to-air missiles that had a range of purposes.  SF-88 had both the Nike Ajax and Nike Hercules, the latter which could be armed with a nuclear warhead.  Fort Cronkhite can be seen over Rodeo Lagoon a short distance from SF-88.





Conzelman Road ends at Point Bonita along the path to the Point Bonita Lighthouse.  Battery Wallace and Mendell are both within view of the parking areas for the Point Bonita Lighthouse.






The Point Bonita Lighthouse is accessed via a walking path through a rocky outcrop.  The path includes a tunnel and a couple older apparent older structures from Fort Baker.   The current lighthouse was built in 1877 and was originally only accessible via a wooden walkway.  The suspension bridge to the Point Bonita Lighthouse is apparently the only suspension bridge in United States that is exclusively used to reach a lighthouse, it was built in 1954.









Before hiking back to the car I took in the view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Point Bonita.  Its very apparent how high the grade of Conzelman Road really is by seeing it creep down the coast on the left.



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