Marshall's Beach is a hidden San Francisco beach with spectacular views. This beach is the closest one to the Golden Gate Bridge, but few people make the trek down, or even know it's there.
The beach requires some effort to get to, however. The path down to the beach from the bluffs above is long; coming back up is a real workout! But it's worth it.
Closest bathrooms: at the Fort Scott Ball Field, at Lincoln Blvd and Storey Ave. Next ones are at the Welcome Center on the other side of the bridge. Also, Baker Beach has bathrooms in their northern parking lot.
Closest food: also at the Welcome Center near the bridge.
The Batteries to Bluffs Trail is a popular hiking trail that runs along the cliffs from the Golden Gate Bridge to Baker Beach to the south.
About halfway along the trail, there's a detour branching off the main trail that goes down to Marshall's Beach.
The trailheads. There are two access points to the Batteries to Bluffs off Lincoln Blvd; one trailhead is just off Langdon Court parking lot near the bridge, and the other is just off the road further south.
To get to the beach, you can start at either end of the Batteries to Bluffs trail, but it's much easier to start at the northern end (closer to the Golden Gate Bridge). The northern end is way closer to a parking lot and also closer to the bus stops.
It's hard to park near the southern end of the trail (only a few parking spots along the road there) so you would probably have to park at Baker Beach.
That would mean walking down the beach a fair distance to the sand ladder, climbing the ladder all the way from the beach up to the road to get to the Batteries to Bluffs trailhead, and then going down a long, steep flight of stairs to Marshall's Beach. The walk would be at least three times as long and involve considerably more strenuous climbing.
Parking. If you're driving, I suggest parking at the Langdon Court lot (free, large, and usually has lots of spaces) off Lincoln Blvd., marked on the map above, just north of Marshall's Beach.
(See parking near the Golden Gate Bridge for a map of all the nearby lots and info on all the parking options.)
From Fisherman's Wharf:
Catch a Golden Gate Transit bus #4 (Strawberry Via Mill Valley) or #27 (San Anselmo) along North Point Street in the wharf area. The three stops are: North Point & Stockton, North Point & Jones, and North Point & Hyde. You'll get off at the Golden Gate Bridge toll plaza stop. Go down to the lower level where the Welcome Center is, go under the road through the tunnel, and walk along Merchant Road (away from the bridge) to Lincoln Blvd. Turn right and go into the Langdon Court parking lot. See Golden Gate Transit for more info.
Or catch the SF Muni bus #28 at North Point and Van Ness, near the wharf, and get off at the Merchant Road/Golden Gate Bridge stop, just after the stop at the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center stop. From there, walk along Merchant Road (away from the bridge) to Lincoln Blvd, and go right until you see the Langdon Court parking lot. See Muni #28 for more info.
From the Embarcadero BART station:
The PresidiGo Shuttle Bus runs from Drumm and California Streets downtown (near the Embarcadero BART) to the Golden Gate Overlook, right near the Langdon Court parking lot. Change from the Downtown shuttle to the Chrissy Field shuttle in the Presidio. See PresidiGo shuttle for more info.
The PresidiGo buses are free and run every day. They can also carry wheelchairs and bikes.
To find the start of the Batteries to Bluffs trail, head all the way to the back of the Langdon Court parking lot, at the far left side. Go a few steps south (left) of the lot, and you'll see a path with a marker for the trail.
It's a fairly easy walk along the Batteries to Bluffs trail and down to the beach. The trail is a combination of sturdy wooden stairs and fairly-level dirt paths. Nothing really steep and slippery.
After a rain, the dirt paths could be muddy and slippery, but otherwise it's a well-maintained trail.
The walk only seems long on the way up. But you can stop and admire the views while you're resting.
The views from the trail are gorgeous: the Golden Gate Bridge is right there, and you can see the Marin Headlands across the water and part of Baker Beach to the south. This is the closest beach to the Golden Gate Bridge.
If you're lucky, you may see whales in the channel.
About half-way along the 0.5 mile Batteries to Bluffs trail, you'll see a sign for the path to Marshall's Beach.
Marshall's Beach is a rather small beach, about 1000 feet long, but it feels private and uncrowded because so few people make it down there.
On warm sunny afternoon, there are a few people going up and down the trail, but the beach itself is pretty empty. Except for one or two nude sunbathers. Where's Waldo? Can you find one in the photo below?
This beach is a clothing-optional beach, like Baker Beach, but much more secluded. Not exactly family-friendly, but very safe to visit. It's very popular with gay men.
Batteries to Bluffs Trail. For a longer hike, you can continue on after the Marshall's Beach cutoff and explore the rest of the Batteries to Bluffs trail. This part of the trail has some long, steep stairways, but it goes past the ruins of Battery Godfrey, which are interesting to explore. End to end, it's a little over a mile (1.8 km) long, one-way, rated moderate to strenuous.
If you continue past the end of the trail and go right on Lincoln Blvd., you'll see the top of the sand ladder that takes you down to Baker Beach.
Golden Gate Bridge. It's a short walk from the northern trailhead to the bridge, for more great views. And the Welcome Center and Roundhouse Restaurant are just on the other side of the bridge (take the tunnel under the toll plaza or the one under the start of the bridge).
Baker Beach is just south of Marshall's Beach. It's a much bigger beach and also has amazing views of the bridge. Check out the old gun batteries and their disappearing gun. See Baker Beach for more info on visiting the beach (and the legal status of nudity in San Francisco!).