karen portrait circle

By Karen

Updated January 22, 2023.

Marshall's Beach

Our most secret beach...

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.

View of Marshall's Beach from Batteries to Bluffs Trail, San Francisco PresidioMarshall's Beach

A lot of locals call it "Marshall Beach" but it is officially "Marshall's Beach".

Visiting Marshall's Beach

  • Marshall's Beach is free to visit and is open daily, 24 hours.
  • No dogs
  • No fires or glass containers
  • Alcohol is OK
  • No restrooms
  • No food concessions
  • Clothing is optional

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.

Getting to Marshall's Beach

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 (aka Overlook) parking lot near the bridge, and the other is just off the road further south.

Map of the Batteries to Bluffs trail and Marshall's Beach in San FranciscoBatteries to Bluff Trail and Marshall's Beach
(Map data (c) OpenStreetMap contributors, CC-BY-SA)

Which end of the trail is best to start at?

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.

Marshall's Beach in San Francisco and the sign for the Batteries to Bluffs trailStarting at the northern end of Batteries to Bluffs

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.

By Car...

Parking. If you're driving, I suggest parking at the Langdon Court lot (aka Overlook lot); it's free, large, and usually has lots of spaces, just off Lincoln Blvd.

It's 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.)

By Bus...

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.

Finding the trailhead

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.

They've recently added a sign for the lot and are calling it "Overlook Lot"; the street sign at the turn off is "Langdon Court".

Go a few steps south (left) of the lot, and you'll see a path with a marker for the trail.

Signpost for the Batteries to Bluffs trail in San FranciscoBatteries to Bluffs trailhead, northern end

The Trail to Marshall's Beach

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. 

Stairs and dirt pathway on the Batteries to Bluffs trail in SFBatteries to Bluffs Trail

After a rain, the dirt paths could be muddy and slippery, but otherwise it's a well-maintained trail.

Long, wooden stairway on the Batteries to Bluffs trail, San Francisco. Marshall's Beach below.Lots of these

The walk only seems long on the way up. But you can stop and admire the views while you're resting.

Lookout point and view on the Batteries to Bluffs trailBatteries to Bluffs Lookout Point

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.

View of Golden Gate Bridge from Batteries to Bluffs trailView from the trail

If you're lucky, you may see whales in the channel.

Cutoff for Marshall's Beach

About half-way along the 0.5 mile Batteries to Bluffs trail, you'll see a sign for the path to Marshall's Beach.

Sign for the Marshall's Beach detour on the Batteries to Bluffs trailMarshall's Beach detour...almost there

The 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?

Marshall's Beach in San Francisco, view of Golden Gate BridgeMarshall's Beach as the tide is coming in

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.

Good to know:

Swimming is dangerous because of the strong currents, and the water is freezing anyway. Most people come to bask in the sun or admire the view.

Check the tides: The beach is fairly narrow, so at high tides the beach can get swallowed up. See the tide tables.

Last stairway down to Marshall's Beach in SFLast stairway down to the beach

Things to do nearby...

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).

See Golden Gate Bridge for tips on walking across, biking across, or the best places to view 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).

Check out the rest of the San Francisco Beaches, and how to get there.

More to explore...