The Golden Gate National Recreation Area

This is a historial post from Hiking the California Trail, a 1998/2002 book set by Bob Lorentz and Richard Nichols. Where possible an update has been provided.

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) is not only the largest urban park in the world at 74,000 acres but also one of the most dramatic meetings of land and sea on the planet. GGNRA grew out of years of efforts to save open space in urban San Francisco and neighboring Marin and San Mateo Counties. The resulting park spans from urban waterfront to the boundaries of wilderness Point Reyes National Seashore, covering nearly every gradation in between.

The creation of GGNRA connected existing park lands in Point Reyes National Seashore, Mount Tamalpais State Park and Marin Municipal Water District to make an enormous open space area of more than 120,000 acres. Included in the park are Alcatraz Island, Fort Point, Muir Woods National Monument, the Presidio of San Francisco, and much more. More than 20 million people visit the park every year, making it the most visited park under the National Park Service.

This might never have happened if much of the land wasn’t already claimed by the military in the 1850s, if William Kent hadn’t donated land to create Muir Woods National Monument in 1903, and if the National Park Service hadn’t recommended the creation of Point Reyes National Seashore in 1958. This set the stage in /970 for the final push for GGNRA when citizens called for creating the park to link all the other parks and military reservations. In October 1972 President Richard Nixon signed the bill creating GGNRA.

The wonder of GGNRA and the surrounding parks and open spaces is that hundreds of miles of trails connect their many features. GGNRA’s 28 miles of outer coastline accommodate one of the most diverse and scenic portions of the California Coastal Trail. The 34 miles of the Coastal Trail from Bolinas to Fort Funston seldom follows roads. Features along the trail are boundless, and many more miles of trails web out into the region connecting even more features. The Coastal Trail in GGNRA will take you from Bolinas over the shoulder of Mount Tamalpais, past historic military batteries, across the Golden Gate Bridge to the Presidio of San Francisco (the newest addition to GGNRA), onto the scenic San Francisco Headlands, past the famous Cliff House and Sutro Baths and down Ocean Beach to Fort Funston. From the Coastal Trail you can connect with trails to the top of Mount Tamalpais, Muir Woods National Monument with its glorious virgin redwoods, Civil War era Fort Point National Historic Site, and miles of other pleasant hikes. If you love hiking in great surroundings, don’t miss GGNRA.

Originally Published in Hiking the California Coastal Trail: Guide to Walking the Golden State's Beaches and Bluff from Border to Border - Volume One: Oregon to Monterey (2nd Edition) by Bob Lorentzen and Richard Nichols
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