The less-traveled way to see the Golden Gate Bridge

Taking the road less traveled is difficult at one of the largest tourist attractions in San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge. But it’s not a lost cause, thanks to one of the scenic spot’s best trails.

The 0.8-mile Battery Wagner Trail affords visitors a little slice of secluded beach where they can stretch out, snap some photos of the bridge and dip their toes in the water.

Just try not to feel too smug about it when you get back to the top.

Photo by Johnie Gall.
And suddenly, you don’t feel like you’re in the city … Photo: Johnie Gall

What: Battery Wagner Trail and Kirby Cove Campground

Where: Below Hendrik Point at Battery Spencer on the far side of the Golden Gate Bridge

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The stats: 0.8 miles to the edge of Kirby Cove Campground. No horses or dogs; bikes allowed.

Photo by Brandon Scherzberg.
Take that, Instagram. Photo: Courtesy of Brandon Scherzberg

What to do: Before you hit the trailhead, check out Battery Spencer. “Batteries” are those concrete military installations you can spot all over the area; they were built to protect San Francisco from attack even though no wartime shots were ever fired from them.

From the trailhead, you’ll walk down a well-maintained dirt fire road through the hills. It’ll wind you through a beautiful little grove of pine and cypress trees before breaking through to a field area.

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Turn left on the unmarked trail over a footbridge and you’ll see picnic tables and a restroom. There will be a small set of wooden steps that will get you right to the beach.

If you're lucky your only company will be passing kayakers. Photo by Johnie Gall.
If you’re lucky, your only company will be passing kayakers. Photo: Johnie Gall

How to get there: The car-less masses can visit transit.511.org for bus information — usually there’s a stop that drops you off right at the trailhead — but for everyone else, drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and get off at exit 442, Alexander Avenue.

Take Highway 101 south and make a left on Sausalito Lateral Road. A right on Conzelman Road takes you to Hendrik Point at Battery Spencer, and the clearly marked trailhead can be found in the area.

What to bring: A camera, and, if the weather holds up to its reputation (read: fog and rain), be prepared with a waterproof shell.

If you’re lucky enough to catch it on a sunny day, sunglasses are a must.

Photo by Brandon Scherzberg.
Short, sweet and surefire gorgeous. Photo: Courtesy of Brandon Scherzberg

Do: Try to get a permit to camp at one of the four sites at Kirby Cove; we can only imagine what it’s like waking up to the Pacific and one of the best views of the bridge.

Don’t: Desert the area once you have your photo. Stick around to lounge on the beach and watch the sailboats drift by. Pure bliss.