Marin Headlands

Mill Valley, California

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Among units in the National Park system, Golden Gate National Recreation Area is exceeded only by the Blue Ridge Parkway in numbers of visitors per year (1990 figures: Blue Ridge, 17 million; Golden Gate, 15 million). The view of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands can only be described as sensational and has been featured in many movies. Hawk Hill is the premier hawk-watching site in the western United States. As raptors drift southward in the fall, they tend to get funneled down the Marin peninsula to Hawk Hill, and then cross the Golden Gate. In 1995 hawk-watchers counted 20,543 raptors. Fog is an almost automatic feature of the Golden Gate in summer and fall. Fog may be pouring through the Gate when other parts of the Bay Area are sparkling clear. If it’s foggy overhead, the hawk-watching obviously will be a bust, but a day that starts out in dense fog may clear up into fine hawk-watching weather by midday. Specialty birds: Resident—Chestnut-backed Chickadee; Wrentit. Summer—Brown Pelican; Osprey; Heermann’s Gull; Caspian and Elegant Terns. Winter—Peregrine Falcon. This eTrail provides detailed information on birding strategies for this specific location, the specialty birds and other key birds you might see, directions to each birding spot, a detailed map, and helpful general information.

Marin Headlands Professional Review and Guide

"Among units in the National Park system, Golden Gate National Recreation Area is exceeded only by the Blue Ridge Parkway in numbers of visitors per year (1990 figures: Blue Ridge, 17 million; Golden Gate, 15 million). The view of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands can only be described as sensational and has been featured in many movies. Hawk Hill is the premier hawk-watching site in the western United States. As raptors drift southward in the fall, they tend to get funneled down the Marin peninsula to Hawk Hill, and then cross the Golden Gate. In 1995 hawk-watchers counted 20,543 raptors. Fog is an almost automatic feature of the Golden Gate in summer and fall. Fog may be pouring through the Gate when other parts of the Bay Area are sparkling clear. If it’s foggy overhead, the hawk-watching obviously will be a bust, but a day that starts out in dense fog may clear up into fine hawk-watching weather by midday. Specialty birds: Resident—Chestnut-backed Chickadee; Wrentit. Summer—Brown Pelican; Osprey; Heermann’s Gull; Caspian and Elegant Terns. Winter—Peregrine Falcon. This eTrail provides detailed information on birding strategies for this specific location, the specialty birds and other key birds you might see, directions to each birding spot, a detailed map, and helpful general information."

Activity Type: Birding
Nearby City: Mill Valley
Trail Type: Several options
Best Times: Best September-November for raptors on fog-free days from 10 A.M. to 3 P.M. (peak times); for most other birds, fall and winter.
Local Contacts: Golden Gate Raptor Observatory; Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Local Maps: DeLorme Northern California Atlas & Gazetteer.
Driving Directions: Directions to Marin Headlands

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May 2018