Explore Geology
geology fieldnotes title

Golden Gate

National Receation Area


cover of park brochure

park geology subheading
Aerial photo of the Golden Gate Bridge in the bay
Golden Gate National Recreation Area, California

The Park Next Door
Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) is a park that begins where the Pacific Ocean meets San Francisco Bay. Here, at the Golden Gate, the park surrounds the narrow entrance to the city's harbor offering a spectacular blend of natural beauty, historic features, and urban development. To the north and south of the Golden Gate, GGNRA follows the Pacific shoreline creating a vast coastal preserve.

The National Park Service invites you to discover GGNRA. Redwood forests, beaches, grassy hillsides, marshes and rocky shoreline provide a natural retreat from the city. The park is a home for abundant wildlife; hawks, deer, and seabirds are often seen as well as occasional sightings of bobcats and whales. For a journey into the past, visit the park's historic ships, forts, and other buildings where the stories of Bay Area agriculture, maritime commerce, wartime defense, recreation, and immigration are presented.

GGNRA has many places and many moods. We welcome your continued discovery of this very special national park on the doorstep of San Francisco.

Getting There
GGNRA is easy to reach; no unit is more than an hour's drive from San Francisco. A day's trip will provide enough time to visit any area of the park. In San Francisco, the Municipal Railway bus system (MUNI) provides frequent service from downtown to shoreline destinations, especially Aquatic Park, the Cliff House, and Ocean Beach. MUNI also connects to other Bay Area transit systems: Golden Gate Transit (GGT) from Marin County, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and Alameda/Costa Transit (AC Transit) from the East Bay, and Southern Pacific Railway and San Mateo Transit (SAM TRANS) from the Peninsula area. Ferries provide transportation to Alcatraz and Angel Island. Golden Gate Transit offers the best service to and within Marin County.

Be sure to check with transit agencies about current schedules and routes. Because service changes seasonally, routes indicated on this brochure may become outdated. Bus travel to some GGNRA areas has advantages over using your own vehicle. Warm weather weekends or weekday commuter hours often mean heavy traffic.

For specific information about park accessibility for the disabled, contact park areas prior to your visit.

Shortly after the death of Representative Phillip Burton of San Francisco in 1983, the Congress dedicated the Golden Gate National Recreation Area to his memory. In doing so, the Congress recognized a distinguished leader in conservation and park issues while he was Chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Parks and Insular Affairs.

GGNRA in Marin
Marin Headlands
Close to San Francisco in distance and time but many moods apart, the headlands provide a quick departure from urban activity. Windswept ridges, protected valleys, and beaches offer nature's best on the city's doorstep. From the hillsides near the Golden Gate, you can enjoy magnificent views of the San Francisco harbor entrance. The Marin Headlands Visitor Center is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Group and individual campsites are available. Information and campground reservations: 331-1540.

Various organizations offer education programs with some also providing overnight accommodations. At Fort Cronkhite are the California Marine Mammal Center, the Golden Gate Energy Center, and the Yosemite Institute-Residential Environmental Center and Conference facility. Near Battery Alexander is the YMCA Point Bonita Outdoor and Conference Center. The Golden Gate Hostel, near Fort Barry, opens for registration at 4:30 p.m.

Tennessee Valley
This narrow valley is entirely secluded from urban sounds and scenery. A gentle 3.2-kilometer (2-mile) trail meanders through the valley ending at a small beach with a powerful surf. The nearby Haypress Campground (hike-in) is available by reservation only. Information: 383-7717. Campground Reservations: 331-1540.

Muir Woods
"This is the best tree-lovers monument that would be found in all the forests of the world," declared conservationist John Muir when describing this grove of majestic coastal redwoods. The tranquility of the forest of towering trees and canyon ferns is accessible to nearly everyone. Follow a gentle trail and enjoy the scenery at your own pace. No picnicking. Parking can be a problem at any time of the year. Open daily 8 a.m. to sunset. Information: 388-2595.

Mt. Tamalpais Area
For years this area has been a favorite destination for hikers. No wonder-trails offer a variety of environments from creekside to mountainside, open meadow to forest. Or sit back and take in the view from picnic spots and lookouts. Mt. Tamalpais State Park Information: 388-2070.

Muir Beach and Stinson Beach
Both beaches offer a chance to relax and enjoy the coastal scenery. Muir Beach is a semi-circular cove while Stinson Beach stretches beneath the steep hills rising to Tamalpais with vistas out to sea and up into the hills. Swimming is permitted at Stinson Beach only, from late May to mid-September when lifeguards are on duty. Information: 868-0942. Weather: 868-1922.

Angel Island
If you enjoy being near the water, Angel Island State Park is your kind of place. The Bay is constantly in view from the ferry, along trails, or on the island's beaches. An 8-kilometer (5-mile) hike takes you around the island. Information: 435-1915.

Olema Valley
This pastoral landscape is a hiker's paradise of forested canyons, tree-lined ridges, open grassy slopes, and historic farm buildings. Most trails are long and many are steep, ascending to ridgetops for ocean views. The valley remains undeveloped with few restrooms and picnic tables. Information: 663-1092.

park maps subheading

The General park map handed out at the visitor center is available on the park's map webpage.

For information about topographic maps, geologic maps, and geologic data sets, please see the geologic maps page.

photo album subheading

A photo album for this park can be found here.

For information on other photo collections featuring National Park geology, please see the Image Sources page.

books, videos, cds subheading

Currently, we do not have a listing for a park-specific geoscience book. The park's geology may be described in regional or state geology texts.

Please visit the Geology Books and Media webpage for additional sources such as text books, theme books, CD ROMs, and technical reports.

Parks and Plates: The Geology of Our National Parks, Monuments & Seashores.
Lillie, Robert J., 2005.
W.W. Norton and Company.
ISBN 0-393-92407-6
9" x 10.75", paperback, 550 pages, full color throughout

The spectacular geology in our national parks provides the answers to many questions about the Earth. The answers can be appreciated through plate tectonics, an exciting way to understand the ongoing natural processes that sculpt our landscape. Parks and Plates is a visual and scientific voyage of discovery!

Ordering from your National Park Cooperative Associations' bookstores helps to support programs in the parks. Please visit the bookstore locator for park books and much more.

geologic research subheading

Information about the park's research program is available on the park's research webpage.

For information about permits that are required for conducting geologic research activities in National Parks, see the Permits Information page.

The NPS maintains a searchable data base of research needs that have been identified by parks.

A bibliography of geologic references is being prepared for each park through the Geologic Resources Evaluation Program (GRE). Please see the GRE website for more information and contacts.

selected links subheading

NPS Geology and Soils Partners

NRCS logoAssociation of American State Geologists
NRCS logoGeological Society of America
NRCS logoNatural Resource Conservation Service - Soils
USGS logo U.S. Geological Survey

teacher feature subheading

Currently, we do not have a listing for any park-specific geology education programs or activities.

General information about the park's education and intrepretive programs is available on the park's education webpage.

For resources and information on teaching geology using National Park examples, see the Students & Teachers pages.
updated on 01/04/2005  I   http://nature.nps.gov/geology/parks/goga/index.cfm   I  Email: Webmaster
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