Like many first-time Bay Area visitors, witnessing the classic view of the Golden Gate Bridge with San Francisco beyond from the Marin Headlands is a must-do activity. Finding the view is easy. Just head to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area on the north side of the bay. Off route 101, Conzelman Road meanders gracefully through the hills, offering several view points for stopping and enjoying the spectacular vista.
As expected, this is a popular activity so those small parking areas fill up quickly and finding an empty spot can be difficult, even on a weekday in the spring when we visited. And if you are lucky enough to snag a parking space, you will be sharing the view with dozens of other tourists. We prefer solitude whenever possible, so there’s a rather easy solution if you are able to make a short, steep hike.
The view atop Slacker Hill is nearly the same as those lower, crowded view points. The bottom of the bridge’s north tower is obscured, but the 360-degree view is otherwise spectacular and far superior to any vista seen from the road below. The best part of all is few people will travel to the top so this view can often be enjoyed in complete solitude, as we did the day we arrived in San Francisco.
While connected to other trails in the area, we accessed the climb to the top from the parking area off the roundabout where Conzelman Road meets McCullough Road. There were only two or three other cars in the lot and there’s also a handy adjacent restroom.
On foot, head northeast on the Coastal Trail from the parking lot towards Richardson Bay. Within several hundred feet, the trail crosses McCullough Road and signs point past a gate on the other side.
To our boys’ dismay, the trail conditions are not ideal and don’t contain the step-stone exposed tree roots and boulders to which they are accustomed. It’s just a steep dirt path and fire road so there were quite a few complaints from the peanut gallery on the hike up (the five-year-old doesn’t appreciate views yet but loves challenging trail obstacles!). While views en route are gorgeous as well, this trail isn’t about the trail itself, but rather the prize waiting at the top, so we encouraged them to keep going for a nice rest awaited them … and it would be all downhill going back!
About two-thirds the way up, the trail splits. The Coastal Trail continues to the left so take the spur to the right all the way to the top of Slacker Hill. The elevation gain levels off during the final stretch flanked by a variety of beautiful wildflowers. At the top, there is plenty of room for the boys to run free on the flat, pebbly hilltop. With the space all to ourselves, we sat for a while just enjoying the spectacular views all around from the Bay to the Pacific.
We only saw one other person on our Slacker Hill experience – a mountain biker climbing to the top as we retreated back down. If avoiding crowds is of utmost priority, the Slacker Hill trail can’t be recommended highly enough.