Marin County is truly unique. Nestled on a peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and the San Francisco Bay, these hills gave birth to mountain biking and were home to George Lucas’ magic-makers – all just a short drive from San Francisco over the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Muir Woods and Mt Tamalpais get much of the spotlight, but there is a remarkable network of trails throughout this range, including this local favorite – the Coyote Ridge Loop in Tennessee Valley.
Time: 2.5 hours
Elevation gain: 911 ft
When to go: Year-round
Getting to the Trailhead
You can take the Golden Gate transit bus from San Francisco to Tennessee Valley Road, but you’ll have to walk 1.7 miles down the road to get to the trailhead.
If you’re driving from San Francisco, you’ll cross the Golden Gate Bridge on Highway 101, exiting to Highway 1 at the Mill Valley/Stinson Beach exit. Turn left onto Tennessee Valley Road and follow it to the end. Get detailed directions on Google Maps.
At the trailhead there is a decent amount of parking and two pit toilets. At the time of writing, the parking area had several sections with large potholes, so drive with caution.
Hiking the Coyote Ridge Loop
This route begins at the northeast end of the trailhead parking.
The careful observer will note that the sign indicates that bikes, horses and dogs on leash are allowed on this trail. Unfortunately for dog hikers, the second half of the loop does not allow dogs. As an option, you could hike the first half as an out-and-back.
The trail quickly climbs up the ridge. You’ll gain over 500 feet in the first mile, after which you get a short breather before resuming a more gradual incline. Take a moment to soak in the views and you’ll see the San Francisco Bay begin to emerge to the east.
There are trail junctions around the 1.0 mile mark; all well-signed. Follow the signs for the Coyote Ridge Trail.
Just past the 2 mile mark you’ll see a short (10m) spur trail leading to the obvious high point on the loop: Coyote Ridge Overlook. There are a couple of benchmarks and wonderful 360-degree views.
Coyote Ridge Loop Trail Map & Elevation Profile
Back on the main trail, head south down Coyote Ridge. At 2.8 miles you reach a junction with a choice: take the shorter trail to the east and head straight back to Tennessee Valley or bear right and continue south to get even better ocean views. That’s right — go for the view.
When you reach the trail at the valley floor, you have the option of extending the hike with a 1.2 mile out-and-back (0.6 miles each way) to the beach. Throw a rock in the Pacific, then follow the valley trail back to the trailhead parking.
An interesting historical note: The valley is named for a steamer named the SS Tennessee which wrecked just off the coast in 1853. You can still see rusted parts of the steamer in the sand at the beach.
Tennessee Valley Hiking Tips
- Bring plenty of water and a map for navigation. The trails are well-signed, but with many junctions in can help to know where you are. I also tracked our progress using GaiaGPS.
- Cell coverage is spotty and/or non-existent in the valley and canyons.
- Watch for wildlife, particularly along the Tennessee Valley Trail to the beach. Deer, coyotes, bobcats and rabbits all call this place home.
More Tennessee Valley Resources
Marin Headlands Weather Forecast
Hiked on March 7, 2017. All photos from that date. Thanks to OutdoorsyMama for suggestion the trail!