What’s Best: Learn about San Francisco Bay and Marin history along Sausalito’s working waterfront. Or take a hike to the upper Marin Headlands from a less used trailhead. This in the no-makup face of sexy Sausalito.
Parking: From Hwy. 101 take the Marin City-Sausalito exit. Head toward Sausalito on Bridgeway. For longer walk: Park near the houseboats on Gate 6 Road, which begins just south of the freeway on ramp. For shorter walk: Go toward Sausalito on Bridgeway and then turn left on Harbor Dr. From Harbor, make first right on Marinship Way and follow signs to Bay Model. For Alta Trail: From the Marin City exit on Highway 101, turn toward Marin City, and follow Donahue up through condos to road’s end. Agency: Marin County Open Space District; Sausalito Park & Recreation Department
The Alta Trail begins high above Richardson Bay. You’ll have vistas of the Strawberry and Tiburon peninsulas. After about .25-mile on an unmarked road, you get to an open space sign noting the Alta Trail. The trail undulates through eucalyptus and cypress. About a mile up, you reach the end of MCOSD and then beginning of GGNRA. Pets are prohibited beyond this point. Continuing south on the Alta Trail another .5-mile, you come to the Rodeo Avenue; see TH18. You can go for another .75-mile south on the Alta Trail coming to several trails that drop into the Marin Headlands at Fort Cronkhite.
Both walks take you through north Sausalito, former site of Marinship, which played a vital role in winning World War II in the Pacific. From 1942 through 1945 from three months after Pearl Harbor to the Japanese surrender shifts of 20,000 men and women worked around the clock to build 93 ships in record time. These Liberty cargo ships and oil tankers supplied U.S. forces in the Pacific. Eight Marinship vessels were among the American Fleet gathered in Tokyo Bay to accept Japanese surrender on August 14, 1945. The monument commemorating this effort is at the Bay Model.
MARINSHIP MAP SAN FRANCISCO Photo Gallery
For the Longer Walk, head out Gate 6 Road, taking options to meander out on the docks of the houseboat community. The only conflict ever waged on Marin soil, or mudflats, took place here: the “Houseboat Wars” of the early 1970s. The County of Marin needed help from law enforcement over a period of many months during zoning squabbles with houseboat dwellers. The houseboats remain, now zoning compliant, but still a delightfully ragtag assemblage of structures on pilings sticking into Richardson Bay. Come back out Gate 6 Road, go south, and turn left on Gate 5 Road. Immediately tucked away on your left are more houseboats. Continue, on foot or by car, along Gate 5 Road, passing chandlers and warehouse work spaces. In less than .5-mile you get to Harbor Road. Turn right and then left on Marinship Way. Follow signs another .25-mile to the Bay Model.
The Shorter Stroll begins at the San Francisco Bay Model a threedimensional replica, 1,000 times smaller, of the greater San Francisco Bay. Covering some 1.5 acres, the model is carved out of 286 five-ton slabs of concrete. The waters in the model simulate tides, currents, and river action. Dozens of well-designed exhibits surround the Army Corps of Engineers indoor complex. Kids will be gaga, even if they don’t understand everything, and all visitors will receive a tour of the region in miniature. The Marinship exhibit and a blogstore are located in the building.
In front of the Bay Model is Marinship Park. Its long concrete pier is where Marinship vessels were outfitted. Now the pier is home to one or more large, vintage square-rigged ships that sail the coast to Seattle and the Pacific to Hawaii. Continue south, hugging the shoreside, and veer to your left along Liberty Ship Way toward the palm trees of Schoonmaker Point. The beach at Schoonmaker has kayak rentals for paddlers of Richardson Bay and Angel Island. Walk around Schoonmaker Point on a path, which brings you back out to Bridgeway at Dunphy Park. To head back, take the multi-use path that runs below the bulkhead of Bridgeway. Cross Bridgeway to Caledonia Street to visit the non-touristy neighborhood businesses of Sausalito.
Bike: Park at Gate 6 Road off Bridgeway. You can ride from here via a paved bike path through Bothin Marsh to Richardson Bayfront, TH21, where numerous cycling options are available. This parking is also good to head toward a town ride of Sausalito and on to Fort Baker and Golden Gate Bridge North. For a traffic-less route to Sausalito, turn left on Gate 5 Road and then right on Harbor. From Harbor, turn left on Marinship Way and follow to its end. A bike path runs below Bridgeway to Dunphy Park. From Dunphy Park you can hug the water through quiet streets and a wharf path to the center of Sausalito. From Alta Trail, as described in the hiking section, you can begin a fairly difficult 7-mile loop down to Tennessee Valley via the Old Marincello Road. This route is described in TH18, as it can also be accessed from the lower Rodeo Avenue trailhead. A great sight-seeing pedal is to board the ferry to San Francisco and ride back via The Embarcadero, Crissy Field and the bridge.