Marin Headlands Coastal Trail 3-beach Hike

Three Beaches to the Wind

Hike to three beaches on this coastal trail in the Marin Headlands

Woman hiking the Coastal Trail in the Marin Headlands

What’s your favorite comfort food? Fried chicken, mac ’n cheese, mom’s three-bean chili. … This 7-mile (round-trip) beach-to-beach-to-beach (!) hike in the Marin Headlands is like enjoying a favorite comfort food: it’s almost always good, it feels familiar, and it just warms up the soul … well, at least the thighs. Enjoy a highly panoramic section of the Coastal Trail and three beaches along the way. Fair warning, this hike is beautiful, and strenuous in parts, but those views—coastal comfort all the way!

Woman hiking up the Coastal Trail next to the ocean in the Marin Headlands

Woman sitting on a rock on the Coastal Trail and looking down below to Muir Beach in the Marin Headlands

Pirates Cove Beach in the Marin Headlands

The hike connects three beaches in the Marin Headlands: Muir Beach, Pirates Cove, and Tennessee Cove. It’s 3.5 miles (one-way) from Muir Beach to Tennessee Cove, but you can turn around whenever you like to shorten it. Things start off gentle enough as most people make their way to relax at Muir Beach. But your sights are set on the Coastal Trail and climbing the hill to the south. Take your time and look behind you—the views grow as you go.

Woman hiking along the Coastal Trail in the Marin Headlands

Woman hiking down the Coastal Trail in the Marin Headlands

Woman descending dirt steps on the Coastal Trail in the Marin Headlands

Once you reach the top of the climb, keep hiking and enjoy swoop-de-doo views of the rugged Marin coastline and tiny Pirates Cove as you work your away along the ridgeline and gently up and down a few sections. When you come to the detour trail for Pirates Cove, you can assess your stamina and decide if you want to shorten the journey. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that! But for those wanting the full three-beach experience, keep going up for a steep half-mile ascent to Coyote Ridge, followed by a welcome descent to Tennessee Valley and Tennessee Cove. This classic Marin hike-in beach is always a hit, with its crashing waves and black sand beach. It’s also your turnaround point.

Woman on Tennessee Cove beach in the Marin Headlands

And … back up you go! Then down again. We recommend going to Pirates Cove on the return journey if you’re going all the way to Tennessee Cove. This ensures you know your timeframe and how much daylight is left (in summer, you are very likely to have enough daylight left). Bring a lunch or snacks to enjoy at the cove. And bring good treads! The trail down to Pirates Cove is short, but steep in a few sections, with loose dirt. Take your time. Pirates Cove is a crescent-shaped haven with a hulking and holed rock formation and plenty of driftwood benches made by previous visitors. Important: Mind the tides! Some of the “home-made” benches are closer to the water and waves can come up quickly … keep an eye on the ocean and waves.

Woman standing at the top of Coyote Ridge and looking out to the Pacific ocean on the Coastal Trail in the Marin Headlands

Sign pointing the way to Pirates Cove beach in the Marin Headlands

hikers on the Coastal Trail to Pirates Cove in Marin Headlands

Relax before climbing out and hiking back to Muir Beach. Late afternoons in summer offer beautiful light for the return trip, and you can always grab a seat in the sand at Muir Beach to watch the sunset. Summer comforts.

Woman sitting on driftwood and looking out to the ocean at Pirates Cove hike-in beach in the Marin Headlands

Woman resting on a rock overlooking the Pacific ocean on the Coastal Trail in the Marin Headlands

people relaxing at Muir Beach in Marin

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST: In Episode 37 "Chicken Soup for the Hiker's Soul" Weekend Sherpa co-founders Brad and Holly talk about highlights of their hike on the Coastal Trail in the Marin Headlands. Between Tennessee Beach, Muir Beach, and Pirate's Cove, which is their favorite? Listen to find out!

Start at the Muir Beach parking lot. Cross the bridge, go left, and continue up the Coastal Trail. Follow signs for Pirates Cove, which is reached in about 1.5 miles. Continue up to Coyote Ridge and descend to Tennessee Cove. Return the way you came, and we recommend you detour to Pirates Cove on the return trip, if you have time. Watch for tides in Pirates Cove! Some waves can surprise so keep an eye on the water. You can also check tide charts and forecasts before embarking on the hike. Wear good treads for this hike. Dog-friendly!

Trending Stories NorCal

View all Stories
  1. Taking the Stage: Tyler Ranch

    Hike the recently opened Tyler Ranch Staging Area in Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park, with 18 miles of new trails. This 6.5-mile loop up Sunol Peak is a challenge and rewards with exceptional views of seasonal iridescent hills.

    View
  2. Swing into Spring

    Swing into this 7.1-mile hike in the hills of Half Moon Bay! It’s got gorgeous views, fields of spring wildflowers, and a hidden rustic tree swing.

    View
  3. The Carson Show

    Carson Falls is ready for primetime. This three-tiered, 100-foot stunner is hidden back in a canyon outside of Fairfax and reached on a 3.25-mile (round-trip) hike.

    View
  4. woman kneeling and signing peak book at Mount Olympia in Mount Diablo State Park

    Double Up on Diablo

    Set the tone for 2024 with this twofer summit hike at Mount Diablo State Park. Embark on a 7-mile out-and-back up Mount Olympia and Diablo’s lesser-known summit, North Peak.

    View

Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Hiker overlooking Bear Gulch Reservoir at Pinnacles National Park near Monterey

    Pinnacles of Spring

    Why hike at Pinnacles National Park? Spring's a beautiful time of year here. And you might spy the magnificent California condor soaring while you gain soaring views from the High Peaks Trail.

    View
  2. Caves in Mojave

    No one expects to see caves when they visit the desert, and that’s part of what makes Mitchell Caverns in the Mojave Desert such an interesting place. Go on a two-hour guided adventure tour through Mitchell Caverns in Providence Mountains State Recreation Area.

    View
  3. Sponsored

    Port of Call

    Nestled by the sea on the majestic Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, Port Townsend is for travelers who treasure small town charm and natural beauty.

    View
  4. Lava Lava

    Once a land of volcanic activity, Mojave National Preserve shares plenty about its past via a quick yet adventurous hike to the Lava Tube in the Cima Dome Volcanic Field.

    View