The Marin Headlands is a hilly peninsula located just north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. The entire area is actually part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
The Headlands are famous for their views of the Bay Area, especially of the Golden Gate Bridge. To access the Marin Headlands take the last exit before you cross San Francisco Harbor on the Golden Gate Bridge.
The road winds along the cliffs, going higher and higher, with each overlook being more spectacular than the previous. When I went up, there were a lot of people and the overlook parking lots were mostly full. I managed to get a spot in one of the top most outlooks and took some photos.
There are several overlooks to view San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. Of course you know, I don’t really have to tell you, the view is beautiful!
Once you have visited the last overlook, you can return back to the freeway going down the same way you came, or you can take an impossibly steep (18% grade) one-lane road that continues on, and takes you down the edge of a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
This is what I did! I did not take any photos as I was busy driving and braking. Thanks to the google street-view you can see for yourself what it is like here.
An awesome scenic drive is a 31-mile portion of old Highway 101 which is called the “Avenue of the Giants”. It actually parallels the freeway version of highway 101, so if you are travelling 101 it is an easy detour to take the scenic route.
The Avenue of the Giants passes through Humboldt Redwoods State Park, which has the largest remaining stand of old growth redwoods in the world. It is by far the most outstanding display of these giant trees in Northern California.
The highway is narrow in places and the giant redwoods stand tall at the very side of the road. When I went through the area traffic was light as it was a weekday morning, but still, speed is not a factor on such a winding highway. You are best to relax and enjoy the scenery.
The beginning of the drive there was a stop where you could pick up a printed guide for an Auto Tour of the drive. The numbered stops are listed and explained on the guide.
Also along the Avenue there are a number of small towns including Pepperwood, Redcrest, Weott, Myers Flat, Miranda and Phillipsville. Each of these scenic towns seemed to have their fair share of tourist shops.
There are many places to pull over to get close to the forest and also to hike, picnic, camp and fish. There is great access to numerous hiking trails and the various redwood groves.
Also, a little south of the town of Weott is the Humboldt Redwoods Visitor Center. It is a great place to stop and gather additional information about the area.