Pirates Cove, Marin Headlands - Tennessee Valley Trailhead, San Francisco: Marin Headlands - Mt Tamalpais - Point Reyes, California

Pirates Cove - 4.75 miles

Marin Headlands - Tennessee Valley Trailhead

Crashing waves at Pirates Cove

Crashing waves at Pirates Cove

Round-Trip Length: 4.75 miles
Start-End Elevation: 192' - 0' (192' max elevation)
Elevation Change: -192' net elevation loss (+1,268' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Pirates Cove - 4.75 Miles Round-Trip

Pirates Cove is located 2.4 miles from the Tennessee Valley Trailhead off the Coastal Trail between Tennessee Beach and Muir Beach. This small, rocky cove features turbulent waters and picturesque sea stacks just off shore.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

While visible for miles along the Coastal Trail, few venture down a rugged spur into this lively area. Visitors will enjoy miles of open coastal valleys, bluffs and ocean views en route to Pirates Cove:

The Tennessee Valley Trail drops gently on a wide paved road past connections for the Haypress Camp (.25 miles), Fox Trail (.35 miles), and Chaparral Trail (.65 miles), where it becomes groomed packed dirt. The landscape opens on a westerly bend through Tennessee Valley, a notably wide and lush coastal lowland with emerging views of Tennessee Lagoon.

It reaches the first of two splits for the Coastal Trail (1.2 miles : 86'), which turns south for Rodeo Beach. Bear right (north) at the second Coastal Trail split toward Muir Beach (1.25 miles : 114').

The Coastal Trail climbs 453' up the north side of Tennessee Valley to the Coastal Fire Road split (1.9 miles : 567'), the route's highest point. Enjoy terrific views over Tennessee Valley on this strenuous segment.

The trail crests at the Coastal Fire Road with northerly views up the coast, and of its long path to Muir Beach. Here the Coastal Trail drops steeply and ruggedly into a narrow ravine where a Pacific Coast Trail sign marks the unlabeled spur to Pirates Cove (2.32 miles : 145'). 

A clear path quickly fades into an improvised scramble down to Pirates Cove (2.38 miles). The cove is small, rocky, and tightly bound by outcrops on either side. Large sea stacks just offshore are pummeled by waves, misting much of the walkable area.

Exercise extreme caution maneuvering about, and never enter the water. Be mindful of tides, and keep an eye out for long recesses that may indicate the formation of a sneaker wave.

Facebook Comments

Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N37 51.623 W122 32.183 — 0.0 miles: Tennessee Valley Trailhead
  • N37 51.446 W122 32.346 — .25 miles: Haypress Camp Trail split
  • N37 51.377 W122 32.370 — .35 miles : Fox Trail split
  • N37 51.129 W122 32.314 — .65 miles : Chaparral Trail split
  • N37 50.967 W122 32.419 — .9 miles : Lower Tennessee Valley Trail split
  • N37 50.964  W122 32.726 — 1.2 miles: Coastal Trail split #1
  • N37 50.942 W122 32.755 — 1.25 miles : Tennessee Beach - Coastal Trail split #2
  • N37 50.996 W122 33.391 — 1.9 miles : Coastal Trail - Coastal Trail Fire Road spli
  • N37 51.134 W122 33.653 — 2.32 miles : Pirates Cove spur
  • N37 51.127 W122 33.714 — 2.38 miles : Pirates Cove

Worth Noting

  • There is little room for error at Pirates Cove. Do not enter the cove at high tide, or when seas exceed normal levels. Pirates Cove presents extremely hazardous surf, even under normal conditions.

  • Footing can be challenging on the oft-wet, muddy, and rutted Coastal Trail between The Coastal Fire Road split and Pirates Cove. Save this trail for clear, dry days to enjoy the views and avoid messy conditions.

  • A detour to Tennessee Beach dds only 1.2 miles and nominal elevation gain to the hike.

Camping and Backpacking Information

There are four campgrounds in the Marin Headlands. Reservations are required year-round:

Haypress Campground: 415.331.1540
Haypress Camp is located on the north side of Tennessee Valley, an easy .75 mile walk from the Tennessee Valley Trailhead. Haypress has five sites, each site accommodating up to four people. Groups may reserve the entire campground from November 1 to March 31. The rest of the year, a maximum of three sites may be reserved per group. Maximum stay is three nights per year. No water is available. No wood or charcoal fires allowed. No pets. No fees.

Bicentennial Campground: 415.331.1540
Bicentennial Campground is the most accessible campground in the Park, approximately 100 yards from the parking area near Battery Wallace. There are three sites, each accommodating up to three people with one tent. Water is available at the Visitor Center approximately one mile away. Campers may use BBQ grills in the nearby Battery Wallace picnic area. Maximum stay is three nights per year. There is no water available for drinking or cleaning. No fires allowed in the campground. No pets allowed. No fees.

Hawk Camp Campground: 415.331.1540
Hawk Camp is the most remote of GGNRA's campgrounds, located high above Gerbode Valley. There are three sites, each accommodating up to four people. The campground is accessible by a strenuous 3-mile hike up the Bobcat Trail from the Marin Headlands Visitor Center, or a 2-mile hike from the Tennessee Valley parking area. Groups may reserve the entire campground from November 1 to March 31. The rest of the year, only one site may be reserved. Maximum stay is three nights per year. Facilities: chemical toilets and picnic tables. There is no water available for drinking or cleaning. No wood or charcoal fires allowed, however gas camp stoves may be used. No pets allowed. No fees.

Kirby Cove Campground & Picnic Area: April 1 - October 31 : 1.877.444.6777
This popular, recently restored campground in the Marin Headlands features spectacular views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate from a wooded, secluded setting. Campsites are available for use only by prior reservation but anyone can walk down the road to enjoy the vistas and picnic on the bluffs or beach.

Rules and Regulations

  • Bikes are not permitted on this segment of the Coastal Trail.
  • Dogs are permitted on the Coastal Trail to Pirates Cove, but may not begin at Tennessee Valley. Dog owners can hike in from Muir Beach.


Directions to Trailhead

Tennessee Valley Trailhead is located 1.7 miles west of Highway 1 at the end of Tennessee Valley Road.

From Highway 101, take the Mill Valley / Stinson Beach / Hwy. 1 exit. Follow Shoreline Hwy to Tennessee Valley Road. Turn left and follow it 1.7 miles to the trailhead parking area.

Contact Information

Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Marin Headlands Visitor Center
Open All Year 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM (closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day)

The Marin Headlands Visitor Center is located in the historic Fort Barry Chapel, at the intersection of Field and Bunker Roads. The Visitor Center is approximately 3 miles from either entrance to the Marin Headlands.

Park Headquarters and Information Center, Fort Mason

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


No one has written any comments


Add Comment

Only used to identify you to ProTrails. Will not show on comments list.
Tell us when your experience with this trail happened.