There are about 7 famous San Francisco swings around the city. On top of hills overlooking the skyline, one even across the Bay in Tiburon and of course, the famous Kirby Cove Swing! This swing is on a hidden beach overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco skyline.
After seeing this swing on Instagram for years, I finally grabbed my husband on a sunny day and headed to the Marin Headlands to seek out the swing. Keep reading for my directions on how to find the Kirby Cove swing (a step by step guide!)
Ok, so you’re probably wondering: is the Kirby Cove swing still there? As of May 2019 it is cut down but I keep seeing people randomly posting on Instagram from time to time, so I know it gets put back up. Seriously, all the rope swings around the city are always getting cut down and put back up again. It’s like a 50/50 chance the swing you’re looking for will be there when you visit.
We tried to find the Billy Goat Hill swing and it was gone, but then we found the Potrero Hill swing was still up. Even if the Kirby Cove swing is cut down, this hike is so dang beautiful, it’s always worth it to go!
Alrighty, now my disclaimer is out of the way, here’s how to get to Kirby Cove, where to park, the trail to take and other tips for finding the beach.
How To Find The Kirby Cove Swing (Step By Step Guide!)
Parking near Golden Gate Bridge up at Battery Spencer just recently changed, and for the better! It used to be a shitshow (pardon my language but that’s the only way to describe the chaos up there.) There are only a couple of small parking lots along Conzelman Road that could fit about 9-10 cars each. You weren’t allowed to park on the road it’self so as you can imagine, if more than ~20 people visited this San Francisco Bay look out at the same time, many of them wouldn’t have a place to park and because there’s always more than 20 people pining to take photos fo the bridge at any given time… thus, the shitshow.
BUT, as of January 2019, this area has undergone some parking changes that have been so wonderful. A portion of Conzelman Road has been turned into a one way. You now have to drive a bit further into the Marin Headlands and drive down to the lookout points from the top of the hill. The left lane is for driving and the rigth is for parking! BOOM, so many more places to park.
Which that change in mind, here’s how you now get to vista point to park.
Step One – Alexander Ave Exit
When you are coming from San Francisco, drive over and take the second exit called Alexander Ave. DO NOT take the first left turn – this is the old way of getting to the parking lot but it has changed. Take the second left at Bunker Road. You will go under a one-way tunnel. At about this point your cell service will go out for a bit, so make sure to have your map or this blog post saved so you can still navigate.
Keep driving until you reach McCullough Road and take a left. This road takes you to the top of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area hill and you’ll find a roundabout. This is where Conzelman Road starts as a one-way lane. Once you start driving it, if you need to go back for any reason, you’ll have to go all the way around again.
This is also the only place there’s a bathroom, so if you gotta go, pull out and use it now!
Step Two – Finding Parking
I recommend that you drive as close to Battery Spencer as you can. This is the parking lot close to the North Golden Gate Bridge tower and probably the most crowded. (Remember – you can’t turn around on the new one lane, so keep that in mind when finding a parking spot! Don’t drive too far and screw yourself over.)
As we chatted about, it’s now perfectly fine to park along the road as long as you are in the right lane and between the signs that say “Parking.” This is not a National Park, so there is no entrance fee and it’s free to park!
If you wanted to swing by Golden Gate Bridge overlook for photos, now’s your chance! Walk up the stairs to snap a photo of the sweeping views of the Bay Area and the bridge before you start your Kirby cove hike! You can do this after, too, but you may be all sweaty and tired, so best to do this first.
Step Three – Hike Down Kirby Cove Road
By the emergy call box at Battery Spencer, you’ll find a paved road that probably has a gate across it. This is Kirby Cove Road and the trailhead! If you parked higher up the hill, you’ll need to walk down to this point.
I’ve never seen this gate open up. You are only allowed to drive down this road if you have a Kirby Cove Campground permit for the night. Don’t be tempted to drive down this road unless you can camping. You’ll have to hike! It’s not too bad, don’t worry. This road is paved all the way down to the campground. It’s about a 3-mile roundtrip hike and very easy for all ages as the road is paved, not a dirt road, and it’s a slow decline down. The only hard part is hiking back up!
The road winds around the hills. A the start, you get sweeping views of the Bay and the water below. Towards the end the trail leads into a forest cover. It’s really pretty. The road ends at the Kirby Cove camping parking lot and campground. There are bathrooms here if you need them (bring hand sanitizer, though!)
Step Four – Kirby Cove Beach + Swing
Walk through the campground, past the old Battery Kirby and to Kirby Beach! Make sure to look up high tide and low tide hours for the season you are visiting and try to hike down during low tide as it’ll be hard to walk on the beach otherwise.
So, now it’s time to look for the swing! We actually found old ropes at two different spots, so we think there have been multiple swings in multiple areas at one point. The classic beach swing is to the left of the beach / the Golden Gate Bridge side. The other Kirby Cove swing has also been to the right up the stairs and at the top of the small lookout point. It’s worth to check each location in case one is still up!
If the Kirby Cove Swing isn’t cut down, do a little party dance and celebrate before snapping those Instagram photos! If it is cut down, I think you’ll still fall in love with this peaceful little beach and the views of San Francisco. Plus, exercise aimeeright?
Step Five – Battery Wagner / Hike Back Up
Once you’re done hanging out at the beach, it’s time to hike back up! As you probably figured out on the way down, it’s not hard, its just annoying because it’s a slight incline all the way up. It’s a slow burn but should only take you about 30 minutes. Not too shabby!
On your way back up, I highly recommend you make a pit stop at Battery Wagner, about halfway up the hill (you’ll see a little sign for the trial!) It’s just a .1 mile addition to your hike back up and the view is stunning. I love how there are so many old Battery points around the Bay Area. They all used to be functional but have long since been abandoned. Many of them, especailly Battery Wagner, are covered in graffiti and trash.
On the risk of sounding dramatic, Battery Wagner really creeped me out. It had tons of bad juju vibes BUT the view from the top of it has lead to one of my favorite photos of the bridge that we’ve taken. I love how there’s like, nobody else here to compete with, unlike Battery Spencer where you have to take photos clever to not get other people in them. Anyways, the bottom of this battery is creepy AF and Iw old not want to visit here at night because it low-key feels like you’re going to be murdered. But the top is really nice. Just walk quickly on by the bottom?
Kirby Cove weather can be all over the place. The Bay Area as a whole is all over the place. When you are trying to figure out what to wear to your hike, first check out this post all about what to wear for each season of San Francisco. I break down exactly what you should pack and wear in the city based on what month you are visiting!
This hike isn’t that intense, so you don’t need to be wearing workout clothes to do this. That being said, on top of preparing for our standard weather, it’s a good idea to bring a warm jacket for this hike as it can get very windy and chilly at the top of the National Recreation Area hill. You should also bring sturdy shoes to wear down and of course, a large water bottle since there are no places to refill. If it’s a clear day, make sure to wear sunscreen (I got sunburnt!)
If you are looking for other swings, there is the Billy Goat Hill swing, but that’s almost always cut down. There’s one in Bernal Heights that follower have told me is still up (I have yet to visit this one) and there’s a swing in Potrarey Hill (pictured here) that’s currently up. I also know of a rope swing in Tiburon. I’ve heard whispers of even more swings around the city and I think at one point there has been 7 rope swing spots. If you find others, please let me know!
If you’re craving more fun views of the Golden Gate Bridge after your Kirby Cove hike, you can head to Hawk Hill or even the Point Bonita Lighthouse (the later is only open Sundays and Mondays between 12pm-3pm. Learn more here.) I also really love the view of the Bay from Crissy Field on the city side. I love walking the trails by the ocean, watching dogs play in the grass and of course, visit Fort Point.
Fort Point is really cool. You can park right by it as there’s a large lot with parking spots almost always available. It’s free to enter and they have a small museum, but it’s really cool to just walk around. It’s basically a castle and there are so many winding staircases and dark corners. You can walk to the rooftop and stand directly under the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s SO big!! IT’s always really windy up on this rooftop so be prepared for chilly, strong winds.
I also really adore Battery Cranston (yes, another battery! I told you they are everywhere in this city!) This one is on the West Side of the bridge and there is free parking. There’s a trail that leads pretty close to the bridge, it’s basically the same view as Battery Spencer but from the other side. It’s stunning to visit at golden hour in the evening.
If you were interested in even more hiking, you can also do the Marshall Beach hike! This is one of my favorite hikes in the city because the trail down is full of wildflowers. This one is harder than the Kirby Cove hike as it’s a thin dirt trail and like a shit ton of steps. But you are rewarded with a near-empty beach at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge!
I hope this blog posts help you find the Kirby Cove swing – I’m crossing my fingers for you that it’s still there! Even if it’s not, it’s still worth the hike and there are so many other stunning hikes and lookout points to see the bridge.
If you go to Kirby Cove and the swing is there, PLEASE let me know! Leave a comment below so everyone can be updated but also please send me a DM on Instagram @thewhimsysoul so I can update this post! Thank you and good luck!