Whether you’ve just moved to the city, or have called San Francisco home for years, stepping foot onto Marshall’s Beach is nothing short of magical.  How could a place like this be so close to the city? We’ve had the privilege of traveling to many places, and most city-dwellers across the United States would have to drive for hours to access a place like this. Within the bounds of a major city, the diversity of the terrain is unmatched in the entire country.  The experience starts with overlooks of the Marin Headlands and Golden Gate Bridge, continuing down a winding hike into a glistening beach.  Although living in San Francisco certainly has its downsides, this is not one of them. Located within the 1,400+ acres of the Presidio, Marshall’s Beach is the quintessential getaway for city life. Depending on where you live, you can access Marshall’s Beach at least weekly via a short car or bike ride. For those that live in Richmond, the Marina District or Pacific Heights, it’s entirely possible to visit Marshall’s Beach at least a couple times a week. From any of these areas, you can be at the starting point of the overlook area in under ten minutes in a car. If you prefer to be more active, invest in an e-bike, and enjoy the 25-30 minute ride through the beautiful Presidio. Living in San Francisco can be notoriously taxing, especially those in tech. Long hours necessitate proper rhythms of rest. As one of the most visually stunning places in the entire country, Marshall’s Beach regularly is capable of providing that much-needed reprieve and restoring a sense of balance in our lives.  The best part? It’s very quiet, setting the stage for wonder, introspection and reflection. Let's explore each aspect of the area a little bit deeper to see what it has to offer.


There are multiple overlooks that lead down to Marshall’s Beach, including Immigrant Point Overlook to the south-end and the Golden Gate Overlook on the north-end. The beautiful part about this area is that if you do not want to hike down to the beach, you don’t have to. Your experience could simply be to bike or drive here at sunset multiple times a week, before heading home. At both viewpoints, the Golden Gate Bridge provides a stunning backdrop in the distance. Naturally, the Golden Gate Overlook tends to be a bit more crowded, especially around peak times. If you’re an early morning person, bring a journal and reflect while sitting on the ledge at the Immigrant Point Overlook. You might find this to be a great rhythm to build before heading off to work. You can also walk slightly into the Batteries to Bluffs Trail and find a spot to sit down Let the fresh air of the Bay hit your face and breathe in gratitude, as you remind yourself that you get to live in a city that has a place and a view like this.



As you start your descent into the Batteries to Bluffs Trail, it’s nothing short of breathtaking. The beginning of the trail starts as a wide expanse with a panoramic view of the Marin Headlands. The hike is fairly easy for just about anyone, and stretches as a 2.3 mile loop. There are endless places to stop and reflect, all with equally stunning views. As one local puts it,This feels like you’re away from civilization while being super close to SF”. If you like to be active, the hike itself is a wonderful way to incorporate that into your weekly routine.  Another local said that the trial featured, “some of the most amazing seaside views I’ve seen in California.” On a sunny, clear day, there are few things like it. In the fall and winter months, make sure you wear layers, as it can get windy and cold. But as long as you’re bundled up, it won’t take away from the beauty and experience.



If the overlooks and hike didn’t provide enough beauty, just wait until you get to the beach. As you draw closer to the Golden Gate Bridge, the rock formations are quite exotic. The beach itself is heavily secluded, and truly feels like a secret getaway within a giant metropolis.  One person who was visiting for the first time said that, “I had heard pretty classic things about the views of the Golden Gate bridge, the coastline, and the views of the ocean from Marshall's Beach, but I still was completely blown away by my experience of watching the sunset over the ocean here. I have done a large amount of traveling in my life but watching the sunset from this beach was without a doubt one of the most beautiful things I have seen..” The only caveat to Marshall’s Beach is that clothing is optional at the farthest point past the rocks. So you might see some funky things, but this is not a given. Many people don’t fully take off their clothes, but just use the area for sunbathing.




The common thread between all of these spots within the Presidio is that they are lightly trafficked and off-the-beaten-path, providing an oasis from city life. They provide the ideal environment to reflect, contemplate and be present with ourselves. As we previously discussed in our intro to San Francisco getaways, science has shown that getting at least two hours each week in green spaces is essential to our well-being. Concluding a remarkable report from Yale, we’re left with this telling statement: “the studies point in one direction: Nature is not only nice to have, but it’s a have-to-have for physical health and cognitive function.” Perhaps no one understood these rhythms better than Jesus, who we find often getting away into the wilderness, before returning back to engage the culture around him. He modeled what would later be known as silence and solitude. When we’re out in nature and captivated by its beauty, it often produces a wonder and heightened awareness of the world around us. How could such a beautiful place exist? That wonder can lead to an awareness of the One who created all the transcendent beauty that surrounds us. And here’s the transformative part — we can allow that awareness to drive us into connection with God. For Jesus, this is what getting away was all about. Being out in nature was about who he connected with whilst he was out there. When we encounter God in these environments of refreshment, we are able to acquire the strength and perspective we need to go back out into the world. We need this to love other people well. To create the change we long to see. To become the truest and best version of ourselves. These rhythms are essential for our well-being. As we see from the science, they are built into the very fabric of our existence. We benefit spiritually, mentally and physically from these environments of refreshment. For much of human history, these were our natural habitats. You could argue that the construction of modern city life is unnatural in this sense, as the constant busyness and distraction prevents us from getting perspective and moments of reflection. So especially living in San Francisco, modeling this “in-and-out lifestyle” will help us thrive amidst the weariness of 24/7 connectedness and hustle culture. We’ll leave you with a few practical tips before you wander into the Marshall’s Beach, which include:

1) Pick a time & place

Scheduling time to get away is essential. The busy life of San Francisco increases the need for intentionality. So consider where you will regularly visit Marshall’s Beach and when it's practical to do that. Is it before work in the morning? Is it midday during lunch? Which part of the area is most accessible to you – the overlooks, the hike or the beach? Or is it all of it? These are important questions for planning.

2) Start small & build

When it comes to getting away, success is in merely doing it, nothing more. If you’re making the effort to get away regularly, you’ve already hit the goal. But remember, habits are formed by starting small. Rather than saying we’re going to visit Marshall’s Beach for 90 minutes multiple times a week, try retreating for 30 minutes at least once a week. If you get in a rhythm doing that, maybe increase that to 2-3 times a week. And so forth.

3) Put your phone on silent

Smartphones breed distraction and will pull you away from being present in the moment. So while you might use your smartphone to navigate to some of these locations initially, try putting your phone on silent and resisting the urge to pull it out once you get there. Build up your tolerance over time.

4) Consider your wiring

The diversity of the landscape within the Presidio, and specifically the Marshall’s Beach area, makes this accessible for anyone. Whether you want to sit, be active, walk on a bike or through a winding hike, it has it all.

5) Bring a blanket or hammock

Specifically on the beach, consider bringing a blanket to sit, relax or lay down. And for maximum comfort, make sure to bundle up, especially if it is the colder months!

6) Bring a journal

Fight against the urge to stuff away your thoughts by actively processing them through this form of feeling prayer. How are you feeling? Why are you feeling that way? Name the emotions coming up - envy, greed, sadness, grief, etc. Like Jesus, our emotions are a place to meet with God.

7) Contemplate scripture

This ancient practice, called Lectio Divina, involves picking a small passage to meditate on. Even if you haven’t read scripture in ages, this could be as small as a Psalm, a Proverb or the words of Jesus in the gospels. Let’s say a verse comes up about humility or loving your neighbor, we then pray for a greater understanding of how to model that in our lives. See what comes to mind. You can pick up a copy of the new Passion Translation here.

8) Practice gratitude

Gratitude is hard for us. Sometimes it feels like we suffer from chronic short-term memory loss, only able to see what we don't have or how our circumstances are less than ideal. And while there might be truth in that, this perspective causes us to miss the precious things of life that are sitting right in front of us each and every day. Take some time to write down prayers of gratitude, even for the smallest of things. For example, simply living in a place like this, where you can see this view.

9) Be silent

The Marshall’s Beach area is so beautiful and diverse, that some days you might find yourself just wanting to be silent. Embrace this. Walk down the hike. Listen to the sounds around you. The birds. The breeze. The water, if you’re at the ocean.

Being able to regularly visit a place like this is nothing short of incredible. But depending on where you live in relation to Marshall’s Beach, what time you start work and your family dynamic, it may not be possible to develop these rhythms regularly. There are also the added variables of travel times for someone to get from a place like the Mission District to Marshall’s Beach. This may not be realistic to do all the time, so it’s important to highlight that you don't need to be in these spaces to enter a place of contemplation and meet with God. They are simply beautiful conduits that provide distraction-free zones that provide an ideal space to get away from the crowds, as Jesus did. So maybe this means you retreat to Marshall’s Beach once or twice a week, reaching the two hours needed (or beyond) in green spaces in a more condensed time period. And for the other days, you start developing these rhythms in a quiet space in your apartment. This might look different for each of us, but it’s essential that all of us create space to get away. It’s nourishment for the soul. Whatever you decide to do with your time, consider the opportunity to start today. Retreat from the taxing nature of city life, opting to get away into the beautiful oasis that is Marshall’s Beach.


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