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Tennessee Valley is a glen of green among rolling hills, with a stream that trickles with water toward the sea.
Where it meets the blue waves is a dark-sand beach cradled by golden cliffs, one of which has a natural window through to the sky.
A wide and mostly flat dirt path leads through the valley, making this sheltered cove accessible to a wide range of hikers, including families.
Dogs are not allowed on the trail, however. Tennessee Valley is known for its diversity of plants and animals.
The stream flows most of the year, nourishing many types of trees that grow taller here than elsewhere on the Marin Headlands coast.
The valley is especially verdant in spring and colored with wildflowers like blue lupines, orange monkey flowers, and yellow poppies.
Summer brings drier air and golden grasses, but the trees and shrubs remain quite green until winter. You may spot many kinds of birds including hawks and eagles.
You might also see rabbits, deer, and coyotes.
Near the mouth of the valley is a wetland and pond where you can find waterfowl and seabirds, sometimes in large numbers. Low tide is the best time to explore the beach, so time your hike accordingly.
When the water is out, you can see the engine of the wrecked ship—The SS Tennessee—for which the cove is named.
You can also walk along the sand to explore more cliffs and alcoves along the shore, just be careful that you don’t get cut off by the rising tide. There are plenty of opportunities for longer hikes as well.
Coastal Trail, Fox Trail, Chaparral Trail, and others climb out of the valley to elevated views over the hills and ocean.
Look for signed junctions along Tennessee Valley Trail to access these side hikes. Sources: https://www.nps.gov/goga/planyourvisit/tennessee_valley.htm https://www.nps.gov/goga/planyourvisit/upload/map_MAHE_150429web.pdf