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Hawk Hill: bike into our Cold War past

Test launch of Zeus missile

Time was, we were afraid of bombers from the east — hulking Tupolev prop-planes crossing the Pacific with nukes nestled in their bellies.

So Fortress America dotted San Francisco’s hilltops with Nike missiles and radar outposts.

Of course, those missiles were never fired — but you can still visit the rusted remnants of their vigilance if you head up to the SF-87C radar outpost, the best-kept secret of the Marin Headlands coastline.

Perched atop Hawk Hill, this easy-to-miss treasure once acted as the eyes and ears of Fort Cronkhite.

The radar gear is gone, now, but what's left (besides some concrete footers and a WWII gun battery) is the most impeccable, tourist-free view of the city (or, you know, fog) available. And it's all yours.


Getting there’s a snap. Take the four-mile bike ride across the bridge and up the switchbacked hillside. Here’s your route.

Lock up and go on foot through a concrete tunnel beneath the site (complete with a Lascaux-inspired cave painting).


Continue along a short trail, up a flight of wooden stairs, and you’ve arrived.

And seriously: the place is empty.

The countless bridge views along the way snag the crowds of would-be photogs before they make it up this high.

It’s just you, the wind and a concrete sense of the not-too-distant past. Watch the sky and keep an ear out for incoming bogeys.

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