This section of the Coastal Trail begins not to far from Marin Mammals Center at Rodeo Beach, a unique beach with red and green pebbly chert grains. You'll quickly note the dilapidated military structures that are visible in the distance; in contrast to Rodeo Beach's Fort Barry and Fort Cronkhite, both of which serve as National Park Service facilities, all of the batteries and small gun emplacements on the ridge are empty and abandoned, their walls covered by graffiti.
The trail rises and falls consistently over coastal topography, and if you complete this section as a there-and-back hike, your total elevation gain will be something close to 3,500 feet. As you spend the day working through the trail's undulations, however, views of the ocean and the lush valley floor provide constant motivation. There are also quite a lot of junctions in this route, so be sure to follow the trail signs.
The trail spends quite some time on the ridge as it leads to the Wolf Ridge Trail at the Hill 88, where you'll have a spectacular view of the entire Golden Gate National Recreation Area. From this intersection, the trail drops down to Tennessee Valley and merges with Tennessee Valley Trail. It then winds around and narrows to singletrack before intersecting with the Pacific Coast Trail. The sign marks an unlabeled spur to Pirates Cove; if you take the side trip to this small beach by the cove, use extreme caution. There isn't any clear trail, and the scramble gets exposed at times. From the junction with Pirate's Cove, the trail ascends back to the ridge and continues toward Muir Beach, a favorite spot with locals. The ridge above Muir Beach is a great spot for whale watching during migrations, and you should also watch for monarch butterfly rabbles in the fall.
When the weather is clear, the views from the trail are magnificent, as the coastline drops precipitously into the seemingly endless Pacific. Rolling fog is very common, however, and on these days the trail becomes a more intimate and mystical experience. Regardless, the trail is a quintessential way to experience an outstanding section of California's coast.