Alcatraz Island - Agave Trail, Alcatraz Island, San Francisco: Marin Headlands - Mt Tamalpais - Point Reyes, California

Alcatraz Island - Agave Trail - 0.25 miles

Alcatraz Island

Agave plants on Alcatraz Island

Agave plants on Alcatraz Island

Round-Trip Length: 0.25 miles
Start-End Elevation: 85' - 10'
Elevation Change: -75' net elevation loss
Skill Level: Easy
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Alcatraz Island - Agave Trail - 0.25 Miles Round-Trip

The Agave Trail on Alcatraz Island was constructed in 1994 to provide insight to the little known flora and fauna on The Rock. Agave was originally planted on Alcatraz to prevent erosion, beautify the landscape and discourage prisoners from esacaping. With its thick, sharp edges, the Agave plant provided a fine natural deterrent.

The trail descends from the island's south end on stone stairs towards the bay. Agave plants line the way down with excellent views of San Francisco.

From the bottom of the stairs, the trail turns left and navigates the coast of Alcatraz Island back to the main dock where the trail ends. Look for tide pools numerour species of birds. During the summer, over 1500 nests can be found throughout Alcatraz.


In 1850 Alcatraz was declared a military reservation by President Millard Fillmore, and by 1859 troops were permanently garrisoned at the post on Alcatraces for the defense of the Bay Area.

Alcatraz is most famous for the 29 years (1934-1963) it operated as a U.S. penitentiary.

In 1964 and again in 1969 American Indians - many whose tribes were no longer recognized by federal policy, laid claim to Alcatraz Island.

Their 18 month occupation would cause a great change in federal policy towards American Indians that would save the tribes. Every year thousands of American Indians return to Alcatraz Island to honor the veterans of the 1969 occupation by Indians of All Tribes and to continue their political struggle for self determination.

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Worth Noting

  • This is a seasonal trail, open only from mid-September to January.

  • The price of your ticket to Alcatraz includes the cellhouse audio tour, which is available in English, German, French, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin and Dutch. If you do not wish to do the audio tour you can receive a refund by contacting a supervisor in the cellhouse bookstore.

  • The Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon is held each summer and features a 1.5 mile swim from Alcatraz Island to the shore, a difficult 18-mile bike race, and a tough 8-mile run through the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Over 2000 athletes compete each year.

  • The weather on Alcatraz can be some what unpredictable and can change quickly - it may be warm and sunny in the city and very windy and cool on the island. Summer days can sometimes be as cool as winter due to thick fog and strong winds. Dressing in layers is recommended.

  • Visitors unable to make the climb up Alcatraz's steep road due to mobility needs can take advantage of SEAT--Sustainable Easy Access Transport--an electric shuttle that runs twice an hour from the dock to the prison building, and twice an hour from the prison to the dock. The tram can not stop on the hill, boarding is only at the dock and the cellhouse. Boarding is available on a first come, first served basis. SEAT can accommodate wheelchair users. Only those individuals with mobility or physical needs may ride the shuttle - other members of your party cannot be accommodated except an attendant.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Overnight at Alcatraz: The Alcatraz Work Service Project/Overnight Program is truly a unique experience. Groups travel by ferry to Alcatraz on a Saturday afternoon to perform a 1-2 hour work project, such as vegetation management or cellhouse maintenance. After the work project, groups receive a guided tour by a Park Ranger. At night you may cook dinner over a barbecue provided to you on the island. At the end of the evening, groups retire to their individual cells in the D-Block.

Due to high demand groups are randomly selected by a lottery system. Each year applications are accepted only between November 1-30 for dates scheduled for the following year. Please only submit one application for your group; duplicate applications and those submitted outside of the month of November will be discarded.

For information about the Alcatraz Group Overnight program or obtaining a permit for holding a special event, commercial photography, or commercial filming on Alcatraz please contact the Golden Gate National Recreation Area's office of Special Park Uses Group at 415-561-4302.

Fishing Information

  • There is no fishing on the Agave Trail.

Rules and Regulations

  • No picking of plants and flowers allowed.

  • Leave rocks and artifacts in place.

  • Bags are subject to search going in and out of Alcatraz.

Directions to Trailhead

Access to Alcatraz Island is by ferry service operated by Alcatraz Cruises, LLC, a concession of the National Park Service. No private craft can dock at Alcatraz Island.

There is no separate entrance fee for the island - park passes do not apply to the charge for the ferry service.

To purchase tickets in advance (strongly recommended as Alcatraz frequently sells out) contact Alcatraz Cruises, their website is The Alcatraz ferry departs from Pier 33, located on The Embarcadero near the intersection of Bay Street.

Once on Alcatraz, follow signs to the Agave Trail.

As mentioned, the only way to get to Alcatraz is by a ferry operated by Alcatraz Cruises, LLC. They are located on The Embarcadero near the intersection of Bay Street - just a bit south east of Fisherman's Wharf. There is no parking at Pier 33.

On street parking in the area can be difficult to find, especially during peak summer visitation season, and nearly every street space has a parking meter with a time limit insufficient for an Alcatraz visit. An "Accessibility Drop Off Zone" is located at the entrance to Alcatraz Cruises - Pier 33 for visitors with special needs arriving by automobile.

There are fifteen commercial lots within a five-block radius of the Alcatraz Cruises - Pier 33, with a total of more than 3000 parking spaces. However we recommend public transportation if at all possible. Be aware that prices for parking in this area can vary greatly, as little as $8-10 for all day, to as high as $6 an hour. As a visit to Alcatraz can easily take 2 to 3 hours (or more) it can be worth while to shop around for parking. It is even better to take public transportation when possible.

When in San Francisco public transportation is the best way to get around. The Muni F Line runs along Market Street (east) then turns north on The Embarcadero, and runs right past the ferry terminal (on your right) and then on through Fisherman's Wharf. For detailed information on mass transit in San Francisco please visit the San Francisco Municipal Railway web site.

Contact Information

Alcatraz Island
National Park Service
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Fort Mason, B201
San Francisco, CA 94123

Ticket Information:

The hours of operation vary with the season - departures are available about every half hour throughout the day beginning at 9:00am. Evening tours and combined Angel Island - Alcatraz Island tours are also available depending on the season. Alcatraz is open every day except Christmas and New Year's day. Alcatraz frequently sells out in advance, as much as a week or more in advance in summer and near holidays.

The price includes the cellhouse audio tour, which is available in English, German, French, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin and Dutch. If you do not wish to do the audio tour you can receive a refund by contacting a supervisor in the cellhouse bookstore.

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