If you drive across the Golden Gate Bridge and leave the city in your review mirror, you’ll come across Muir Woods. It’s home to tall damp trees, slow moving rivers, and quite possibly Elves from The Lord of the Rings (or at least, that’s how it feels). Not too far from this beautiful National Monument, you can find Muir Woods’ younger sibling, Muir Beach. It’s just as mesmerizing and half as crowded.
Before you take the plunge into the mystic forest, you should grab some breakfast. Stop by the Mill Valley Coffee Shop, and get a nice homey meal. Order some waffles and hash browns and a cup of coffee, and you will be in heaven.
Mill Valley Coffee Shop, 4 Locust Ave, Mill Valley, CA, USA +1 (415) 388-6958
The drive into Muir Woods is filled with curvy roads and steep hills. Roll down your windows and enjoy the mountain air. It’s only a short drive from the bustling streets of San Francisco, but it feels like a different world.
When you enter the park, you won’t have too many trails to pick from, but the ones available will be more than enough. You can walk through the gates and stick to the casual path — this is the Main Trail Loop, and it’s perfect for beginners. On this roughly one to two-mile loop, you will see plenty of nature. If you’re yearning for a little more, continue onto Cathedral Grove and then work your way to the Hillside Trail. This will lead you uphill on a dirt path, giving you a more level view amongst the trees. It’s a humbling and painful experience to work your way up a steep slope and suddenly find yourself almost halfway up these redwoods!
If you want something a little more challenging, check out the Bootjack Trail. This leads to Ben Johnson Trail Loop and is about a six mile walk. It’ll probably take you half the day, but if you’ve got the time and the energy, then why not? This trail follows Redwood Creek and then opens up to Van Wyck Meadow, a historic gathering site.
After some walking around, you can head down into the Muir Woods Café and Gift Shop. Refill your coffee and take a look at all of your great photos from the day. That’s the wonderful thing about Muir Woods — it turns everyone into a world class photographer.
Muir Woods Café and Gift Shop, 1 Muir Woods Rd, Mill Valley, CA, USA, +1 (415) 388-7059
If you took the shorter loop and feel like checking out some more nature, go on the Canopy View Trail, which leads into the Lost Trail and Fern Creek. It’s about a three mile walk and will most likely take you two hours. It’s a friendly uphill hike and is not too steep for beginners. The Lost Trail earned its name from a 1930s landslide.
If you’re feeling up for one last hike, you can go to the Redwood Creek Trail. This will take you to Muir Beach, and it’s about three miles in total. This trail follows the Pacific Coast Highway, so you will most definitely have a great view. If you’re not feeling another hike, go enjoy Muir Beach.
Muir Beach is a special cove of sandy goodness. It’s not massive, but it’s not too small either – it’s just perfect. Grab a few chairs, and bury their legs in the sand. The best thing about this beach, besides the lack of people, is the undisturbed view of the Pacific Ocean. If you’ve still got some energy, walk the beach and head to the rocky sides. On the far right of the beach (right, if you’re facing the ocean) there are perfect little spots to climb around and explore.
If for some reason the ocean gets a little boring (though it likely won’t), turn around, look at the homes that fill the hillside, and think about how lucky you are to be in the presence of all of this beauty. If it’s a little early and you feel like doing some more, head into the city and check out Pacific Heights and other lively areas within the city. If this day didn’t quench your thirst for nature, check out Yosemite next weekend, and plan your day with articles like How To Spend 24 Hours In Yosemite National Park and Hikes And Bites: Yosemite National Park.
Yosemite National Park, CA, USA +1 (209) 372-0200
Muir Woods National Monument, 1 Muir Woods Rd, Mill Valley, CA, USA +1 (415) 388-2525
By Josh Bahns
College has taken up lots of my time, but I don’t let it get in the way of my erratic eating schedule and three-movies-a-day quota. I’m born and raised in the Bay Area, and it still hasn’t left me bored. Either I’m just a dull person, or maybe the Bay Area is just an extraordinary place to be.