8 mile loop, 1,140 ft. elevation change
Marin County: near the coast, just west of Muir Woods. The route travels through parts of Muir Woods National Monument, Mt. Tamalpais State Park and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Poison oak and ticks. Can be cold and windy if foggy. The Redwood Creek Trail portion of this hike can be extremely muddy during the rainy season. Although this route is straight forward, this hike leader always recommends a good trail map to avoid any confusion. Trails of Mt. Tamalpais, Muir Woods and the Marin Headlands, by The Olmstead & Bros. Map Co., 10th Edition, is available at North Bay REIs and other sporting goods stores in the area.
How to get there:
The trailhead is at the beginning of the Deer Park Fire Road on the north side of Muir Woods Road. To reach this location from Hwy. 101 in Marin: take the Hwy. 1 North/Stinson Beach Exit in Mill Valley. Follow Hwy. 1, also signed as Shoreline Highway, north. Continue on this windy road over the ridge to Muir Beach. Shortly after the junction with the Muir Beach entrance and the Pelican Inn, on your left, Hwy. 1 makes a sharp left turn. Leave Hwy. 1 at this turn, straight ahead, on Muir Woods Road. Continue, approximately 1 mile to a dirt pull off and parking area on the right. You will see the gated entrance to the Deer Park Fire Road just ahead on the left (north) side of the road. If you reach the Muir Woods parking area and Park entrance you have gone about a mile too far.
This scenic hike offers an old growth Redwood forest, open ocean views, and a pleasant stroll along a salmon spawning stream.
Our route follows the Deer Park Fire Road, and the Dipsea Trail as it criss-crosses the fire road up the ridge. The Dipsea Race, run on this trail every June is a grueling race of 7 ¼ miles between Mill Valley and Stinson Beach. It has been run for over a hundred years and is the second oldest foot race in the U.S. After 2 miles, both trails reach the top of the ridge at Cardiac Hill. From here there are marvelous views in all directions of Mt. Tamalpais, Mt. Diablo, San Francisco Bay, San Francisco, the Marin Headlands, the San Mateo County Coats, and of course, the ocean.
Walk south from here towards San Francisco, and within 0.1 mile you will encounter the signed beginning of the new Coastal Trail. This delightful, multi-use trail meanders downhill towards Muir Beach through low coastal scrub, and offers superb views of the coast. A picnic table, a mile down, provides a nice lunch spot. After 1.8 miles, leave the Coastal Trail and follow the Heather Cutoff trail to the left. This well constructed trail takes you down to Frank?s Valley in 1.2 miles. Once at the bottom, you will find yourself in a large grassy area without much of a trail. Walk through the grass to the right and around a large corral. Continue across the valley to the south, past some funky looking wooden stalls used for outdoor events. Ahead you will see a foot bridge which crosses Redwood Creek. Cross the creek and walk up a short gravel driveway to Muir Woods Road.
Cross the road and follow the Redwood Creek Trail entrance. In a few feet, at a trail junction, take the Redwood Creek trail to the left (east) and enjoy a cool, shaded walk along Redwood Creek back to your car. Redwood Creek originates on Mt. Tamalpais and runs through Muir Woods on its way to Muir Beach. It is the most southern salmon and steelhead spawning stream in the states. At 1.5 miles at a junction with the Miwok Trail continue left on the Redwood Creek Trail. In another 0.4 miles you will emerge on Muir Woods Road and your car.
Paul McKown is an avid hiker and has lived in Marin County for forty years. Paul leads hikes in Marin for Coastwalk, the Sierra Club and the California Alpine Club. He also leads domestic and international outings for the Sierra Club.