A Weekend in the (Muir) Woods
In October, Justin and I headed to the San Francisco area for a quiet, quick weekend away to celebrate our anniversary.
While the weekend got off to a rough start (read: a 7 hour plane delay resulting in missing one full day), the trip ended up being pretty magical.
After being trapped in San Diego’s airport nearly all of Friday, we finally boarded a flight to SFO - arriving in the Bay Area right at prime rush hour time. We hopped into our rental car and set off to make the most of the evening. In order to avoid the heavy traffic, Google Maps diverted us through dozens of side streets throughout the city, which made for a beautiful drive. While I still have no idea what area of the city we meandered through, we drove among tree-lined streets filled with mansions, lit by golden hour sunshine. It was beautiful - and felt like a totally different world within San Francisco.
We finally arrived at our quaint Airbnb in Mill Valley about an hour and a half later. The Airbnb was tucked away on a neighborhood side street so it felt private, despite being part of a duplex. The entire home was spacious, and my favorite part was the view from the bed: floor-to-ceiling windows overlooked a lush, green garden.
We didn’t have time to embark on any of the hikes we planned on since it was quickly approaching sunset, so we opted to make our way back toward the city to Battery Spencer to get a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. I’ll be honest: I do not like San Francisco. It’s a bit too crowded and packed together and fills me with anxiety (and it’s always deceivingly cold!). However, this view alone may have changed my mind on the city. It was insanely beautiful; fog creeped along the bridge, birds soared through the clouds and the sunset lit everything up. When the city lights started to turn on after the sunset, the whole skyline seemed to sparkle.
Eventually (and predictably), I was a bit cold, so we headed back to the Mill Valley area to settle in for the night and plan the next day. We made DIY pizzas, read and watched the World Series back at the Airbnb. It was a cozy night in.
The next morning, we woke up on a mission - but of course, made breakfast and got coffee first. Per my dear friend Gina’s suggestion, we headed to Equator Coffee and Teas. 10/10 recommend: the coffee was tasty and the whole space was neat (it was shared with a surf shack).
We hadn’t planned ahead too far, so we weren’t able to secure a parking pass to Muir Woods National Monument (as of last year, parking reservations are required).
So, per Justin’s suggestion, we figured out our own self-hack that let us explore the Muir Woods area without parking. We took the Dipsea Trail backwards, starting at Stinson Beach (about 30 minutes away) and hiked into the national park. Looking back, I’m happy we opted to start at Stinson Beach because the drive to get there was incredibly beautiful, and we would have missed that! We wound through groves of redwoods, lush forests and gorgeous cliffs and vistas overlooking the Pacific.
Dipsea Trail is a difficult, 10-mile trail marked by a 3K elevation gain and hundreds of stairs. I truly didn’t even mind the pain of the incline because the scenery was so gorgeous. We traversed through so many areas of terrain - all beautiful in their own way. Everything was quiet and so lush!
We eventually made it to Muir Woods National Monument, where we paid our national parks fee (support this, guys!) and entered into the main park. It was a bit crowded, but still early enough that paths weren’t blocked.
After taking some time to eat the lunch we brought along, we hiked two separate and beautiful trails in the park - Redwood Creek and Fern Canyon Trail - before embarking on the way back to Stinson Beach via Dipsea Trail. When we arrived at our car, we decided to drive through the small beachy town and dip our feet in the icy Pacific. Yet again, we made our back to the Airbnb because I was cold…and both of our legs were tired after hiking over 16 miles.
We settled back into the dreamy Airbnb, where we made an obscene amount of mac n cheese, played Scrabble, drank local beer from Headlands Brewery and watched the World Series again. It was the perfect way to recharge after a day on our feet.
On Sunday, we were equipped with parking passes to Muir Woods, so we headed out early to beat the crowds and to get a few trails in before we had to check out of the Airbnb. We opted to embark on Bootjack Trail, which was definitely my second favorite trail of the weekend. It was quiet, covered in heaps of fall leaves, sprinkled with dew and fog and led us through the lushest trees. We hardly saw anyone on the trail and it was truly magical.
It was honestly hard to leave the park after this hike. I personally wanted to stay and hike every trail we could…but Airbnb check out time was calling and so was our flight back home.
After cleaning up, we headed back towards the city for our remaining few hours so we could be closer to the airport. While I’d been to San Francisco a dozen times, I’d never been to Land’s End, so we headed there for some sightseeing. After poking around the remains of the old bath houses on the shore, we unknowingly embarked on a 3.5 mile trail around the area - in sandals. While it was a bit uncomfortable, the scenery made up for it. The trail was lined with cypress and eucalyptus trees, and we were treated to views of the shore, the Marin headlands and the Golden Gate Bridge.
We followed up our accidental trail adventure with a coffee at Sightglass, which we sipped on while sitting out at Alamo Square Park, which overlooks the famous Painted Ladies houses (from Full House!) and downtown San Francisco. While I thought my Battery Spencer experience 100% changed my perspective on the city, I admittedly was on edge and riddled with anxiety at the park. I don’t know what it is, but San Francisco is not my jam. We made the most of it and headed to the Pacific Heights neighborhood to grab a final bite to eat before we headed back to the airport (where our flight was delayed again!).
Mill Valley isn’t as well known in comparison to San Francisco and Sausalito, but I thought it was completely magical. It was quaint and quirky, quiet and relaxing and lush and green. It was the perfect distance from Muir Woods and San Francisco.
While Muir Woods often gets a bad rap for being too crowded and overrun with tourists, I had a wonderful experience. Sure, there were a few people here and there blocking paths, but I was excited to see people absorbing nature…and honestly, I was so in awe it hardly phased me. I can’t articulate the feeling that seeing the redwoods gave me - a sense of childlike wonder, breathtaking awe and absolute contentment. Nature is rad. More than that, it was just a really wonderful time for Justin and I to connect - no phones and in the beauty of the outdoors.
I can’t wait to go back again - and fit in some of the trails we didn’t get a chance to do.