Stay Away from Muir Woods

Posted by Karen Nierlich on

Muir Woods is a beautiful place that's become an overrun tourist attraction. Lack of parking is so extreme, they've outlawed parking along the road and people now take a Muir Woods shuttle in after the two small parking lots are full. 

Yeah, the magnificent old growth redwoods are there. But you are never going to have a peaceful moment there on a summer weekend when thousands descend on Muir Woods!

If you are a local and have never seen Muir Woods, go on a weekday in the middle of Winter. Or go on a day when the whole world is watching a major sporting event. Otherwise go hike someplace else. 

This year I challenged myself to find other hikes. Muir Woods is not the only game in town! 

(photo: Cataract Falls)

You might know I'm in love with moss and lichen, so I hit upon the idea to focus on waterfall hikes. Here are three waterfall hikes, I hiked multiple times this year so I can fill you in on what you'll see, the difficulty of the hike, dog access, and parking. The links go to the blog where there is a full write up and more info resides. 

1. Steep Ravine Trail - I dubbed this trail the “rockstar” of mossy trails. My family was blown away by the innumerable mossy trees, mossy rocks, mossy plants, lichens, ferns and lush green plants. This place is “Middle Earth” declared the Lord of Rings fans in my household. 

Difficulty: Strenuous
Length: loop is 8 miles roundtrip; 
Parking: Yes
Dogs: No
Bus Access: Yes

2. Cataract Falls Trail - is a gentle and idyllic walk through the woods leading to a rockin' waterfall! The trail starts from the parking lot at the intersection of Ridgecrest Road and Pantoll Road at a spot called Rock Spring in the Mount Tamalpais Water District. This is a great hike for lots of people because it's level the whole 2.5 miles until you get to the falls. Only in the last .25 miles in the vicinity of the falls do you have to climb down and up. Dogs are welcome.

Difficulty: Easy / Moderate
Length: under 5 miles round trip
Parking: Yes
Dogs: Yes
Bus Access: Think so

3. Cascade Falls Trail - Not to be confused with Cataract Falls. This trail is located near the beautiful town of Fairfax, CA. It's a shorter trail, allows dogs and would be great for almost anyone. 

I hope you'll try out one of these other gorgeous hikes. In fact, Mount Tamalpais State Park along with the adjoining Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the Mount Tamalpais Water District are crisscrossed with trails.  More below the photo. 

Difficulty: Easy 
Length: 3 miles round trip
Parking: Limited parking
Dogs: Yes
Bus Access: No


(Steep Ravine Trail)

Another tip: get out early in the day. By mid-day every place is hopping in Marin. If you want peace and quiet, arrive between 8-10 am. 

If you want more info on these hikes or others, head to Pantoll Station in Marin, CA. There's a ranger station there with excellent trail maps and park rangers. Rangers were there each of the many times I went by this Spring answering questions and distributing maps. If the parking lot is full, use one of the 15 m spots by the driveway to pick up a map and then park elsewhere. Moss on!

(Steep Ravine Trail)




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