Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Marin Headlands Most Romantic Hike

This is a hike Kirsty and I did last year for our anniversary.  Maybe you can use this idea for Valentine's Day?  

It's one of the most beautiful hikes in the bay area, and arguably, the most romantic.  The views are expansive, overlooking the bay, the pacific ocean, and the Marin hills.  It's a 3 day hike, which could be broken up, if you don't have 3 days.  Leave a car at Stinson Beach, then start at the Marin Headlands (see bottom of the page for a map).  It's just off the 101 north of the Golden Gate bridge, 2 exits (Alexander Ave).  There's lots of free parking.  Kirsty, thanks for seeing the vision, and Pete and Lisa, for sharing!

The first day, you hike from Marin Headlands/Fort Cronkhite to Muir Beach along the coastal trail.  All said, it's about 5 miles and takes about 3 hours give or take.  We went out and got fancy new packs and so on.  Not necessary, but they are nice!  We left around 2:30 or 3pm.  In hindsight, a bit later than ideal. We got into Muir after the sun went down.  Okay, so we did diddle around along the way.  It's a pretty exciting spot.  You probably will too.  Right off the bat, you are up at about 850' elevation, looking out over the Pacific, and back to the Golden Gate bridge, and the old bunkers.  The views are spectacular.

See what I mean?!  We have so many pictures even before we made it a mile from Marin Headlands...  It is a spectacular part of the hike, and as soon as you get to the top, and start heading down, you get that feeling of leaving civilization.  It's a well maintained trail, but other than that, it's you and mother nature at her finest.  There's a couple ups and downs along the way, so don't make the mistake we made, thinking we were there, and really we were only about half way.

There's a tee in the trail, at about 1/3 of the way.  You still have a bit to go, from Pirate's cove... and it gets a little steeper the last bit.  By now, you are completely captivated by the landscape, and the ocean, and just being out in nature, with no one there!

Heading into Muir Beach is all down hill, and once you arrive, there is one road out from the beach, where you will see Pelican Inn.  It's this magical little inn, like you are in England or something.  The bar rocks.  Dart board, several nice beers on tap.  Need I say more?  Okay, I will.  :-)

Once you get there, and assuming you are staying the nite, there is this special room, just off the bar.  Basically a living room, called the snug - big fire place, couches.  Perfect place to hang, and have a drink after an awesome hike.    We had room 3 I think.  It's all the way in the corner of the building, with access out to the balcony in the back.  The pictures don't do it justice.  It's roomy, and not fancy, but real nice.  Dinner is pub style, and delicious.  Not too expensive, well, not cheap for sure.   Breakfast comes with the room, and is more than anyone can eat.  And it just keeps coming.  Eggs, steak, sausage, pancakes, oatmeal, potatoes, tomatoes, fresh juice cappuccino and so on.

So, we had a huge breakfast, and re-shuffled our packs, and were back on the trail around 11am or so.  See?  No rush.  Total cush.  Pure relaxing fun.

So, we head out, north on this little street, crossing over, and back onto the trail, which paralleled the street, about 100 feet from the road or so.  Don't worry, I don't think we saw a car on it the whole time.  It's quiet.  It's that beachy, coast fog.  So, you follow the trail, called Redwood, to Muir Woods.  Amazing.  We have been hiking an hour (view map), and have seen zero people.

We get to Muir Woods, and it's multitudes of tour busses, people, wheel chairs, babies, kids, picnics, bikers, and on and on and on.  It's busy.  Still, it's very cool to see.  I am sure we could have walked around, but we went in.  Checked out the visitors center.  Walked the plank walkway, to the end.  It's all of about 1/4 mile.  At the furthest end, is a trail.  Take it.

Instantly, we were all alone again!! It's just mind boggling, how everyone sticks to the assigned area. So, take it for a mile or so, then turn onto "Lost" trail. It gets a little steep, but not for long. You are deep in the woods. Redwoods and bay trees. It's so beautiful, serene, energizing. So, after a little bit, you pick up the trail just below Panoramic Highway.
Mountain Home Inn is historical, and you'll see why when you are there. It's since been updated, and modernized. It still has charm, so don't worry. 

 Alright, another hike done! It's about 3 o'clock or so. Maybe 3:30. Okay, this place is laid back, so don't expect a doorman, a front lobby, a bartender, a wait person. It's all the same person (or almost). Totally nice guy, very helpful, just busy. He walks us down to our room, and even just that was an experience. He had the door open, and the balcony double doors open, so you walk in, looking out on the bay, over Mill Valley.... just above the redwoods... absolutely awesome!! The room has a wood fireplace, already stacked and prepped with paper under the logs, and matches on the ready. The bathroom has a big jacuzzi tub in it, with a pair of louvered shudders you can open so you can see the view from the tub....SWEEEET!!

Yes, we got a couple beers, got our boots off and jumped in!!   Again, room choice is key.  We had the fireplace, balcony, tub room...  I think it's number 2, the wildflower room. It's next door to the so called poster bed room.  Our's was way better.  It says small, it wasn't small.  Especially with the double doors open, which they were from the minute we got there, until we left.

Notes about Mtn Home Inn:  Views, awesome.  Sit outside for sunset.  Appetizers were really good.  Dinner was so so, not bad.  We decided next time, just make a dinner of appetizers.  Cheese plate and salads were really exceptionally nice looking.  Calamari was probably good too, but we didn't try it.  Get there early, for the sunset.  It's all about the views!  Breakfast comes with, also.  And it's plentiful and delicious.  All locally grown foods, well prepared.  Better than dinner.
Again, we were leaving around 10:30am or so, for the hike down into Stinson Beach.  By now, we were in pure bliss.  Everything has been so comfortable and cozy and relaxing and beautiful.  It's an amazing transformation of the mind, to be out there in this beautiful place.  So, today, we started out on a trail, I think the name is something about scouts, Troop 80.  And we ended up on the famous Dipsea trail.  It's our biggest day in miles traveled, but most of it is downhill.   And I think I have to say (although it's close!) this is the most spectacular hike.  It's so dramatic.  The ancient redwoods towering over us, or the bay groves with their overwhelming scent!!  And then the awe-inspiring views of the ocean and beach, from above.  

The hike from Mountain Home Inn to Stinson has a lot of
turns (see map).  Having said that, it is pretty straight forward too, but do take a map.   It goes, Troop 80, TCC, Stableveldt, to Dipsea.  There are probably a few ways through the middle.  Troop 80 and Dipsea are the critical ones.  Stinson has a few hotels to choose from.  We stayed in a family cottage in the patios.  Eat at either the Sand Dollar or Park Side.  Lately we have been going to the Sand Dollar.  It's not expensive, and in general, is good.  So, this hike is also about 4 hours, so again, you get in with plenty of time to kick back, have cocktails, enjoy the beach, have dinner and call it a day!

We stayed in a family cottage in the patios.  Eat at either the Sand Dollar or Park Side Cafe.  Lately we have been going to the Sand Dollar.  It's not expensive, and in general, is good.  So, this hike is also about 4 hours, so again, you get in with plenty of time to kick back, have cocktails, enjoy the beach, have dinner and call it a day!

If you have to break it up, you can start at Pelican, and hike up from there, or you can spend the night in Pelican, and then Mountain Home Inn, and finish in Stinson, without staying at the beach overnight.  Have fun!! Tell me what you think!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tim, No Jib Jabberin going on? Got something stuck in your throat?