Take In Spectacular Sights at Muir Beach

Muir Beach

Ocean waves and rocks at Muir Beach, California. Photo: Engel Ching/Shutterstock.

MARIN COUNTY, CALIFORNIA – Every year, visitors flock to Muir Woods National Monument to visit the coastal redwoods. The forest is indeed awe-inspiring, but it isn’t the only site worth visiting. The lesser known – and therefore less crowded – Muir Beach, which is located just three miles west of Muir Woods, is equally worthy of a stopover, either in conjunction with a visit to Muir Woods or as a destination all its own.

Pacific Coast Trail at Muir Beach, California. Photo: Mary Kelly Russo/Shutterstock.

Muir Beach, like Muir Woods, is named in honor of the famous naturalist and conservationist John Muir, who created our National Park System. Muir Beach is a fitting tribute to a man who appreciated and respected nature as it is a bountiful location.

When people hear the word “beach,” the first thing that comes to mind is often sand and waves; but, Muir Beach is so much more. The beach has numerous hiking trails, many opportunities to view a variety of wildlife and, of course, the pleasures of the surf itself.

From the parking lot, you need to cross over a 450-foot pedestrian bridge which carries you over a flood plain. The bridge connects to the beach as well as to several trails.

A panoramic view looking down towards the Muir Beach Overlook at sunset. Photo: Nick Lundgren/Shutterstock.

As with much of life, the journey can be as rewarding as the destination. As you walk across the pedestrian bridge, be sure to take a look at the informational placards and tiles on the walkway that describe the local wildlife and plant life. The flood plain itself offers numerous possible animal sightings as well as an up-close view of flora and fauna.

If you aren’t interested in sunbathing or sandcastle building, Muir Beach is a great hiking spot. The trail options include the Dias Ridge trail, which is along the beach’s ridgeline, the Coastal Trail to Pirate’s Cove (1.7 miles), or the Tennessee Valley Trail (2.7 miles). While not so much a hike as a walk up a steep path, I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend a stop at the nearby Muir Beach Overlook, which offers a much-touted sweeping view and is a prime spot for whale watching. The Overlook cannot be accessed from the beach, but is slightly north along CA-1, with its own parking lot. Please note the Overlook is not recommended for those afraid of heights, given its elevated nature.

Muir Beach is both family and dog-friendly. On any given visit, you’re just as likely to find children at play as you are to find dogs frisking in the water or catching Frisbees in the sand. But dogs aren’t the only animals at the beach. The ocean itself offers ample opportunity for sea creature spotting; I’ve seen schools of dolphins gliding through the water on more than one occasion.

If you go: Muir Beach is located about halfway between Stinson Beach and the Marin Headlands. There are no lifeguards. Parking is free, but know that on weekends and holidays, the lot fills up quickly. Go early for the best parking or be prepared to wait. The beach closes one hour after sunset. The northernmost end of the beach is popular with clothing-optional sunbathers.

Muir Beach
For more information, visit the National Park Service website.

Your Town Daycations is a series featured in the print edition of Your Town Monthly. This article was originally published in the February 2017 issues.