Though rainforest and California don’t seem to belong in the same sentence, a portion of the northern Californian coast includes Pacific temperate rain forest ecoregions. Odd phrasing to say people travel from miles around for moderate temperatures year-round and rainfall that makes this beautiful region particularly lush. The area’s much loved California redwoods, aka sequoias, add a little extra glamour to this already awesome weekend getaway area.
Stop Along the Way
Golden Gate National Parks
Building 201, Fort Mason
San Francisco, CA 94123-0022
Start the day off early and detour a bit through Marin County to check out the Marin Headlands. Located right in Golden Gate park, this area is just slightly less than a two-hour drive from Sacramento. Just take I-80 west into San Francisco, and from there head across the Golden Gate into the park area and Sausalito. This area was home to the Native American Coastal Miwok tribe. During the 18th century, the area hosted Spanish and Mexican ranchers during the Mexican-American War. It’s also the site of many military fortifications, including Fort Barry and Fort Cronkhite. While the history in this area is fascinating, one of the main reasons people stop here is for the views. The Marin Headlands offer some of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge and all of the San Francisco area on a clear day. It’s a great spot to stop and be reminded of what is so charming about the California coastline.
After taking in the early morning views of San Francisco, grab a bite in Sausalito before hitting the Muir Woods trails at the charming Lighthouse Cafe. The owner is Danish, so expect interesting, more traditional Danish specialties on the scrumptious breakfast menu. Classic though they may sound, pancakes here are not to be missed.
Muir Woods National Park
Muir Woods National Monument
Mill Valley, CA 94941-2696
Price: $7 adult/free children 15 years old and younger/$20 Muir Woods annual pass
Muir Woods sits just eleven miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge and is just around a two-hour drive from Sacramento. If you follow Highway 101 to the Highway 1/Stinson Beach Exit, signs direct you to Muir Woods. Be wary as the roads are steep and windy and parking can be a nightmare during the summer or on a nice weekend. One alternative to the parking dilemma is the Muir Woods Shuttle. From May to Labor Day each year, there are weekend shuttle options available from the Pohono Park and Ride lot off Highway 101, and from Memorial Weekend to Labor Day, to and from the Golden Gate Sausalito Ferry.
Once you are in Muir Woods, there are a number of hiking trails available. As you can probably gather from its name, the Main Trail is the most commonly utilized hiking trail in Muir Woods. It is about two miles and it follows a stream through a canyon lined with mid-sized redwood trees. If you hoping for something less touristy, check out the Dipsea and Steep Ravine, which is a 3.9-mile hike through Mount Tamalpais, offering a bit of everything from old-growth redwoods to coastal woodlands and some ocean views.
Related: Hiking Guide to Tilden Regional Park
Stinson Beach, CA 94970
Considered to be one of the cleanest beaches in California, Stinson Beach is worth a visit after you finish your hike. It’s only a two hour drive from Sacramento. Just I-80 W to CA-37 W, then US-101 toward San Francisco and look for the Stinson beach exit. It is typically foggy throughout the year and has an interesting history. In the early 19th century, the beach was only accessible by boat, horseback or over foot on the Dipsea Trail. 1870 saw the first dirt road coming in from Sausalito, but after the big earthquake in 1906, people began to flock to the area.
42 Arenal Ave.
Stinson Beach, CA
Because the sun is likely setting and Stinson Beach is the perfect place to end your day in the Muir Woods area, stop by a local favorite for a bite to eat. Open until 9 p.m. every night, the Parkside Cafe offers a number of delicious hearty options to fulfill your appetite after a long afternoon of hiking.
Camping Near Muir Woods
Mount Tamalpais State Park
801 Panoramic Highway
Mill Valley, CA 94941
Click here for pricing
After a nice dinner, make it a true weekend getaway and plan to camp. Wake early to enjoy a nice sunrise, and still head back to Sacramento before all of the day-trippers make their way from San Francisco and the East Bay. While you can’t camp in Muir Woods, there are a number of spots nearby that are tent, tent/RV or RV only facilities.
One of the best is the Mount Tamalpais State Park, just north of San Francisco. If you head up into the mountains from Stinson Beach you can’t miss it. There are several spots within the camping area that offer a choice of lodging options including tent, horse camp or a cabin. Steep Ravine is the spot to pick for an oceanfront view, but these environmental campsites can be reserved up to seven months in advance and tend to go quickly. No pets or RVs are allowed at this campsite either. Be sure to check requirements on the National Park Service website for more information.
Related: Best Escapes from Sacramento
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Erin De Santiago is a freelance travel and food/wine writer and photographer from Sacramento, California. She is a regional membership coordinator for the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) and writes for a number of publications in addition to publishing her own blogs. She has traveled to over 40 countries on five continents in search of the best food and wine around the globe. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.