Great Marin County Hikes – Mount Tamalpais Muir Woods Loop

Hike the scenic “back-door” route into Muir Woods National Monument.

Slip quietly into Muir Woods National Monument through a Mount Tamalpais State Park redwood forest on this 4.5-mile hike. It’s all downhill to start and 1,600 feet in elevation on the return. Hawks and other birds of prey patrol the skies, and on parts of the trail you can see clear west to the ocean.

Tip: If driving, park across Panoramic Highway from the Mountain Home Inn, or to the south if the lot is full. West Marin Stagecoach Bus 61 also stops here.

It’s downhill to start on the loop from the state park to Muir Woods and back.

Panoramic to Canopy View Trail

Pick up the Panoramic Trail heading south from the parking lot and continue south on the Canopy View Trail into Muir Woods National Monument. For decades this trail was called the Ocean View Trail, but trees now block the seaward vistas. Look up to see the current view: the redwoods’ intertwining fronds creating the namesake canopy.

Dipsea to Sun to Redwood Trail

Once in Muir Woods, you’re not required to pay the admission fee if you’re just passing through. Head southeast past the visitor center to pick up the Dipsea Trail. You’ll find it, fairly well marked, across the road from the Annex Lot parking area. Here’s where you’ll begin heading uphill. After a little less than a mile, switchback west along the Sun Trail, which winds around to the Redwood Trail at the private Nature Friends Tourist Club. The club’s online calendar lists the rare days when it hosts guests and serves refreshments. Past the club, pick up the Panoramic Trail back to the starting point.

Look for this sign across from the Annex Lot parking area as you exit Muir Woods.

Folk Singer’s Bench

Near the end of the loop, pause for a moment to take in the ocean view from the bench placed in memory of the late Mimi Fariña. A beloved Mill Valley resident and folk singer (and the sister of the singer Joan Baez), Fariña founded the Marin-based nonprofit Bread and Roses, which provides music and entertainment at prisons, hospitals, and other institutions.

Mount Tamalpais Muir Woods Loop Details

Difficulty level:  Moderate.

Why locals love it:  Good workout; peaceful way to enter Muir Woods.

Cut to the chase:  You can shave just under a mile off the hike by picking up Bus 61 (heading west) on Panoramic Highway near the tourist club. 

Reward yourself: Stop for a drink or a light meal at the Mountain Home Inn (the service can be slow, but the view is sublime).

Reward yourself with a post-hike stop at the Mountain Home Inn, where the views stretch across San Francisco Bay.

Getting Here

Panoramic Highway is north off Highway 1 (also signed as Shoreline Highway) in Mill Valley. From U.S. 101, take the Mill Valley/Stinson Beach/Highway 1 exit and head west on Highway 1. After about 2.5 miles turn right on Panoramic Highway and continue for another 2.5 miles.


Trailhead (Panoramic Trail)

More Hikes Locals Love

Abbotts Lagoon
Battery Mendell to Battery Townsley
Coastal Trail to Bass Lake and Alamere Falls
Coastal, Wolf Ridge, Miwok Trails Loop
Dipsea Trail
East Peak Mount Tamalpais
Olompali State Park
Rodeo Lagoon to Point Bonita Lighthouse
Rodeo Lagoon Trail Loop
Roy’s Redwoods Open Space Preserve
Steep Ravine to Matt Davis Loop
Tennessee Valley
Tule Elk Preserve

This story first appeared online in 2017; it was fact-checked and updated in 2020.

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