Muir Woods Through the Backdoor

Hike into Muir Woods from Mount Tamalpais and the Bootjack Trail

Muir Woods is a small and wonderfully beautiful place. And it’s a rite of passage to visit whether you’re local or from out of town. The challenge: It’s popular! The solution: Enter the park through one of several adjacent trails. You’ll avoid the busyness of the main parking area and you’ll get to explore the neighboring Mount Tamalpais State Park on some scenic and quiet trails.

One of the best loop hikes starts across the street from the Mountain Home Inn on Panoramic Highway. You’ll cover 4.5 miles, with the first stretch being a gradual descent. Starting on a wide fire road, immediately descend into a cool canyon of redwoods, Douglas fir, manzanita, and toyon. You’ll stay shaded as you hop onto the Troop 80 Trail, which was built by Boy Scouts way back in 1931. This is a great and lightly used trail that crosses fairytale bridges through more redwoods and Douglas firs.

Muir Woods secret hike Mount Tamalpais Bootjack trail

Take a break in the sun at Van Wyck Meadow, which as the sign says, has a population of three Steller’s jays. Here you’ll descend the Boot Jack Trail all the way into Muir Woods. There's a sign welcoming you to the trees, and this backdoor entrance puts you right into the heart of the good stuff: Bridge 4 crossed Redwood Creek and you can take a detour into Cathedral Grove, one of the most majestic places in the whole park. Wander and explore as much as you want—just be sure to exit on the Fern Creek Trail (between Bridge 3 and 4). {NOTE: If you decided to stay a while and get into the heart of Muir Woods instead of just briefly entering and leaving again immediately (see directions below), then please stop at the main entrance or visitor center to pay the fee for Muir Woods. If you have a current National Parks Pass then you won't need to do this as the pass covers the entry fee.}

This is the hard part of the hike: You’ve gotta climb out of the canyon and back up to your car. But after all that time with these old-growth beauties, you’ll be motivated!

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST: In the episode "Pandemic Autumn Outings" Weekend Sherpa co-founders discuss their hike through Muir Woods' backdoor. They also recorded a "live from Muir Woods!" segment.

Park at the small parking lot across from Mountain Home Inn on Panoramic Hwy. (map). Start the hike on the north end of the parking lot on the Trestle Trail. It’s a short flight of steps to a fire road, where you turn right, following the signs to Camp Alice Eastwood. At 0.5 mile, take Troop 80 Trail on the right. At about 1.7 miles into the hike you’ll get to Van Wyck Meadow, where you’ll go left on the Bootjack Trail. Take this down into Muir Woods. Explore the park and exit on Fern Creek Trail (between Bridge 3 and 4). At 3.5 miles you’ll reach the Lost Trail, where you turn right. The trail ends after half a mile; turn left on Ocean View Trail, which takes you back up to the parking area. No dogs.

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