The Sun Trail
Loop hike including the Dipsea, Redwood, and Ocean View Trails
Length 4.7 miles Climbing 930 feet
This very enjoyable loop hike offers a lot more variety than the usual Main Trail loop. It climbs a hillside east of Muir Woods, offering some great views of Muir Woods and Mt. Tamalpais, before descending into a scenic redwood-filled side canyon. The route then joins the very popular Main Trail. As a side benefit of taking the long way into Muir Woods, you'll get out of paying the entrance fee.
Click here to see the trailhead location in Google Maps.
The Dipsea Trail starts on the right-hand side of a driveway just across Muir Woods Road from the overflow parking lot. The trail gets off to a nice start as it climbs through a lush hardwood forest. After crossing Muir Woods Road, it breaks out of the forest and ascends by a long series of steps to reach the Sun Trail.
The Sun Trail follows the contours of the grass-covered hills above Muir Woods. The trail is narrow and slightly rough compared to the other trails in this hike, which are all wide and well-worn, and the steep drop-off can make the trail a little vertiginous. However, there are some great views of the redwood-covered valley below and Mt. Tamalpais rising above, making this one of the most memorable parts of the hike.
The Sun Trail re-enters the woods and then ends at a driveway that leads to the Tourist Club. This attractive chalet-style building has superb views of the redwood-covered valley below. The private club, which has locations throughout Germany, offers a snack bar and overnight accommodations to its members. Anyone can become a member, and in exchange for maintaining the buildings and working on trails, can stay at any Tourist Club free of charge. However, on "guest weekends" (typically the first weekend of the month), non-members can stop here, buy a beer, and relax on the lower deck. The food is limited so most people bring their own lunch.
Passing behind the Tourist Club, the trail continues to climb through the woods before emerging into the grasslands again. Watch for poison oak in the woods.
Turn onto the Lost Trail, which descends steeply through ordinary tanoak woods by a long series of steps. Turn right at the intersection with the Ocean View Trail. The descent isn't especially interesting until the redwoods begin at the last switchback. The trail then winds engagingly through a narrow redwood-filled canyon alongside a little creek. I actually like this canyon more than the Main Trail: it seems more wild, with fewer visitors and a narrower, unpaved trail; the redwoods grow more densely, and the scenery is more typical of Bay Area redwood groves. It's one of the highlights of the hike.
Turn left onto the Main Trail. The trail passes through a much wider canyon that almost resembles an alluvial flat, although the trees aren't as large as they would be on a typical alluvial flat. Initially the woods are fairly open with a lot of redwoods, but the redwoods become less common and the dense understory appears as the trail approaches the visitor center. After passing the visitor center and park entrance, take the trail on the right side of the parking lot to return to the overflow lot.
© 2006, 2013 David Baselt