This very enjoyable loop hike offers a lot more variety than the usual Bohemian Grove 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 Bohemian Grove Trail.
A nice benefit is that the hike bypasses the main entrance and the $15/person entrance fee, but you still have to pay for and reserve a parking spot in advance. Although there are some free parking lots on the Panoramic Highway near high point of the hike, it’s pretty much impossible to find any open spots on weekends.
A reservation, made up to 90 days in advance, is required to park at the trailhead. The reservation fee was $8.00 in January 2018 and increases by $0.50 every two years. The 232 available parking spots always sell out on weekends and summer weekdays. You have to pick a half-hour arrival time slot, and the mid-morning slots sell out first. If no reservations are available, check again exactly 5 days before your trip, when a few extra spots are released. Once you arrive, you may still have to wait for a spot to open up, but then you can park for as long as you like.
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. There may be 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 lush, narrow, redwood-filled canyon alongside a little creek. I actually like this canyon more than the main Bohemian Grove 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 Bohemian Grove Trail, which runs along the bottom of a wide canyon. The trail is really quite scenic, especially around Bridge 2 where the canyon bottom is at its widest, but the trees aren’t as large as they get in the big alluvial-flat groves. The most part the woods are fairly open with lots of redwoods, except near the visitor center the redwoods become less common and dense understory appears. 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. Interestingly, the redwoods completely disappear in this area; there aren’t even any second-growth redwoods.
© 2006, 2013, 2016, 2021 David Baselt