For many visitors traveling to the Bay Area, the motivation to leave San Francisco can be pretty darn low. I mean, there’s already so much to conquer in the city alone, so I can understand the mindset. If you want to know what some of my favorite San Francisco activities are, click here, but I would also strongly encourage a day trip to Muir Woods and Sausalito while you’re in town. This trip can be done so much more quickly than you would imagine. You can even be back in San Francisco before dinner and take on more activities if you’re not too tired. Want to know how it’s done? You’ve come to the right place!
First of all, Muir Woods is one of the few places on earth where you can see centuries old redwoods. Redwood trees existed when the dinosaurs roamed the planet, so it’s a must-see during your trip. The majority of the trees located in Muir Woods are between 500 and 800 years old. But the oldest? 1200 years! That should make you feel young. Here’s what you need to know before visiting the national monument.
1) Getting there
From San Francisco, it will take you anywhere between 30 and 45 minutes to get to Muir Woods if you leave early enough. I would strongly suggest waking up early for this trip and plan on getting to Muir Woods between 8 and 8:30 am. The national monument opens daily at 8 am, and the parking is atrocious. So the sooner you can get there, the better! I swear it’s worth the parking headache.
The first half of the journey to Muir Woods is stunning because you get to drive through the Golden Gate Bridge. If you’ve never done this before, it is super exciting. As you get closer to Muir Woods, the roads become quite curvy so be wary of that if you get car sick and make sure to sit up front.
2) Hiking Trails
Muir Woods contains 6 miles of trails. There is a 0.5 hour loop, a 1 hour loop and a 1.5 hour loop depending on what you are looking for. There are also longer hikes that extend into the surrounding Mt. Tamalpais State Park if you are really seeking a challenge. However, for the sake of time, I would plan to hike no longer than 1.5 hours. This will ensure you have enough time to enjoy Sausalito and the rest of your day, too. Check out this helpful guide from the National Park Service if you are interested in planning out your hike ahead of time. We did no planning whatsoever and just snagged a map on our way in, and were totally fine!
The Main Trail begins at the visitor center and takes you along Redwood Creek Trail right along a stunning stream. When I stepped out of the car, I was simply amazed at the fresh air that immediately hit me! It was so nice to hear only the sounds of birds chirping and a flowing stream, and feel a nice cool breeze on my skin. Don’t stress too much about which route you’ll go with, and just take in all the peaceful scenery. You will be amazed at the size of these trees!
Once you’ve spent two hours or less getting lost in nature, I’d go ahead and start making your way towards Sausalito. Sausalito is a natural pit-stop on your way back to San Francisco, so that’s why these two are so great to combine into one day trip. Once you arrive and find parking in Sausalito, enjoy the laid-back vibe and take a stroll through the town. You don’t need much direction to enjoy Sausalito since it is such a tiny seaside village. The views are incredible from every vantage point so you can’t go wrong. Here’s what I recommend you do while you’re there.
One thing Sausalito is known for is its amazing community of houseboats. There are over 500 houseboats in the floating home marinas towards the north end of the town. This community recently turned 65 years old, and one was even built to resemble a miniature Taj Mahal. It is really fun and relaxing to just walk along the marina docks, and peek into the houseboats and sailboats docked there. Check out this article for some specifics on where to find them.
By now you might be getting hungry, and I hope you like seafood because I have the best recommendation. Fish & Chips of Sausalito is the perfect hole-in-the-wall spot to enjoy local seafood that is fresh and a great value. You won’t have to waste too much time sitting down for lunch and can even take it outside to enjoy more of the town. Gabrielson Park is close by and is a lovely spot to take your food and watch the boats sail by.
If you don’t like seafood, that’s okay! Try Napa Valley Burger Company instead and enjoy an amazing burger in the sun.
3) Golden Gate Views
Arguably the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge can be seen from the Sausalito side rather than the San Francisco side. You’ll have to wrap up your time in Sausalito before you go check it out, but it’s totally worth doing before you head back into the city. Two spots I recommend are Vista Point and Battery Spencer. Although they are so close to Sausalito, they aren’t quite walkable from town. Depending on your mode of transportation for the day, you can either drive there in your rental or hop in an Uber. Don’t forget to blast the Full House theme song on your way!
4) Ferry Ride Back to San Francisco
Since we don’t have a car here in San Francisco, we love taking the ferry to and from Sausalito. If you don’t have a rental car for this journey, taking the ferry back into the city is an amazing way to see the area from a totally different perspective. 360 degree views of Sausalito, San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz will surround you. Grab a spot on the top deck and breathe it all in!
Well, that wraps up your day trip to Muir Woods and Sausalito! This itinerary can of course be tweaked depending on your method of transportation and other plans for the day, but I hope it helps ease the planning pains a little bit. Have you ever been to Muir Woods or Sausalito? Let me know what your favorite part was in the comments below!