5 hikes that will kick your ass north of the Golden Gate Bridge


If you don't want to be one of those tourists who waddles around San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf, hunting down a sweatshirt to fight off the brutal summer wind, head north of the Golden Gate Bridge and go on one of these five fabulous hikes. Marin County is gorgeous and diverse, with hikes that overlook the ocean or tromp through the iconic redwood trees, and there are plenty of places to grab a beer after you've sweated out the toxins from the night before.

Marin headlands from Highway 101
It couldn't be easier to explore the stunning Marin headlands. Just exit at Spencer avenue off Highway 101 and park in the small lot off the freeway. From there, you'll see a sign with a map of all the trails you can explore. You can trot down a couple miles to a vista of the Golden Gate bridge, or if you're more ambitious, try kicking our own ass on an 8+ mile roundtrip hike to Rodeo Beach. You can then jaunt into Sausalito and stop at Bar Bocce for a pizza and a beer.


Tennessee Valley to Muir Beach loop
This is a gorgeous hike along California's rugged coastline, but beware of going here in summer, cause you'll be hiking through pea soup rather than seeing the magnificent ocean crashing on rocks far below. For this hike, you'll want to park at the Tennessee Valley trailhead then follow the signs for the Tennessee Valley Trail. After about a mile, you'll take a right on the Coastal Trail. This isn't a hike for beginners, you'll feel those butt muscles burn as you ascend up and down over and over again. But once you get to Muir Beach, you can stop at Pelican Inn for a beer or bite before starting your grueling trek right back the way you came to your car.

Mountain Home Inn to Muir Woods loop
There are a lot of hiking options once you park at the parking lot across from the Mountain Home inn on Mt. Tamalpais. But my favorite is a 4-mile or so jaunt down into Muir Woods, and you don't even have to deal with annoying tourists in the parking lot near the main entrance of the park. From Mountain Home, walk a bit south down the Panoramic Hwy until you see signs for the Ocean View Trail. Head on down until you hit the lush and gorgeous Muir Woods, then follow the signs for the Lost trail to make your way back up the hillside. This isn't a hike for beginners. There are lots of ups and downs and some intense stairs on your way back to the car. Grab a beer at the Mountain Home as your reward!

Playing tour guide between storms. 🌲🌲🌲🌲

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The Dipsea Trail
Some crazy people do what's called the "Double Dipsea", where they do the Dipsea Trail TWICE for a total of 28 miles. You don't have to me among those with a screw loose. Start in downtown Mill Valley and find the start of the Dipsea stairs, then follow the trail down to Muir Woods, then all the way to Stinson Beach. This trail is 7-miles one way, and the good news is, you can take a shuttle back to the beginning if you don't want to trudge another 7-miles back to your car. There are plenty of delicious beer and food options in Stinson Beach, including the Sand Dollar. Yum!

...10.4 miles later.

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Cataract Falls
This hike is a bit more of a drive from the Golden Gate Bridge, and could take you up to an hour to reach the trailhead in Fairfax. But it's worth it, especially after a rain. The trail starts with a grueling climb up, but there are plenty of places to stop and relax and enjoy the cascading falls and pools. You could do a shorter up and back to the top of the falls, or you can pick one of the many loops in the area and stay in the back-country for several hours. Afterwards, hang out in the cute little town of Fairfax for beers and dinner.

Kristin Hanes is a writer and frugal adventurer who lives on a sailboat in the San Francisco Bay. She's frequently published in SF Gate. Follow her on Twitter @KristinHanes