Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Hiking From Muir Beach To The Tennessee Valley Beach!

     I had an idea for a family hike; it had one criteria, we had to end up at The Pelican Inn near Muir Woods, so my husband and I could enjoy a beer in its' English pub. The hike I chose starts from Muir Beach, heads south along the Coastal Trail, then west along the Tennessee Valley Trail, finally ending at the Tennessee Valley Beach. You return the same way. It's a 7 mile hike of ocean views and was labeled by one website as "moderately strenuous."  "Perfect!" I thought, "We'll just take our time and rest as needed."

Muir Beach Overlook and Trail Head
Muir Beach is located in the Marin Headlands, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. We arrived around 9AM; it took us almost 1.5 hours to drive there from the South Bay. We brought a large picnic lunch, one bottle of water each (not enough!!), hats, jackets and sunscreen. Then off we set.

The trail started out fairly easy, the views were wonderful and the breeze refreshing. We passed people on the trail but there weren't so many that it ever felt crowded. Some had dogs (yes, they're allowed on the Coastal trail and at Muir Beach) but they were all well behaved and friendly (the dogs I mean, but so were the people!).

Why, this is easy!
 After about two miles, we took a detour down a steep and muddy path to see Pirates Cove. The cove was tiny, rocky, and the tide was high, so we sat back on the rocks, had a snack and enjoyed watching the waves smash against the rocks.

Pirates Cove

Don't swim in Pirates Cove!
The climb back up was steep and after we got back on the path, the trail got even steeper. Did I mention this hike was labeled "moderately strenuous?" Well, let me just say that for my kids - yes, it was moderately strenuous; for my athletic husband it was just a walk in the park; but for me - who's coming back from a 5 month illness - it was decidedly strenuous! Walking up that hill, my legs started to burn! Luckily, there was a fantastic flat grassy area at the top, a perfect place for a picnic.

Picnic Spot on the Coastal Trail
It was a tad windy!
Not too tired yet . .
After our picnic, we headed down, then up, then down, then up, till we came to a view of the Tennessee Valley and beach. How could we stop now?

Mom's trailing now . .

Hugging Dad

The Tennessee Valley, Lagoon and Beach
I wish I'd taken some photos of the beach, but at this point I just wanted to rest. But let me assure you, it's a great little beach and it has black sand! It would have been pretty hot there but the ocean breeze was cold, so we couldn't decide if we were cold or hot. All I can say is, bring plenty of water. We had to ration our one bottle each. It would have been much better if we'd had 2 or 3 bottles each. Next time, each person carries their own backpack and water!

Our return trip was tough - for me that is - everyone else seemed re-energized. I slowly plodded up the hill, stopping now and then to rest my screaming leg muscles and sometimes take a photo. My son had to learn that a non-stop stream of verbal "encouragement" is not welcome when it's taking everything to put just one foot in front of the other!

"You can do it, Mom! Don't think about your legs, don't think about how much they hurt . ."

Can anyone name this flower? I can't . .

I'm guessing a thistle . .?
Finally (Glory, Hallelujah!), we returned to our car at Muir Beach. Then we drove 100 yards or so to the Pelican Inn for two well deserved beers, a root beer and a kids' sunrise. BTW - the Pelican Inn is a lovely, romantic place to stay. My husband and I stayed here years ago. It is not however, a budget inn nor is it a place that young children will appreciate. Save this one for the adults.

The Pelican Inn - a "real" English pub!
This hike: not recommended for young children or people who are really out of shape.

The Beaches: strong tides and rip currents - too dangerous for swimming.

If you go:  Allow at least 4 hours; bring sunscreen, plenty of water, food, and layers of clothing.

Directions:  From San Francisco, cross the Golden Gate Bridge and drive north on U.S. 101 for four miles. Take the Mill Valley/Stinson Beach/Highway 1 exit and continue straight for one mile. Turn left on Shoreline Highway and drive 5.2 miles, then turn left on Pacific Way (by the Pelican Inn). Drive 0.5 miles on Pacific Way to the Muir Beach parking lot. The trail begins near the parking lot restrooms.


J J said...

Sounds like a great hike in spite of burning leg muscles, and the beers and root beer were no doubt special after that trek.

Karen Gough said...

That they were! Although I was counting on a Newcastle Ale on tap and they didn't have it :-(
Glad you enjoyed the blog, thanks for reading it!

James Allen said...

Looks like a delightful hike. The photographs were lovely. I haven't been to the west coast in twenty years. It appears that it's still as beautiful as I remember it. I don't know what the flower is, but the second plant is a teasel (also teazel or teazle). Thanks for sharing.

Karen Gough said...

Thanks for telling us the name of the plant +James Allen! I'm glad you enjoyed the blog and took the time to comment. Thank you.