Hike #4: Mountain Home-Muir Woods Loop, Mt. Tam State Park

Location: Marin, Mill Valley

Distance: 4.7 miles (if you don’t get lost…for us, ~7 miles.  you can see where this is going.)

Entry fee: $0

Three of us set out for this hike early to make it home in time for the NFL playoffs.  We got to the parking lot at the trailhead and I…promptly locked the keys in the car.

After finding out it would take the tow truck almost an hour to make it into the boonies and get my keys out, we decided to head across the aptly-named Panoramic Highway to the Mountain Home Inn for some coffee.  Everyone was really happy with me.

An hour later we finally started hiking.  The trail (which was built by the boyscouts in 1931) almost immediately leads into some pretty dense foliage.  It was raining on and off the whole time, but the area was so wooded there were times that we barely noticed.

On the trail there are groves of baby redwoods, a lot of weird looking moss, waterfalls and streams, colorful mushrooms…it really is an awesome hike to do in the winter.  But get ready to get muddy.  There are a lot of things that will tempt you to test your physical prowess.  Like:

Tall trees:

Sideways trees:

Fallen trees:

…and branches suspended over ravines:

After about 2 hours Paul was starting to get antsy about making it home in time for the second game (we already had to sacrifice the first one because of the later start).  According to the book we had only gone 3.3 miles…it kind of felt longer, but since no one had an pedometer we really had no idea.  (As Molly put it, it felt like we were in a mileage warp).  After following a short stretch of the Muir Woods trail (which was amazing) we hit the Lost Trail, which we knew was the last section of the hike and only about 1 mile from the finish line.  Finally, we had a sense of security about where we were and how much further we had to go.  Enter: poor trail markings.

We BOOKED IT up some serious inclines, ready to be back at the car and get some food.  About halfway up the Lost Trail we hit an ambiguous clearing.  We paused for a second, considered a few options, then without much discussion continued hiking aggressively down what we thought was the right trail.  After 15 minutes, when we hadn’t seen the landmark that we were supposed to hit 0.3 miles after the clearing, I began to suspect that this “mileage warp” may be intrinsically linked to our inability to read a map.  20 minutes after the ambiguous clearing we ran into another hiker, who confirmed that yes, we had in fact been walking as fast as we could downhill for 20 minutes in the wrong direction.  Turn around.  20 more minutes back uphill to the clearing.  From there another 10 minutes steep uphill to the actual end of the trail.  Goddammit.

Hike #4: quasi-success (to be honest, in my opinion, this was the best hike we’ve had so far…if we didn’t spend a good portion of it feeling and being lost, it would have been even better)

This is a fantastic hike if you don’t want to go too far outside the city (only about 20 min away) and are up for a little exercise but nothing obscenely strenuous.  Exceptionally stunning views, lots of interesting vegetation.


Lessons Learned: bring a pedometer if you are on a tight schedule

Flora and Fauna: we saw a redwood that had sprouted a new trunk about 90 feet off the ground (this happens when the tops of redwoods break off as they mature.  More info here.)  It was pretty cool.

One thought on “Hike #4: Mountain Home-Muir Woods Loop, Mt. Tam State Park

  1. I feel like this happens to me almost every time I go on a hike! It always feels like a guessing game trying to match the poor descriptions in the hiking book to the poor trail markers.

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