Muir Woods National Monument Highpoint Trip Report

Date: December 2, 2006
Author: John Mitchler

General Description: A pleasant stroll on a pine-covered ridge
that descends to an open meadow with views of the Pacific Ocean.

Distance: 0.6 mile one-way
Difficulty: Easy walk
Elevation gain: 140 feet, all on the return
Summit elevation: 1,360 feet
Maps: San Rafael (optional) USGS Quad, DeLorme p. xx, Trails Illustrated # xx.
Access/permits: Open / None required; $6 parking fee at trailhead (2006)
Best months: Year-round
Visitor Centers: One Visitor Center located
at the popular Redwood groves at the east end of the park.

Highpoint Description: A grassy open bench among pines and
hillside meadows of the world-class landscape along the northern coast of California.

Finding the trailhead:
The trailhead is outside the west end of the national monument, at Pantoll Ranger Station. This station is the headquarters for Mt. Tamalpais State Park and is located on the north-south ridgeline that extends through Marin County.
From the Golden Gate Bridge, drive 10??? miles north on US 101 (Redwood Highway) to the Sausalito exit. Pass left (west) under the highway and take CA 1 (Shoreline Highway) west as it climbs 2.9 miles to the Panoramic Highway. Turn right (north) on the Panoramic Highway and drive towards the huge bulk of Mt. Tamalpais. After 0.8 miles, notice the turnoff to the left (west) that takes you 1.4 miles down to the Visitor Center and popular groves of Redwood Trees, nestled in the valleys below. Continue past this turnoff on the Panoramic Highway for another 4.4 miles to the Pantoll Ranger Station on the left (south).
This site has limited parking and requires payment of a parking fee. Rangers are on duty to answer your questions. The trail begins at the far south end of the parking lot, to the right of the ranger hut.

Key points along the hike:
0.0   far end of parking lot
0.1   Old Mine Trail
0.3   Coast Fire Road
0.5   Dipsea Trail
0.5   use path to highpoint

The hike:
Not all trails are shown on the most recent topographic map. Basically, you want to follow a ridge south to the Dipsea Trail, which takes you to the boundary of the national monument and its highest point.
From the far south end of the Pantoll parking lot, take a road and follow the sign to the paved Steep Ravine Trail. Within a hundred feet along this road, notice the narrow dirt trail to the left (east). This is the Old Mine Trail, and it parallels the Old Mine Road for much of the way to the highpoint. Follow the Old Mine Trail through tall pines for 0.3 mile until it pops out onto the Coastal Fire Road. Note this spot for your return. The Coastal Fire Road is basically a continuation of the road that leads out of the parking lot. Continue your hike on this road until you reach the Dipsea Trail, which extends from the Pacific Ocean on the right (west) to the Panoramic Highway on the left (east).
Take the Dipsea to the left (east) for about 30 feet and turn left (north) on a use trail that leads you into shrubs and the monument highpoint. If you pass this use trail you will notice the boundary sign for Muir Woods National Monument, and that the Dipsea begins a descent into forest. The use trail does not descend nor enter the trees. The highpoint is marked by a one inch iron stake in grass along the use trail, which marks the far west end of the monument. Follow the route back to the parking lot, ascending 140 feet in the process.

About the park: Most of coastal California’s Redwoods have been logged, but difficult access spared the giant trees that comprise Muir Woods.
Coastal weather can be chilly and foggy throughout the year. The approach roads are paved but are narrow and winding. Vehicles longer than 35 feet are prohibited and care must be taken because of the heavy traffic.
Mount Tamalpais, the highest point of Marin County, is gained by a short drive from Pantoll, following Pantoll Road to East Ridgecrest Boulevard to the summit.

Camping and services:
Camping is available at Pantoll, and scenic backcountry sites can be reserved throughout the area. There are limited services along Panoramic Highway and full services in towns along US 101. Scenic and quaint restaurants can be found on CA 1 along the coast, such as the Pelican Inn at Muir Beach.