Escape from San Francisco: 3 hikes and bites in gorgeous Marin
One of the best things about living in San Francisco? It’s so easy to get out of San Francisco! Sure, the compact city is loaded with sites and activities, but everyone needs a break from the urban hustle once in a while. If you’re itching for a dose of nature followed by a little nurture, head to Marin County. In less than an hour, you can be in a redwood forest or on a trail overlooking the ocean. After you’ve recharged with a heart-raising hike, refuel with some hearty fare at a historic local restaurant. It’s a pairing that will do your body—and mind—good.
Tennessee Valley Beach and Buckeye Roadhouse
For an easy weekend hike, park at the Tennessee Valley Trailhead in Mill Valley and simply follow the gentle two-mile gravel path to the beach. On the way, you’ll meander up and down hills and through the canyon’s grassy chaparral. The only decision you’ll have to make is whether you want to take the high road or the low road. The high road offers steeper inclines (and it will be less muddy if it’s been rainy). If you’re looking for a more aggressive hike, follow the narrow Coastal Trail south to Rodeo Beach or north to Pirate’s Cove.
After you’ve dusted the sand off your shoes, take a short drive to Mill Valley’s Buckeye Roadhouse, located just before the southbound 101 on-ramp. Opened in 1937, the retro joint harkens back to an era when motorists ruled and the roadside restaurant was king. Choose from a range of classic-but-contemporary American cuisine, including wood-grilled salmon, house-smoked brisket, and BBQ baby back ribs, all prepared with an eye towards local, seasonal ingredients. Need to warm up after the hike? Request a table near the river-rock fireplace. If you want to hang with the locals, pull up a chair at the small rustic bar and indulge in a craft cocktail and oysters bingo (oysters baked with a creamy mixture of spinach, cheese, and cognac).
Muir Beach and The Pelican Inn
Skip the crowds at Muir Woods and head to Muir Beach, one of Marin’s most peaceful spots. The five-mile hike starts at the rugged beach, leads to a view high above the ocean, and finishes with a walk through an organic farm and Zen Center. Amble up the grass-and-bush-covered Coastal Trail for expansive views of the Pacific Ocean below. Then make a left on Coyote Ridge Trail followed by a left on Green Gulch Trail. You’ll enjoy a great view of Mt. Tamalpais, Marin County’s highest peak, as you descend. As the road evens out, make a sharp left to enter the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center. From here, you’ll walk through the farm to return to the beach. Depending on the time of year, you might see anything from flowers to squash growing in its fields. If walking through the farm seems a bit confusing, don’t worry. The friendly folks who work there are usually happy to help.
Post-hike, kick back with a pint at the Pelican Inn, a whitewashed 16th-century-style pub. Decked out in family heirlooms and knickknacks, it’s like taking a time machine to ye olde English countryside. Tuck into such classic British fare as fish ‘n’ chips and bangers ‘n’ mash by the fireplace. Or enjoy a round of beer and darts in the front room. The inn boasts more than eighteen brews from England, Scotland, and Ireland.
Point Reyes and Vladimir’s Czech Restaurant
For sheer drama, it’s hard to surpass the four-mile hike to Arch Rock Overlook in Point Reyes. Starting at the Bear Valley Visitor Center, the level trail winds along a creek and through a pine-and-oak forest for several miles before opening to an ocean view. Stop and watch the waves as they pummel the large rocks that jut out of the water.
If you’re up for a more intense trek, head into the forest along Mt. Wittenberg Trail for a view of Drakes Bay. From there, look out at the ocean as you head down the Sky Trail until it meets up with the Coast Trail. Watch for the sign to turn left for Arch Rock, then follow the Bear Valley Trail back to the parking lot. (You’ll want to start early in the winter as the wooded stretch of the Bear Valley trail grows dark around 4 p.m.)
Forget the fancy new restaurants popping up in Olema and celebrate your hiking adventures with a shot of Becherovka at Vladimir’s Czech Restaurant. Born in Czechoslovakia, original owner Vladimir Nevl brought his idiosyncratic personality—he was known for interacting with customers while dressed in equestrian riding gear and carrying a whip—and his slice of Moravian cuisine to Inverness in 1960. Now run by his daughter, Vladya Brooks, the restaurant continues to serve such Czech favorites as cabbage rolls, klobasa, sauerkraut, freshly baked sourdough rye bread, and apple strudel made with apples grown in the backyard. They don’t take credit cards, but hey, neither do many small establishments in Moravia.
Driving directions to the trailheads
To get to Tennessee Valley from San Francisco, go north on highway 101. Take the Mill Valley/Stinson Beach/Hwy. 1 exit and follow Shoreline Hwy. until you see Tennessee Valley Road. The turn off will be on the left.
To get to Muir Beach, drive north on highway 101. Take the Mill Valley/Stinson Beach/Hwy 1. exit and follow Hwy. 1 for 5.7 miles until Pacific Way. Follow Pacific Way to the beach parking lot.
To get to Bear Valley Visitor Center, drive north on highway 101. Take the exit for San Anselmo/Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. Follow Sir Francis Drake Blvd. for 20.4 miles, then turn right on Hwy. 1 for .1 mile. Turn left on Bear Valley Road and drive two miles to the Bear Valley Visitor Center.
Buckeye Roadhouse, 15 Shoreline Hwy., Mill Valley
Pelican Inn, 10 Pacific Way, Muir Beach
Vladimir’s Czech Restaurant, 12785 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Inverness