Miwok Trail / Marin Headlands
Having lived in and hiked far and wide through the Bay Area for over 20 years, I was surprised recently to find a gem right next door, geographically speaking. One caveat on this spectacular hike from Tennessee Valley to Muir Beach and back: It is not technically an off-leash area. Like other areas of Golden Gate National Recreation Area—which covers 75,000 acres over three counties—there can be a bit of tension between the various users, including hikers, cyclists and dog enthusiasts.
One cool aspect of this hike is that your direct route from the trail head in Tennessee Valley to stunning Muir Beach cuts many winding miles off the route you’d take by car. A client turned me on to this hike when I met she and her dog at the Miwok Trail for some recall work. The apparent rule of thumb is that dogs are allowed off-leash north of Tennessee Valley Road, starting on the Miwok Trail and running up and over the hill to Muir Beach. Dogs are not allowed at all south of Tennessee Valley Road.
I always advise my clients that off-leash adventures, whether on a trail designated as such or one of these wink-and-a-nod areas, does not mean unbridled and unsupervised complete canine freedom. Quite the contrary, as I do with my own dog Otis, be prepared to leash your dog at certain times and release her at others. For instance, as a courtesy and safety for all concerned, when you hear cyclists approaching from behind, call your dog to you and leash her until they have passed. This way they don’t have to worry about your dog inadvertently running into their path.
The views are stellar and there are points from which you can see many of the Bay Area’s most prominent landmarks as you turn 360 degrees, including the blue Pacific, Sutro Tower in San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, Mount Diablo, Tiburon, Mount Tam, and of course, Muir Beach.
Trail maps are not available in the parking area, so I suggest you print one before you depart on this adventure. Start at the Tennessee Valley Trailhead parking lot and head north on the Miwok Trail, which meets up with the Coyote Ridge trail. From here you can take one of three loops through Green Gulch, or just stay on the Coast Trail to Muir Beach.