Work takes me to San Francisco on a frequent basis and I have kinda started loving this beautiful city. Apart from it being know as the “Silicon Valley” of the world, the city has so many beautiful and serene places to visit.

In my recent trip, I got a weekend for myself to explore the places around San Francisco. The initial plan was to go to Napa Valley and places around it, but then we finalized on a day trip in and around the San Francisco bay area. I was staying in Palo Alto and following was the plan:

Plan Map

Itinerary for the day:

  • Start from Palo Alto at around 9:00 AM and drive all the way to the our first stop at “Golden Gate Bridge View”
  • After the customer photos sessions of the Golden Gate, start driving North towards Muir Beach
  • Spend an hour at this beach and then continue the ascend towards the Muir Beach overlook.
  • From Muir beach, continue driving North towards the white sand Stinson Beach.
  • Spend a good hour or so at Stinson beach and then continue driving on the Shoreline highway and head towards Mount Tamalpais
  • The last stop was to hike to Mount Tamalpais East peak, which provides unmatched view of the Bay area

Details of the outing:

It was a bright Sunday morning and the weather was just perfect for a day outing. My Colleague and his family had planned the trip out and we managed to start the day with the kiddo’s at around 10AM. The drive from Palo Alto to San Francisco through the Interstate 280 was very scenic. Traffic on 280 was not as heavy as 101 and we managed to to reach our first stop “Golden Gate Bridge View” in around an hour.

 

Golden Gate Bridge View:

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Golden Gate was covered in Fog and visibility was reduced to around 50-100 feet. We were a bit disappointed that the fog would ruin our plans to explore the Bay area.

 

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But magically the cloud disappeared as we crossed over to the other side of the bridge. Weather at San Francisco bay area can change in a matter of minutes.

 

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The parking area at the “Golden Gate Bridge” View point. If you are early and lucky, you might find a parking spot. We were lucky to find a parking spot, considering that we were at a time when the entire place gets crowded.

 

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The clouds rolling over the bridge.

 

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The magnificent view of the bay area from the viewpoint.

 

The Panoramic view of the Bay area from the “Golden Gate Bridge” Viewpoint

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After spending around an hour at this place, we started our drive towards Muir beach. The drive from Golden Gate bridge to Muir takes roughly around 30 minutes. The beach is located 3 miles west of Muir Woods along the coastline. The beach is a quiet cove, lagoon and beach, which is a favorite of the locals.

Muir Beach

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The walkway leading to the beach. This 450 foot long bridge connects visitors from the Muir Beach parking lot over the new floodplain to the beach.

 

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The water is pretty cold and the breeze chilly. If you are planning for a swim, be prepared for post swim chill.

 

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The rocky formations around the beach.

 

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Shades of Blue – The pacific ocean at its full glory

 

After spending an hour at the beach, he proceeded to our next destination “Muir Beach Overlook”. The overlook is around mile from the beach and should hardly take around 5 minutes.

 

Muir Beach Overlook

This overlook was one of the many base stations from where the soldiers used to keep a watch on the coastline for ships. During the aftermath of Pearl Harbor these spots became increasingly important for watching for future attacks near San Francisco. As technology improved, these observatory stations became obsolete.

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The view of the Pacific Ocean from the Muir Beach Overlook. On a clear day, the soldiers in the observation station can scan the horizon for enemy ships.

 

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The observation stations where the soldiers were stationed.

 

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The view of Muir beach from the overlook.

 

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The walkway that leads to the cliff where you can get unmatched views of the Pacific ocean and the shoreline. This place is pretty windy and can get cold. Carrying a jacket would not be a bad idea.

 

After being mesmerized by the views from Muir Overlook, we started our journey north on the Shoreline highway towards Stinson beach.

 

Stinson Beach:

Stinson beach is a white sand beach and is an ideal place for hiking, picnicking, fishing and surfing. You will find many families coming over to this place to escape the frantic pace of city life. The road to Stinson beach from Muir overlook is very scenic. The steep and winding road runs in parallel to the shoreline and provides some amazing view of the bay.

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The road leading to the Stinson beach. You will find a string of eating joints all along this road.

 

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The beach has soft white sand and it an ideal place to build your castles.

 

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Another view of the Stinson beach. The beach is open around the year and also has lifeguards on duty. At the far left of the photo, you can see the winding road coming down from the hills towards the beach.

 

We spend a good couple of hours chilling out at this wonderful beach. The sun was beating down and provided the much needed warmth against the cool breeze and cold water. At around 5:00 PM, we decided to move to our next destination which was Mount Tamalpais

 

Mount Tamalpais

Mount Tamalpais is the highest peak in the Marin Hills, which are part of the Northern California Coast Ranges. The East and West peaks are perfect for hikes and provide some amazing view of the valley and city below.

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The drive from Stinson beach to Mount Tamalpais will take a good 30 minutes. The drive is through the thick woods (huge trees) that the bay area is know for. As you keep ascending, the woods disappear and the grasslands takeover. Took this photo at around 6:30PM. You can see the city at the far left of the photo, the moon rising in the center and the clouds rolling over from the ocean towards the city.

 

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The winding roads that take you to the mountain

 

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The view of the city. San Francisco downtown is on the right of the photo. Golden Gate bridge is hidden under the cloud cover on the far right of the photo

 

If you want to get better view of the valley and the city, continue driving towards the East peak. The views from the East peak (one where you need to hike to the summit) is breath taking. The hike is not very tiring and can be done at leisure.

 

Mount Tamalpais (East Peak)

 

Our last stop for the day for the hike to East peak which provided some of the best views of the bay area. One can see the entire coastline, downtown San Francisco and all the way up to the hills near Napa valley. It is indeed one of the most serene places to visit in and around the Bay area.

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Welcome to East peak.

 

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The view from the East peak. A short 10 minutes hike through a trail will bring you to the summit from where you can get a birds eye view of the valley.

 

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The last shot of the day taken at around 8:00 PM from the observatory deck that has been build at the base of the East Peak. As the sun was setting, you can notice the cool clouds rolling over the hills over the bay area. The lights have taken effect in the valley.

 

 

As I stood over the cliff staring at the clouds rolling over the hills, could not help but feel a sense of calmness seeping in. The cool breeze and the fresh air does add to the theatrics. It was one heck of a day and I must thank my friend’s family for being a perfect host and planning this wonderful day.

 

 

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