The Northern California Coast
I grew up in San Francisco and moved to Marin County (a stone’s throw over the Golden Gate Bridge) decades ago when I got married. Surrounded by so much natural beauty for so long, it can become easy to take the trees, the coast and the open spaces for granted. It wasn’t until I started traveling more that I realized how special this place is and how blessed I am to call it home.
When Backroads posted a job opening developing a Northern California Coast hiking trip, I jumped at the chance and applied. This was my backyard, after all! I got the job and spent the winter trying to put together the best possible trip. I soon realized that my blessing was also my curse: so many spectacular hiking options… but what to choose? I came to realize, yet again, how fortunate I am to live so close to a wonderful city like San Francisco while also surrounded by beautiful open space, hiking trails and protected wild land that make me feel worlds away from civilization.
I recently watched a documentary, Rebels with a Cause, about the many individuals who banded together during the 1950s and ’60s to protect Marin County’s public land from being turned into housing developments and shopping malls. It was an eye-opener to see what could have happened to this special place, as it has to so many others.
One of the things that I love the most about this area–and the hiking trip we’ve created here–is the varied landscape, from the quiet shores of Tomales Bay, to the windswept bluffs and dunes of Point Reyes National Seashore, to the grand redwoods in Muir Woods, to the amazing views from Mount Tamalpais and to the craggy coastline of Pirates Cove in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. In the charming town of Mill Valley, built in the shadow of Mount Tamalpais, we marvel at the homes surrounded by redwoods and seemingly clinging to the hillsides. We have the chance to walk across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, an engineering marvel, and explore the lovely seaside town of Sausalito. We get up close and personal to the San Francisco Bay when we take our private water taxi to historic Angel Island, inhabited first by Miwok Indians and then by the US government as an immigration station known as “the Ellis Island of the West.”
Our lodgings are as varied as the environment around us, from Nick’s Cove, a settlement of rustic but elegantly renovated fishing cabins on the tranquil shores of Tomales Bay, to the Mill Valley Inn, steps away from everything in quaint Mill Valley. Finally we stay at Cavallo Point Lodge, originally a military base built in 1908 on the edge of the Golden Gate Strait under the shadow of the bridge, where we dine in one of the best restaurants in the area.
West Marin has become a hub of the organic, local, sustainable food movement, and great food is another big part of this trip. We enthusiastically partake in its abundance, learning to shuck oysters fresh from Tomales Bay, visiting a local dairy to experience a farm-to-table dinner and savoring many locally made cheeses. Then we finish our trip back in San Francisco at the trendy Ferry Building Marketplace, a food mecca where much of the local produce we’ve enjoyed all week is featured.
On this journey along Northern California’s coast, we enjoy the challenging hiking, beautiful views and million-miles-away feel of West Marin, then slowly work our way back to the beloved City by the Bay. It was a pleasure to design this adventure, to learn more about the area that I call home and, most of all, to share it with you.