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Muir Woods, Mount Tamalpais, Stinson Beach

A visiting friend requested some classic California scenery on a day trip. This gave Post Auto a chance to test ride the buses that connect Muir Woods, Mount Tamalpais, and Stinson Beach to the metropolitan Bay Area. [Last update 8/13/23]

Our journey was a circuit with a stayover in Stinson Beach, although it could have been a day trip if we'd hurried a bit in Muir Woods. We traveled on the Muir Woods Shuttle, and Marin Transit #61.

Both of these routes depart from the ferry terminal in Sausalito. From the perspective of WOAK, this means taking BART to the San Francisco Ferry Building near Embarcadero, or more elaborately arriving in San Francisco by ferry from Jack London Square. Thus the sailing times for the Golden Gate Bridge District's SF to Sausalito ferry [C] are the frame around this excursion.

(The Blue and Gold ferry [C] also links Sausalito to San Francisco at Pier 41, near Fisherman's Wharf. There's no discount for using Clipper on this route, though, which makes it more expensive for most of Post Auto's readers than the Golden Gate ferry.)

In either case, once you arrive in Sausalito, the buses will pick you up where Bay Street meets Bridgeway (the town's main street), across from Poggio, at about 02:00 from your facing as you leave the ferry. Here's a map --

The Muir Woods Shuttle

This line goes directly from Bay & Bridgewater to Muir Woods, a narrow canyon filled with old-growth redwoods. An easy plank path lets you tour this titanic cloud forest in about three hours, in plenty of time to return to Sausalito. Here you will find the freshest air and the greatest number of stacked-up centuries in the Bay Area. While the park can be crowded, the many trails branching off the main loop are lightly used.

I have no reservations about recommending this park, and the shuttle is almost the only way to get there without contributing to a traffic jam on a mountain road. I do have some reservations about the shuttle itself, though.

Although the shuttle reservation website shows a Marin Transit bus, the bus that actually appeared was a small airport shuttle type of thing operating as a concessionaire of the park. It seemed to have no wheelchair accommodation; the driver told me that only a couple of their buses did, and that these were available on request. Later, the operator who answered the shuttle's phone said that questions about accessibility should be directed to Marin Transit. But, again, the current buses are not from Marin Transit, which confirmed to me that they have not operated the Muir Shuttle since April, 2023.

I wish it were still a county bus, because then it might feel more integrated with the Bay Area's transit system in a way that would serve route planning. As it is, you won't see departure times until you go into the shuttle's reservation system (although you can bail out before you buy tickets, of course). You must book a round trip, even if, like my friend and I, you are hiking onward to Stinson Beach. You are able to buy a park admission along with the ticket, which is very convenient in fact.

On the question of ADA access, the website seems to let me book up to two wheelchairs per trip, but I'm concerned by the odd responses I received to this question from drivers and customer support staff. (I should also note that I saw no bike racks, so busing up and biking down the long route to the park is not a prospect.)

The biggest drawback to the Muir Shuttle is that it runs seven days a week in Summer only. Starting in September, it seems to depart just on weekends, from the Larkspur ferry terminal. Perhaps it is not feasible to operate this service more often, but I wonder to what degree its limitations are due to pitching itself as a tourist business. Millions of Bay Area residents, who would love a day trip to Muir Woods but cringe at the thought of driving there, may be unaware that any alternative exists.

Marin Transit #61 [C]

This route runs several times each day between Sausalito and Bolinas on the scenic and hair-raising Panoramic Highway. It offers access to the Pantoll Campground on the slopes of Mount Tamalpais, and the massive wetlands preserve of the Bolinas Lagoon. For those who would rather not rough it, the stop at Panoramic and Edgewood deposits you near the posh Mountain Home Inn.

(Did you notice back there that I said the shuttle is almost the only way into Muir Woods? You can enter the park near Mountain Home Inn via the Panoramic Trail. You can also take a longer hike into the park from the fire trail near the Pantoll stop, perhaps meeting the bus again at Mountain Home. But if you go in through the back gate like this, you should donate the entrance fee to Muir Woods National Monument, unless you're a cheapskate and an all-around jive turkey.)

Wherever you chose to stop, you can't go wrong . . .but please remember that if you use Clipper, you must tag off Marin Transit buses, as well as tagging on.

My own route was a hike through Muir Woods, out of the park via the Dipsea, Old Mine, and Steep Ravine trails (the last of which was stunning even after I had already been repeatedly stunned on this hike) and into Stinson Beach, where my friend and I stayed the night.

And greeted the beloved Bay Area fog.

And stayed for the sun.

And took the last bus back to the ferry from the stop near the store.

At the park across from Calle Del Mar.

Which stately vehicle, despite what some people assume about buses and recreational travel, was filled almost to standing, on a weekday, with people going home from a day trip.

Maybe see you there?


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