Panoramic, Canopy View, Muir Woods
A 5.5-mile loop on the Panoramic, Canopy
View, Muir Woods and Alice Eastwood trails takes you through oaks and bays,
down into the redwood forest of Muir Woods, past a white redwood, and up the
trail and road named for the famous botanist Alice Eastwood.
The hike starts from Mountain Home Inn, a Marin landmark built in 1912 by a
Swiss couple who said the area reminded them of the Alps. Under Claus and
Martha Meyer, the inn had Bavarian decor and served German food. Sadly,
Claus died when he was cranking up his Model-T and it ran him over. In 1930
Martha sold the inn to Katie and Max Todd.
From the parking lot, walk a short distance on the paved road toward Mill
Valley to reach the start of the Panoramic Trail. At first there are many
non-native plants, some of them quite invasive like the garden escapee Pride
of Madeira. The Canopy View Trail has been renamed relatively recently, so
if you have an older map be aware that it is the new name for Ocean View
Trail. Visitors hiking up from Muir Woods expected an ocean view. Since
trees have obscured the view, the name was changed.
Canopy View Trail brings you down to the main trail through Muir Woods. It
runs along Redwood Creek. Muir Woods was saved by William Kent who bought
the land to protect it. Under the newly enacted Antiquities Act, the
president could set aside land without congressional approval. After the
1906 earthquake and fire, water was on everyone’s mind. The North Coast
Water Co. had started condemnation proceedings in order to build a reservoir
in Frank’s Valley. Kent telegraphed Gifford Pinchot of the U.S. Forest
Service. “Condemnation and destruction of Redwood Cañon threatened by Water
Company. Must have it accepted as National Forest at once. … Sole idea is to
save trees for public. .. Vitally urgent.” On January 9, 1908, just one day
before Redwood Canyon was scheduled to be condemned, President Theodore
Roosevelt saved Muir Woods by declaring it a national monument.
As you hike through this magnificent forest, give some thought to the six
California national monuments that are now under threat, including the Giant
Sequoia National Monument in the Sierra with its 33 redwood groves, and
Carrizo Plain National Monument, the largest remaining single grassland in a
Western State. Off shore from Muir Woods, the Cordell Bank and Greater
Farallones national marine sanctuaries are also threatened.
Turning right on the main trail through Muir Woods, you pass Fern Trail on
your right. Stay on the main trail and just past that junction look to your
right for the rare albino redwood. There are only about 400 in all of
California. Albino redwoods cannot do photosynthesis so they must parasitize
green redwoods in order to survive. Because of this, they cannot grow to
full size; the tallest known one is just 66 feet tall.
Turn right on Alice Eastwood Road and head uphill to the Alice Eastwood
Campground. This was the site of a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp
during the Depression. At that time there were 14 buildings here, including
barracks, a hospital and repairs shops. Two of the projects the corps worked
on were the Mountain Theatre and the fire lookout on East Peak. There are
picnic tables in the shade, but beware of yellow jackets.
As you hike up the Alice Eastwood Road watch for a section of rail on your
left, a reminder of the train that used to go up to the top of Mount
Tamalpais with a gravity car spur down to Muir Woods. Just before the road
ends, head up some stairs that take you to the parking lot.
The parking lot is across from Mountain Home Inn, 810 Panoramic Highway.
From Highway 101, take the Stinson Beach/Highway l exit in Mill Valley. In
2/3 of a mile turn left, staying on Highway l. After 2.6 miles, bear right
at fork, onto Panoramic Highway (sign says Mt. Tamalpais). After l mile, at
four-way intersection, take the high road, Panoramic (sign says Mt. Tam). Go
two miles to the parking lot on your left.
Wendy Dreskin has led the College of Marin
nature/hiking class Meandering in Marin since 1998, and teaches other nature
classes for adults and children. To contact her, go to wendydreskin.com.