As a part of my vacation to San Francisco during Pride 2017, I had the luck of exploring the city on a San Francisco tour with Extranomical Tours, who graciously helped me peruse the city and gave me a respite from walking the many hills on my own. Following Pride, I took another tour with them, but this time over the pond to Muir Woods and Sausalito.
Surprisingly enough, my guide for the day was also Constantine, the same one who’d showed me around the city. He picked me up just a block away from my hostel, before looping through the city to pick up a handful of families and couples.
Our expedition led us immediately over Golden Gate Bridge – which, as I admitted in my early post, I didn’t think I’d care for – a ride that’s well worth the trip. It can apparently be done on foot and bike, especially if you want to bike downhill to Sausalito and take the ferry back to Fisherman’s Wharf.
We stopped off at Vista Point for a bathroom break and, more importantly, a chance to photograph Golden Gate Bridge with the city as a backdrop. Cloudy and overcast for the morning, the photos were still stunning and views great.
Then, we hopped back on board, and rode along winding hills to Muir Woods. Constantine was attentive to our needs the whole way, offering bottled water and adjusting the AC when needed, and made it clear that if anyone needed to step off for an upset stomach to let him know. Luckily no one did, but it was nice knowing that he was aware.
Along the way he detailed the national monument’s history, reciting dates, names, and facts I could never have memorized, even in my heyday at college. Though he couldn’t accompany us beyond the entrance – he had to stay with the bus – he gave us an overview of the park and what trails to take. Then he set us free to wander as we wished, making it clear we had 2 hours to explore.
From the entrance Muir Woods branches off into the Bohemian Grove Trail, Cathedral Grove Trail, and Hillside Trail. I stepped away from the main group to follow the Hillside Trail, which offered a bird’s eye view of the streams and forest floor. It by no means overshadowed the canopy, which towered over my head. I spent my earlier years in a forest just outside of Ramona, CA, so I was comforted by the surrounding trees and natural trails.
The hike took me only 45 minutes before ending at the head of the Bohemian Grove Trail. I immediately ran back into my tour group who took the Hillside Trial back to the entrance. I made the return trip along Cathedral Grove, which, despite being more crowded, was absolutely stunning. There were plenty of Park Rangers to answer questions about the flora and fauna.
The grove itself was the most crowded section, but also the most enchanting. Seeing it from Hillside Trail didn’t compare to wandering among the giants and their mighty trunks.
As I made my way back to the entrance, I was greeted by a pair of guides who offered detailed lessons about the forest, with everything from the study of tree rings to mark their ages to comparing animal skulls and quizzing visitors on bird types.
I had roughly 45 minutes left to pick up some souvenirs and grab a snack, so overall their was plenty of time to explore the forest, even with all three trails. Luckily all our group members met up at the bus on time, so we made a prompt departure to Sausalito.
Constantine gave us an overview of the seaside town on our way, from its history to the best restaurants to visit. Here our group split into two: one half taking the bus back to their hotels, and the other to stay in Sausalito and take the ferry back on our own. I chose the latter, spending the next few ours wandering through shops and cafes. after a long weekend of partying and touring, it was a welcome retreat to relax and cool down.
What made it extra special was the weather, which shifted from foggy morning to sunny afternoon just as I boarded the ferry. It was a steady and cool ride back, offering plenty of photo opportunities of Sausalito, Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island, and Alcatraz. Plus, we spotted a few seals.
Muir Woods and Sausalito offered the perfect compliment to San Francisco Pride. The relaxation and peace of hiking through Muir Woods and dining in Sausalito let me catch my breath and really appreciate my trip. If it wasn’t for Extranomical I probably wouldn’t have discovered these gems of the Bay Area, and can’t help but recommend them to any first time visitors.