Muir Woods East Side Loop Trail


Fern Creek Trail

Leaving from the immensely popular Muir Woods National Monument, this hike is a good example of the hikers “rule-of-halves.” This rule states that the number of hikers on trail decreases by half every half mile. While the math may not be exact, the corollary that the density decreases dramatically as the incline increases moderately cannot be argued!

Lovely soft sunshine filtering through the magnificent old growth redwoods, pools of water reflecting shimmering light in Redwood Creek, morning fog rolling over the ridges and fine vistas along the Sun Trail make a camera and a leisurely pace a must. This is one hike that will leave every hiker amazed at this natural wonder and grateful the environmental activists of the past stood up against the powerful forces of unchecked urbanization. The route is hiker-only and it is unimaginable any other way.

It is suggested hikers go mid week or during the Fall season for a more serene experience. This is especially transit friendly on the weekends with shuttles running from Marin City bus terminal and Sausalito Ferry terminal.

Pass through the Muir Woods National Monument entrance gate to the left of the Visitor Center and proceed on the left side of Redwood Creek. At the Hillside Trail junction turn right and then immediately left on the paved trail over the bridge. Visit the Cathedral Grove and walk on boardwalk over sensitive redwood habitat. At the Fern Creek Trail junction stay left. Drinking water is available at this point. Soon take the Eastwood Trail, named after Alice Eastwood, an early 20th century botanist. An informational sign explains the Civilian Conservation Corps' 1930s-era camp; the crews originated the work done on the trails, roads and buildings of Muir Woods and Mt. Tamalpais.

Pass the Bootjack Trail junction and continue right, on the Camp Eastwood Trail. At a “Y” go left on the Plevin Cut Trail to the Eastwood Camp. Water, picnic tables and restrooms are available for a break. On the left side of the picnic area find the Fern Creek Trail sign, take it and then stay left at an immediate junction. Cross a footbridge and pick up the Lost Trail, heading left from the junction. Climb up a long stretch of wooden reinforced staircase to the Ocean View Trail and again go left.

Soon you’ll enter sunny chaparral covered slopes and reach a “T” in the trail. Stay right this time. At the Panoramic and Redwood Trail junction, go right on the Redwood and pass the European alps inspired Tourist Club building. The trail quickly joins a road leading left to the Sun Trail. Enjoy the views on the Sun Trail and upon reaching the Dipsea Trail, go right to begin the steep descent back to Muir Woods. The Dipsea reaches the Muir Woods Road at the lower parking lot.

The National Park Service website has a link to a document entitled “Muir Woods Historic Resource Study.” The first 30 or so pages has detailed information on the history, habitat and trails contained on this hike and is highly recommended pre-hike homework.

Special thanks to Sue Elliott, Contra Costa Hills Hiking Club leader for sharing this route.

Written by Save Mount Diablo.

Elevation Profile


5.40 miles round-trip

Elevation Gain

2691.00 feet