Just beyond San Francisco, a protected pocket of ancient redwoods rise on Mt. Tamalpais. Originally spared by loggers due to its inaccessibility, Muir Woods National Monument protects one of the last natural cathedrals of coastal redwood sequoias. Wandering through this towering old-growth forest for the first time made me fall in love with Northern California, and there’s magic in walking the Bohemian Grove Trail past 250-foot tall trees. However, this natural monument is just a tiny slice of the gems awaiting in Golden Gate Recreation Area.
As the most visited site in the National Park System, Golden Gate hosts over 15 million annual visitors who come to explore 37 distinct park sites. From the redwoods of Muir Woods to San Francisco’s Presidio and Alcatraz Island, this recreation area contains 1,200 historic structures and over 130 miles of trails. While it’s impossible to see it all in a single trip, you can hit the highlights in a few days.
Many come to see the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, long called “the bridge that couldn’t be built” due to the fog, wind, and tides that hampered its construction. Today, it’s revered as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, and no Northern California trip is complete without a visit. While the bridge and much of Golden Gate Recreation Area is explorable without reservations, Muir Woods’ popularity makes reservations a requirement.
Once you’ve scheduled your visit, you’ll need the perfect place to stay. From Mill Valley Inn’s redwood forest cottages to Casa Madrona’s seaside Sausalito retreats, these eight hotels offer comfortable luxury and easy access to the entire Golden Gate Recreation Area.