John Muir is one of California's most celebrated outdoor enthusiasts and environmental activists, and his 170th birthday (April 21) falls appropriately in line with Earth Day (April 22). Celebrate by heading out to his namesake park in Marin. Muir Woods
is home to some of the most beautiful old-growth coastal redwood groves in the state, and a popular destination for locals and tourists. But take its path less traveled and enjoy the area's natural treasures without the crowds. Bootjack Trail is a backdoor route that starts from the Pantoll parking lot and lets hikers warm up with ease. The trail parallels Redwood Creek, crossing it from left to right, over bridges and along natural rock steps—mostly under the redwood canopy. (Van Wyck Meadow is one of the few open sunny spots along the trail.) Everything radiates green, and the moss and glistening ferns give the feeling of being in a rainforest. Some of the towering, muscular trees have natural trunk openings wide enough to walk through. The second half of the hike, after Bridge 4 in Muir Woods and along the Ben Johnson Trail, requires some uphill leg power, but the oak growths and warming sunbeams are natural inspirations. Backdoor access is for nature-loving VIPs only!
This is a four-mile hike. Park at the Pantoll parking lot (not the Muir Woods parking lot) in Mount Tamalpais State Park, off of Panoramic Highway. Start on the Alpine Trail behind the bus stop at the driveway entrance to the parking lot. Go about a half-mile to the Bootjack Trail, turn right and descend 1.5 miles into Muir Woods. Turn right, go across Bridge 4 and hike up the Ben Johnson Trail for about a mile. Continue one-third of a mile on the Stapelveldt Trail up to the Pantoll parking lot. No dogs allowed.
For more Bay Area John Muir adventures, check out Weekend Sherpa.