Sun, Vineyards, and Peaks: The San Francisco Loop - Page 3

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Muir Woods National Monument
The Ease of Green: Muir Woods National Monument  (courtesy, National Park Service)

Days 7-8: Napa/Sonoma to Point Reyes National Seashore (55 Miles)
Napa's oenophile refinement is perfectly counteracted by the primitive, windswept beauty of Point Reyes' Pacific-pounded headlands (415.464.5100; www.nps.gov/pore). Looking up from a rugged beach that feels a lot like a private reserve, blunt cliffs loom above dunes that slope toward ocean breakers. Moving inland from the coast, small hills ripple past lakes and forests as the Northern California coastal range, dominated by fir and redwoods, emerges out of the pine forests of the south. There are exhibits and nature trails at the park's headquarters in Bear Valley. From the Lighthouse Visitor Center (415. 669.1534), with exhibits on whaling and the area's human and natural history, descend 300 steps to reach the 1870s, ocean-front lighthouse.

The closest RV camping to Point Reyes is at Marin RV Park in Greenbrae (888.461.5199; www.marinrvpark.com), offering a heated outdoor pool and laundry facilities just ten miles from the Golden Gate Bridge.

You can camp year-round on the Pacific Coast and mountains of the Phillip Burton Wilderness in several backcountry sites accessible only by hiking, biking, or horseback. There is no car camping available in the park. The easiest site to reach is Sky Camp (415.663.8054; www.nps.gov/pore/activ_camp.htm), with 12 individual sites and one group site. Located on the western side of Mount Wittenberg and offering ocean views from 1,025 feet up, the approach is via a 1.4-mile, slightly uphill hike from Limantour Road, with some trails accessible by bicycle. Reservations are strongly suggested and campsites may be reserved up to three months in advance or by visiting the Bear Valley Visitor Center in person.

Day 9: Point Reyes to San Francisco via Muir Woods National Monument (43 Miles)
Muir Woods National Monument (415.388.2595; www.nps.gov/muwo), on the southwestern slope of Mount Tamalpais, is primarily a 554-acre redwood forest that's known for the soaring wooded sentinels endemic to this part of the world. It's also the birthplace of mountain biking (depending on who you talk to; Crested Butte also lays claim to the title). While you can't bike through Muir Woods itself, there are numerous bike trails threading adjacent Mount Tamalpais State Park (415.388.2070; www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=471) and Golden Gate National Recreation Area (415.561.4700; www.nps.gov/goga). Grab a meal overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito, from where it's only a short hop back to San Francisco.

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