Any pullout along the Pacific Coast Highway in Marin County offers epic views of the craggy coast and rocky shores below. But the small trail out to the cliff edge at Muir Beach Overlook means you get uninterrupted ocean views, perfect for taking in the sunset. It’s an amazing spot for photography, for the path itself, the beautiful stretches of Marin coastline, and the view of San Francisco off in the distance to the south.
Before you get to the path leading out to Muir Beach Overlook, you’ll pass a small base station, one of the many that dotted the coastline surrounding the bay. These were used as lookouts to spot incoming ships, and many housed artillery units to protect San Francisco in case of attack. It makes sense that you’ll find an old base station at the best view points around San Francisco — the soldiers needed wide open views of the coastline and ocean beyond to sound the alarm of an attack as early as possible.
These lookouts became very important to the city’s defense strategy after the bombing of Pearl Harbor during World War II as the United States thought San Francisco or Los Angeles was a likely next target. With the advancement of technology like radar, these base stations fell out of use. Lucky for us, we still get to enjoy the amazing views!
How to get to Muir Beach Overlook
This vista point is located about 12 miles or a bit over 20 minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge. If you’re planning on spending the day in Marin County hitting the redwood trails of Muir Woods or Mount Tamalpais State Park, or hanging out at Stinson Beach, the Muir Beach Overlook is a quick but beautiful stop to add to your route.
Muir Beach Overlook Parking
There is a small free parking lot (maybe about 15 cars) for Muir Beach Overlook. Most people only stay here about 15 minutes, so if the lot is full a spot will likely open up in a few minutes.
There is a bathroom and a few picnic tables near the parking.
This parking lot is also the starting point for Owl Trail, a 2.1 mile out and back trail that leads to Slide Ranch.
Muir Beach Overlook Trail
This isn’t really much of a trail, but a 0.1 mile fenced path out to the edge of the cliff. Note that there are a few stairs.
When to visit Muir Beach Overlook
The first time we stopped at Muir Beach Overlook, the ocean below was completely shrouded in a sea of clouds. Like much of the Bay Area, you may be dealing with some fog, so be sure to check the weather forecast for Muir Beach if you want a heads up on if you’ll have a view.
The view of the coastline from here is pretty incredible any time of day and any time of year, but the sunset view over the ocean is spectacular. A lot of people come and go pretty quickly, but this is a great spot to grab a seat and watch the colors change and fade over the water.
During the winter, you may even be lucky enough to sight a migrating blue whale.
Can you get to Muir Beach from this parking lot?
No! Despite the name, you cannot hike down to Muir Beach from this Overlook. If you’d like to visit Muir Beach, go to the Muir Beach Parking lot which is a 1.6 mile drive down the hill. From this parking lot, take the 450-foot bridge down to the little cove that is Muir Beach.