Owl Trail to North Beach and South Beach, Golden Gate NRA - Muir Beach Overlook Trailhead, San Francisco: Marin Headlands - Mt Tamalpais - Point Reyes, California

Owl Trail to North Beach and South Beach - 2.8 miles

Golden Gate NRA - Muir Beach Overlook Trailhead

Views over South Beach from the Owl Trail

Views over South Beach from the Owl Trail

Round-Trip Length: 2.8 miles (North Beach and South Beach are equidistant)
Start-End Elevation: 472' - 0' (478' max elevation)
Elevation Change: -478' net elevation loss (+514' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Easy-Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Owl Trail to North Beach and South Beach - 2.8 Miles Round-Trip

Muir Beach Overlook is located just north of Muir Beach along Highway 1 in Marin County. A short interpretive trail leads out along a razor thin headland with views that extend across Muir Beach, South Beach, North Beach, Stinson Beach and the Bolinas and Point Reyes peninsulas.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The Owl Trail, named for great horned owls that roost in the area's cypress trees, runs north from the overlook on high bluffs to Slide Ranch, where it splits for North Beach and South Beach.

North Beach is small, turbulent and private with large sea stacks just off shore. South Beach is more accessible, with biologically rich tide pools and abundant wildflowers along its bluffs.

Elect South Beach at low tide and during peak blooms, and North Beach for a more rugged and secluded experience:

The Owl Trail runs north from the Overlook through dense chaparral with rangy views of the coast. Look for seabirds perched off shore, and owls in cypress trees along the trail.

Sea stacks are basaltic rocks, remnants of coastal bluffs that eroded all around them. Beneath your feet is melange, a composite of ancient sea floor deposits and lava. Boulders and outcrops along these hills are made of greenstone basalt and greywacke sandstone, which erode more slowly than surrounding rock beds.

The trail reaches the edge of Slide Ranch and turns sharply left around a large eucalyptus tree (.95 miles : 228'). It drops to a parking area for Slide Ranch (1.1 miles : 170'), where it splits hard left on a gravel road for South Beach, and right down steep stairs for North Beach.

Veer left on the gravel road and descend through the Slide Ranch residential area (the stairs to North Beach will merge there as well).

To reach South Beach, turn left at a split in the residential area marked 'toilet' (1.1 miles); if unsure, ask one the staffers. The path narrows and passes a large yurt on a winding descent to South Beach (1.4 miles : 0').

To reach North Beach, continue straight through the residential area, where the path narrows and drops steeply on a rugged trail and rope-aided descent to the beach (1.4 miles : 0').

Slide Ranch
Slide Ranch was founded in 1970, a non-profit environmental education center located on an historic dairy farm within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Its mission is to teach visitors about the impact our choices have on food, health, and the environment through hands on activities and independent exploration of the farm and surrounding coastal lands. Slide Ranch offers day and overnight educational programs for all ages.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N37 51.794 W122 35.144 — 0.0 miles : Muir Beach Overlook Trailhead - Owl Trail
  • N37 52.416 W122 35.664 — .95 miles : Bend left around large eucalyptus tree
  • N37 52.422 W122 35.783 — 1.1 miles : Slide Ranch Parking Area - turn left
  • N37 52.417 W122 35.997 — 1.4 miles : North Beach
  • N37 52.229 W122 35.776 — 1.4 miles : South Beach

Worth Noting

  • Muir Beach Overlook and high points along the Owl Trail are great places to see migrating grey whales, which travel north in the spring and south in early winter.

  • The Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary encompasses over 1,280 square miles of ocean and shoreline along the northern California coast. The sanctuary protects 33 marine mammal species, including half of California's harbor seal population. The Farallon Islands are home to the largest colony of seabirds in the lower 48 states.

  • The Muir Beach Overlook area lies on the North American Plate, while nearby Bolinas and Point Reyes are located on the Pacific Plate. These plates are separated by the San Andreas Fault. The San Andreas Fault enters the United States through Tomales Bay and runs south through California. The fault zone is 1 mile wide, 780 miles long, and over 20 miles deep.

  • The Golden Gate National Recreation Area spans a 60 mile stretch of coastal lands, with inholdings by other agencies and private owners incorporated into the park's legislative boundaries. Over half of North American avian species and nearly one third of California's plant species are found in the park. 25 federally threatened and endangered species exist within lands managed by the park, and 36 threatened and endangered species exist within Golden Gate's legislative boundaries.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Backcountry camping is not permitted within Mt Tamalpais State Park.

Pantoll Campground

  • The Pantoll Campground is located on Panoramic Highway adjacent to the Pantoll Ranger Station. It has 16 campsites, each with a table, rock barbecue, food locker and space for a tent. Phones, faucets, firewood and flush toilets are nearby. There are no showers. Sites are first-come, first-served.

Steep Ravine Environmental Campground

  • The Steep Ravine Environmental Campground is located on a coastal terrace off Highway 1, one mile south of Stinson Beach. It has nine rustic cabins and seven primitive campsites. Each cabin has a wood stove, picnic table, benches, sleeping platforms and outdoor bbq. The cabins do not have running water or electricity.
  • Primitive toilets, faucets, and firewood are nearby. Primitive campsites are located a few hundred yards from the parking area. Each site has a table, fire pit, food locker and space for a tent. Primitive toilets and water faucets are nearby. There are no showers at Steep Ravine Campground.

Alice Eastwood Group Camp

  • Alice Eastwood Group Camp is located off Panoramic Highway on Alice Eastwood Road. It has two campsites. Site A holds up to 50 people; Site B holds up to 25 people. Both sites have tables, flush toilets, water faucets with sinks, bbq grills and a large area for tents.

Frank Valley Group Horse Camp

  • Frank Valley Group Horse Camp is located 1.5 miles West of Muir Woods National Monument on Muir Woods Road. It has 12 pipe corrals, water faucets, watering troughs, picnic tables, fire rings and a pit toilet. The minimum group size is 2 horses; the maximum size is 12 horses.
  • To reserve a campground visit www.reserveamerica.com or call 800.444.7275. For specific camping and campground questions, call Pantoll Ranger Station at 415.388.2070.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is permitted on North Beach and South Beach with a valid California Fishing License.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs are not permitted on the Owl Trail.

  • Bikes are permitted on the Owl Trail.

  • Respect the privacy of ranch workers and residences. Do not feed or molest livestock.

Directions to Trailhead

The Muir Beach Overlook Trailhead is located .5 miles north of Muir Beach along Highway 1 in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area of Marin County.

Contact Information

Golden Gate National Parks
Building 201, Fort Mason
San Francisco,CA 94123-0022

Marin Headlands Visitor Center

Pacific West Region Information Center

Slide Ranch
2025 Shoreline Highway
Muir Beach, CA 94965

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"Thanks Janis. We doubled checked and learned that dogs are not permitted on the Owl Trail. A great alternative for dogs is the Coastal Trail beginning at Rodeo Beach."
 -   -  Date Posted: February 18, 2013
"There are conflicting reports in this article about dogs on the Owl Trail. We have low-impact small dogs(Poms) that love the beach. Can we hike down to Slide Ranch and South Beach from Lookout without worrying about violation pursuit? Thank you for your prompt response! Janis Hedvall"
Janis Hedvall  -  San Anselmo, CA  -  Date Posted: February 18, 2013
"I discovered Muir Beach Overlook at sunset and would like to hike the Owl trail down to Slide Ranch and South beach. I am seeing conflicting info about dogs in this article. We have small, low impact dogs(Poms) that would not bother Owls but love the beach. Can we take them down here or not without being pursued for violations. Thank you for your prompt response! Janis Hedvall"
Janis Hedvall  -  San Anselmo, CA  -  Date Posted: February 18, 2013


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