Muir Beach Overlook: California’s Most Iconic Coastal Vista?

A view looking down the Muir Beach Overlook, bathed in the golden light of sunset.

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‎ ‎‎‎| Published on: January 27th, 2024

TL;DR: Muir Beach Overlook offers a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco, and North Bay area with an iconic staircase that makes taking stunning photos easy!

From soldiers patrolling the coast following Pearl Harbor to a present-day beautiful lookout point for watching the sunset or spotting whales, Muir Beach Overlook has transformed into a wonderful stop along Highway 1.

Mimi and I visited Muir Beach Overlook after spending a day at Muir Woods in January of 2024.

After an active day outdoors, leisurely relaxing at a picnic bench and then walking down the stairs to the edge of the overlook, Muir Beach Overlook was the perfect place to watch the sunset.

Whether you’re taking advantage of the convenience of Muir Beach Overlook being the first spot along Highway 1 once you’re north of San Francisco, or you’re catching the sunset there on your way back from Muir Woods (or Mt. Tamalpais), it’s definitely worth a stop.

For more details and our experience on Muir Beach Overlook, as well as answers to most questions, read on below!

Muir Beach Overlook Map

Muir Beach Overlook Details and History

A man in jeans and windbreaker looking down at some informational plaques at the Muir Beach Overlook, bathed in the golden light of sunset.

Details

Address
Parking lot, Muir Beach Overlook, Muir Beach, CA 94965

Cost
Free

Distance
.1 mile-long staircase

Hours Open
Dawn to Dusk (just don’t camp there overnight, and you should be fine)

Dog-Friendly
Yes!

Drone-Friendly
Yes (as of January 2024)

Muir Beach Overlook sits a little over 400 feet above Muir Beach, just off Highway 1. Once you cross the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, it’s the very first coastal outpost you’ll encounter. 

The overlook’s iconic 450-foot-long staircase extends into the Pacific with clear, expansive views of the ocean, San Francisco, and the North Bay.

While there, you’ll notice several bunkers used as base-end stations, most notably during World War II. 

They’re fun to hop down into, and you can imagine the smile that might’ve been on a soldier’s face when told to gaze out over the beautiful ocean from this incredible overlook. 

Of course, the soldier’s job was more than just navy-gazing; they were an essential part of observing, monitoring, and calculating distances so that we could defend ourselves from potential enemies. 

They became especially important after Pearl Harbor switched everyone to high alert for possible attacks against San Francisco. 

Still, I do hope the soldiers enjoyed the view!

The army no longer uses Muir Beach Overlook–we have other ways to monitor the coastline now–and, like many other coastal bases, these bunkers are now available for the public to explore. With several picnic tables available and placards describing the overlook’s history, it’s a fun trip!

You can go there for a picnic, look out into the ocean, or even watch whales during winter and spring migration.

My Experience at Muir Beach Overlook

A view looking down some dirt stairs leading towards the Muir Beach Overlook, bathed in the golden light of sunset.
A view looking over the shoulder of a woman wearing a black beanie, looking out towards the Muir Beach Overlook, bathed in the golden light of sunset.

We went to Muir Beach Overlook after a day spent hiking in Muir Woods (we highly recommend that park and our article on visiting Muir Woods). 

It was an easy 10-minute drive from Muir Woods National Monument, and we loved being able to wind down and enjoy the sunset from the overlook.

While watching the sunset, we went down the staircase to truly have that Titanic-esque “I’m the king of the world!” feeling. It was also a fantastic place to fly our drone.

Tip: Check out real-time fog conditions and see if you can make it out on a clear day for the best views! 

Overall, we spent about an hour relaxing and taking photos, making for a peaceful stop. 

It’s typically not too crowded, and we preferred it at that time over going onto Muir Beach, where it’d have been too cold for us even to want to dip our toes in the water.

If you’re wondering, “But is this actually California’s most iconic coastal vista?” – Well, kind of.

I’m from San Diego, so there are a few overlooks in SoCal that I’d rank higher. But for a convenient high-up view just a short drive from San Francisco and on our way back from Muir Woods, we did enjoy this trip.

FAQs about Muir Beach Overlook

FAQs about Muir Beach Overlook

Can you get to Muir Beach from the Overlook?

You can take a 1.5-mile drive down to the Muir Beach parking lot. I wouldn’t recommend walking that road because it’s a narrow, winding road that’s not very well-lit. It’d be pretty dangerous to walk.

Can you drive to Muir Beach Overlook?

Yes, that’s the primary way to get there! There’s a parking lot at the Muir Beach Overlook with around fifteen spaces, which is more than enough for this overlook. It’s a bit of a hidden gem.

Is there a Muir Beach Overlook hike?

There is the Owl Trail that goes down to Slide Ranch. You should check out the ranch and see if you can plan a visit during your trip if you’d like to see some farm animals as well!

Can you camp at Muir Beach Overlook?

No, you cannot camp at Muir Beach Overlook. But nearby Kirby Cove allows camping. You can make a reservation to camp there via their website.

Can you have a wedding at Muir Beach Overlook?

Yes, you can have your wedding at Muir Beach Overlook! It’s a beautiful location and Mimi and I considered the area before deciding on another location in Mill Valley, nearby. To get started on that, check out the NPS site. Also, congratulations!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Suneel Jain
Partnerships & Management

Suneel has lived in California for 32 of his 35 years of life. He regrets those other three because there really isn’t any other state like the Golden State. Suneel has lived in San Diego, Berkeley, San Francisco, Fremont, Hayward, and Sacramento, and has crashed on plenty of couches when visiting friends and family throughout the rest of the state. As a San Diegan, even if he lives in Norcal now, he still insists on saying “the” before the freeway number, rooting for the Chargers (even if they’re not in San Diego anymore), and gets excited whenever he has an excuse to make a trip down.


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Hi, I'm Mimi! I'm an outdoorsy Californian who has spent over 28 years immersed in the incredible natural beauty that California has to offer. My goal is to inspire others to get out and find their next adventure in California. Whether it’s escaping to an alpine lake in the Sierras, finding peace among the giant redwoods, or road tripping down the PCH, there’s always more to explore in this beautiful state.

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