THE HIKE: If you prefer crashing coast, Marin’s Owl Trail is the place for you. This swooping seashore tramp—not for those with a fear of heights—offers a special bonus at this time of year: the chance to see migrating gray whales offshore. The two-mile round-trip trek, which parallels Highway 1 between the Muir Beach Overlook and Slide Ranch, is little-visited in late winter. Pack your binoculars and your patience, and you might even catch the trail’s namesake nocturnes, great horned owls, perched in the trees along the way. Continue another three-quarters of a mile toward the sea from Slide Ranch and check out the tidepools beyond the rocky beach below.
The Owl Trail starts from an unmarked trailhead at the north end of Muir Beach Overlook parking lot. Take this north all the way to Slide Ranch, and return on the same trail.
THE FIRE: The Pelican Inn seems like it’s been plucked from the Cornish coast and dropped intact right into Muir Beach. The picturesque place is full of old English charm, serving up bangers and mash and some tasty Olde Worlde bread pudding. There’s usually a roaring fire in at least one of the inn’s three fireplaces to help stave off the maritime chill. Stay until dusk, and you’ll be treated to a chorus of bullfrogs tuning up. And if you just can’t bear to leave, there are seven rustic rooms for overnighting. Cheers, mate.
The Pelican Inn, 10 Pacific Way, Muir Beach; 415-383-6000. To get to Muir Beach Overlook and the Pelican Inn, take Highway 1 north from Hwy. 101. Take the detour onto Panoramic Hwy. and at the top of the hill turn left onto Muir Woods Rd. When you reach Highway 1, turn right for Muir Beach Overlook, or left for the Pelican Inn.