It’s hard to say what’s better: the hike to Pirate’s Cove, or Pirate’s Cove itself. Tucked between Tennessee Beach and Muir Beach on the Marin coast, Pirate’s Cove is a rugged little beach with a colorful past. And it’s only accessible by hiking in. Even better, the hike’s awesome: a 1.5-mile (one-way) Pacific-hugging ramble. From Muir Beach, the Coastal Trail climbs for three-quarters of a mile before topping out at a number of dramatic vantages: Southward views stretch from Point Bonita and San Francisco all the way to Pacifica. And tiny Pirate’s Cove can be spotted below.
The final section down to the beach is a bit of a scramble (wear good shoes!), but once there you get to enjoy a haven of soft white sand bookended by hulking cliffs. The cove’s covert location makes it easy to see why it was a staging area for bootleggers during California’s Prohibition era. These days you won’t find the hooch (unless you bring in your own, picnic-style), but there’s plenty of booty in the form of salty air and solitude. Argh, matey, there be treasure here!
BEVERAGE BONUS: Muir Beach and Pelican Inn are practically synonymous. After your hike, head to the Inn and spread a blanket on their large front lawn, a dog-friendly spacious enclave perfect for kicking back. The Pelican Inn seems plucked from the Cornish coast, full of old English charm, serving up tasty British beers (okay, there’s California options too), and perfectly paired foods like bangers and mash or fish and chips.
Start at the Muir Beach parking lot. Cross the bridge, go left and continue up the Coastal Trail. Follow signs for Pirate’s Cove which is reached in about 1.5 mile. Here’s a map of the Marin Headlands. The trail to Pirate’s Cove is not dog-friendly. Muir Beach is dog-friendly! The lawn at Pelican Inn is dog-friendly!