No offense to Muir Woods, but one of the best parks in the Bay Area to hang out with some big old redwood trees, and hardly any people, is Samuel P. Taylor State Park. Most people come here for the beautiful creekside campground. But the hiking here is pleasantly peaceful, especially in autumn.
See one of the park’s few remaining old-growth redwood trees on the Pioneer Tree Trail (3 miles round-trip). Go later on an autumn afternoon and you may have the trail all to yourself.
It’s an easy meander that starts with a gentle climb followed by easygoing traverse through a canyon canopied by impressive second-growth redwoods, some with cavernous trunks, others with so much girth it’s worth a tree hugging picture to demonstrate just how big these behemoth beauties are.
About a mile in you’ll get to the very short spur trail (signed) to the namesake Pioneer Trail, one of the few remaining old-growth redwoods in the forest, and estimated to be hundreds of years old. Continue on the loop, descending to finish the hike on a flat, mellow trail currently punctuated by foliage transitioning from green to golden.
Watch for poison oak. No dogs.