MARIN & NAPA
We are still in the middle of our longest traveling contract yet here in Monterey, CA. For President’s Day, we had one final 3 day weekend and wanted to make the most out of it. As we thought about where we should go, we narrowed the options down to Yosemite or Marin/Napa. Of course, we ended up choosing Marin/Napa.
DAY 1 SATURDAY 02.17.18
We decided we’d leave from Monterey on Saturday morning and spend one night in Marin County and one night in the Napa Valley area. We found very affordable Airbnbs in San Rafael and Vallejo for about $90 for the 2 nights. It has been a while since I planned a long weekend trip because we have been doing mostly day trips lately around the Monterey area. I’m not sure what I was thinking when making these plans because I planned way, way, way, way, way too much! That’s okay though because it gave us plenty to do (and plenty more to do if we make it back because of all we missed). Here are the original plans for Saturday:
Lunch (Golden Gate Market)
Lunch: Golden Gate Market
Golden Gate View Point
Battery Kirby / Kirby Cove
Marin Headlands / Vista Point
Point Bonita Lighthouse
Cypress Tree Tunnel
Point Reyes Shipwreck
Point Reyes Lighhouse
Dinner: Sol Food (takeout)
Yeah – I think I planned too much. As you can see, we still got a lot in. Some things we had to skip because parking was going to be impossible. Some we skipped because of timing to allow for other things. We were hoping to leave for the Bay area by 8am, but it really ended up being more like 9. Also, everything was probably slightly busier than usual because of the long weekend. Either way, be prepared for crowds on your visit!
Fort Point: I have seen some fantastic photos taken here. We had been
here once and I was disappointed with my photos and was hoping for
redemption. We also wanted to stop here to figure out where we were
going to go to get lunch. I took a bunch of photos and feel that I was
able to get my redemption with this shot to the right…
Golden Gate Market: I didn’t prepare well for food prior to this trip. At Fort Point, we actually decided we wanted to go to Napa Valley Burger Co but after driving by, it was hard to find parking, there was a line out the door, and it was a sit down place that was going to take more time than we had. Since we got our late start, we needed something quicker. We called an audible and headed over to the market that has a deli in the back. It was a nice stop for a quick lunch. It was very affordable as well, costing under $10 for specialty sandwiches (we got chicken bacon ranch). It’s located inside the
market so there is no place to sit and eat but there are benches along the road just down the street with amazing views as well of the SF skyline and Sausalito. If you’re looking for something quick and affordable, I would recommend this place. If you have a little more time and want to enjoy a nice Sausalito restaurant, I would look elsewhere. Again, the Napa Valley Burger Co is definitely what peaked our interest the most.
Fort Baker & Battery Yates: I originally put
Battery Yates on this list instead of Fort
Baker. We ended up going to both but for
time sake if I could do it all over again, I
would pick just Fort Baker. They are located
right near each other and for views and a
place for a picnic, I would go with Fort
Baker. There’s a huge parking lot. There are
trails if you’re looking for some walking to
do. It gives a similar view of Fort Point,
except from the other side of the bridge.
(Battery Yates is only 1 minute up the road
from Fort Baker).
Golden Gate View Point: I think we got the
chance to stop here another time when we
were quickly in the area. A beautiful view of
the Golden Gate Bridge is offered here. Not
only was there no parking but there were cars
double parked, cars parked illegally on the side of the road. It was total chaos. Please do not park illegally because this is going to end up ruining it for everyone when the implement reservations and fees to be in this area. Anywho, we skipped right on by.
Taken From Fort Baker
Battery Kirby & Kirby Cove: It was a shame we had to skip the Golden Gate View Point because that was also our planned parking spot for accessing Kirby Cove. We are still yet to see Kirby Cove.
Slackers Hill: I am very excited we got to climb this hill. I definitely didn’t feel like a slacker, as it is somewhat steep. The coordinates for the parking area are [37.833853, -122.494426] and the lot here is very small as well. I think we may have been lucky to get parking but there was also another spot available when we left. The hike starts at the trail to the left of the bathroom. There are other hikes from this parking lot as well, but I don’t know anything about them at this time. It’s only a ½ mile to the top but it is steep. The views from the top may be my favorite in Marin County. You can see the SF city skyline, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and much more. *Note: if you get parking here, you can walk down the road to Kirby Cove. It adds an extra mile or so each way to the walk. We chose not to do this since we had so much more planned!
Marin Headlands Vista Point: This was another that was a shame we had to skip. It was impossible to get parking at the time we went, despite how many spots there are. Again, there were cars double parked and people just waiting for spots to open up. We had to move on.
Hawk Hill: The Vista Point from above was going to be our parking area for this hike, so again we had to skip it. From my searching online, it appears the viewpoint from Hawk Hill is very similar to the view of Slackers Hill. I have not made it up to Hawk Hill yet, so I can’t confirm. I don’t think it is necessary to do both of these hikes on one trip, anyways so since we got Slackers Hill in, I was okay with letting this one slip by.
Point Bonita Lighthouse: This one we kind of did. Poor planning on our
part got us here at 3:45, 15 minutes after it closes. And by “it closes,” it
is inaccessible. There is a long tunnel that takes you to the lighthouse
and gate to that tunnel gets locked. We had a great walk from the
parking lot to the closed gate though. The views walking toward the
tunnel are spectacular (as shown below). Just make sure you are aware
of the hours! As of the time of this post, the hours are Saturday through
Monday, 12:30 – 3:30. For parking, there is a small lot with 10 spaces
right by the trail at [37.821974, -122.529404] but there is overflow
parking ⅓ mile away with plenty more spaces. *Tip: I did overhear the
ranger say there is another trail to get there but we did not look into it.
Rodeo Beach: This place looked wonderful but we had to skip for times
Battery Townsley: We were going to hike the 2 mi RT hike from the
Rodeo Beach parking area but sadly had to cut this from the list for
The traffic to get out of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area was a nightmare and added about 40 minutes to the next part of the trip → to Point Reyes! Thinking we would get all of that in during the day and maybe be done by about 3:00, we’d have plenty of time to head up to Point Reyes! Not so much but we were still able to do a few things.
By the time we left Marin County, it was about 5:00. We zoomed over to Point Reyes to see if we could catch the Tree Tunnel before dark.
Cypress Tree Tunnel: We missed sunset here, which I was bummed about, but we did get here before dark! This may not be the best tree tunnel in the world but it’s the best I’ve seen to date. I’d guess it’s about 200 feet long and it’s full of awesomeness. Here are the coordinates for the Tree Tunnel [38.092440, -122.944246]
Cypress Tree Tunnel
Point Reyes Lighthouse: We had to let this one go. It was getting dark. We didn’t know if it was going to close like the Point Bonitas Lighthouse did, and it was going to be 40 minutes in the opposite direction from the airbnb…and we were getting hungry. I’m sad we missed it but it was a good decision giving our horrible timing.
Point Reyes Shipwreck: There is plenty of information on the internet about this boat. I did not read any of it until after visiting. I thought it was going to be way out there and difficult to access. It turns out it’s right behind the Inverness Store and there is parking about 50 feet away at a little picnic area. It looks like the history behind the boat is that the lands previous owner intended to fix up the boat but never got around to it. When the land was taken over by wetlands restoration, it was planned on being removed but instead became a popular tourist and photography destination. *Tip: In my researching on how to find the boat, I saw online that it had burned down due to a photographer using steel wool on the boat. I cannot confirm if there was any damage to the boat from that incident, but I can confirm that the boat is 100% still there. See Atlas Obscura’s page for more info! The coordinates to the parking area are [38.096871, -122.851103].
Point Reyes Shipwreck
Sol Food: This place is by far the most and best reviewed place on the internet in San Rafael so it was a no-brainer to come here. The problem was that it was too crowded. It was 7:30 and the line was down the street. We are not night owls and did not want to wait that long for a super late dinner. We stumbled in their backdoor to their separate takeout spot and went with that. It was about 20 minutes from the time we ordered and it was delicious. We brought the food back to our Airbnb and finally had some relaxation time. I ordered the Pollo Al Horno (3 chicken thighs) and Les got the small Vegetariano and it was plenty!
Pollo Al Horno
We were all done with the Golden Gate Nat Rec Area but before leaving Marin County, we had to do just a little more. We wanted to go to the Muir Woods but decided against it for a few reasons [1. As of 1/16/18, reservations are required. 2. Because of these reservations, the costs have gone up. From my understanding, it would have costed us $8 for the vehicle plus $10 for each of us to enter. That is $28 for a day of exploring. We have had the chance to explore plenty of Redwoods areas for free since we lives in Eureka for 2 months and Southern Oregon for 3 months]. Because of this, I found us a free day of fun at Mt. Tamalpais (don’t ask me how it’s pronounced) State Park! *Note: There is entry fee to the park, however, the East Peak, Pantoll and Bootjack trailheads have $8 cash only parking fees. Here’s how to have a great time here for free…
Rock Springs Trailhead
Quarry Parking Lot
Trojan Point offers a fantastic lookout of the Bay and the SF skyline. There is parking at [37.906303, -122.614623] and then an extremely short walk up the hill in front of the parking lot will take you to the viewpoint below.
O’Rourke’s Bench: Don’t move your car because the trail to O’Rourke’s bench starts at the Trojan Point parking lot. It’s only a .2 mi hike to the bench but the elevation gain is about 200 feet (it doesn’t sound steep but it’s pretty steep). Don’t worry because if you’re looking for more hiking from here, there are plenty of trails and the scenery all over this area is beautiful! We were surprised to find this awesome swing at O’Rourke’s Bench and thank you to whoever put it there cause it was too much fun.
Rock Springs Trailhead: I had a feeling we may end up skipping this one and we did. We only skipped it because it is a 5 mile round trip hike and we still wanted to spend some time in Napa Valley. The hike we were going to do was along the Cataract Trail to Helen Markt Falls and Cataract Falls. Trailhead coordinates are [37.910633, -122.612536].
Quarry Parking Lot: [37.91425, -122.60915] – I actually had no idea what was going to be here. Turned out it took us to a much needed bathroom and to this cool amphitheater with a great viewpoint. I decided to run it a few times!
We were gone from Mt. Tamalpais by noon. We did not have much of an agenda for this area but we had a few places in mind that we were glad we went to. Here’s how the rest of Sunday looked:
Angelo’s Wine Country Deli: It was super busy when we went because a bus had just pulled in. The sandwiches were great. Much better than yesterday’s from the Golden Gate Market – $10 with a side salad (I went with potato salad). No indoor seating. Outdoor seating but it was cold and windy! We ate in the car in the parking lot. The photo below is my quick attempt at making the lunch look scenic! Photo on the right is what the view across the street actually looked like.
Highway 12 Tasting Room: Here we got a complimentary wine tasting of 3 wines. My favorite was the award winning, Red Blend. This is not a fancy winery with amazing view. It is in downtown Sonoma. As you may have noticed if you have been reading my blog, we tend to look for the most cost effective ways to do things! Next time we head back this way, I will probably do more research to figure out which wineries may be the best to pay for samples.
Yountville: One of the main reasons to drive up here was in search of some scenic views and to find some fields full of mustard plants! We didn’t find exactly what I was looking for except right in Yountville, we came across that beautiful patch of land.
Clemente’s Italian: We learned the hard way that you don’t wait til closing time to come here (which is why we went to 2 Italian restaurants). If you do, you may expect to be able to get malfatti’s. We were hoping to get some malfatti’s, some veal, some chicken, and some spahgetti. The story is this place is good, it’s popular, and they run out of stuff! Also, they are closed on Monday’s. *TIP: The phone did not work when we were there and the closing time was not an exact set time so be careful. Also, it is inside a liquor store. We did get 1 order of malfatti’s but needed more food…
Napoli’s: We went to Napoli’s in Valejo because that’s where we were staying. We decided to stick with the Italian since we already got the malfatti’s. We ended up getting take-out so we could eat our malfatti’s with the Napoli’s back at the Airbnb. I won’t get in to much detail, but for having good reviews online, I was a little disapointed with Napoli’s. The food quality seemed fair. I went with the spaghetti and meatball and Leslie got a Caesar salad.
We originally expected to spend this day going to more wineries and exploring Napa more. We decided to go for a hike instead at the scenic Lake Berryessa, home of the famous Glory Hole. I won’t list out our plans for the day because that hike was pretty much it other than driving home. After doing some research the night before at the Airbnb, we found this awesome hike, the Stebbins Cold Canyon Natural Reserve. There are 2 decent sized parking lots, which you can find here [38.511970, -122.096543]. Both lots were full by the time we finished and cars were parked on the street so I’d suggest going early on a weekend. The hike ascended quite a bit and at the top, edged the lake for a while which provided beautiful views. It was somewhere between 4-5 miles. I would definitely recommend it. It was about 30-40 minutes East of Napa (and 45 minutes from Valejo).
As always, please feel free to let me know about your Marin County / Napa travel experiences or what you plan to do on your upcoming trip!
or email me @