There’s something about hiking quietly that brings a different feel to the experience. Our group was headed into the Marin Headlands on Sunday, one of my very favorite coastal areas for a lot of reasons.

Generally, weekend hikers are a fairly social, even boisterous, group as people come together from across the region and really get a chance to explore and savor this part of the country. Most of us have day jobs that keep us inside far too often, so when opportunities arise to do interesting hikes and find new natural surprises, it’s a pretty upbeat experience. We started at the Muir Beach parking lot, an ideal spot as there are plenty of spaces, some facilities and easy access to the beach itself for pre- and post-hike recreation. From the beach, there are several different trail options nearby. This time, we headed onto the Middle Green Gulch trail, which cuts directly through Green Gulch Farm, a Buddhist Zen retreat.

So, that meant silent hiking for a short stint as we walked by the gardens, temple buildings, sculptures, paths and other trappings of the center. It’s part of the San Francisco Zen Center and is a popular getaway for those looking for some Zen meditation and education or to just retreat altogether and find some inner solitude, if only for a short stay. Other than the rustling of our packs and the thuds of our footsteps, I heard nothing as we stepped into our own moment of Zen. I don’t think our hiking band disturbed any of the practitioners since we were super-quiet and didn’t linger as we headed through, but if we did, apologies.

As we left the Zen center and headed up to the top of the coastal ridge, we joined up with several of the other trails that crisscross the park, which is technically the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. This included a few trail sections that are also part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, that mega-loop that I’m determined to complete over the next couple of years piece by piece.

While it was drizzly inland, the fog was intermittent as we rose, providing terrific Marin County and Pacific Ocean views at times and scenery that seemed gloaming-like at times too.

Anyway, our destination was Pirates Cove, a speck of sand easily accessible just off a main trail. Rocks protect the cove from the waves completely tearing away the sand, and it’s ideal for a picnic or just hanging out. During Prohibition, bootleggers would ‘pirate’ booze in to the cove, allegedly.

From the Muir Beach trailhead, our group’s large loop had taken us about 8-plus miles to get to the cove area, but it’s only 1-2 miles from Muir Beach itself if a more direct trail is followed, making it an ideal place for a quick hike if you happen to be hanging out at the beach and want to add in a side adventure.

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