Just a short drive outside of San Francisco, off the Dipsea trail, the oldest cross country racing trail in America, a small German beer garden is tucked into the woods. The Touristen Verein die Naturfreunde, or the Nature Friends Tourist Club, is located above Muir Woods on the incline of Mount Tamalpais. The Tourist club is about 100 years old and was built by a few German and Austrian friends who were living in the Bay Area. They fell in love with what is now Muir Woods and erected a house complete with a large deck and beer taps in the forest. While it is a club house, built for members to enjoy the area, the Tourist Club is open to nonmembers on the 1st, 4th, and 5th (if there is one) weekends every month.
While many San Franciscans know of the Tourist Club for the beer they serve (which is definitely delicious), my favorite thing about it is the hike to get there. There are many different trails that lead you to the club, varying both in length and in difficulty, but my personal favorite begins in Mill Valley and leads you up over 675 stairs to a flat dirt trail with gorgeous views (you can see the ocean on clear days) that winds its way to the Tourist Club for about a 4.5 mile round trip hike. While that does mean a lot of sweat, at least for me, there is nothing like a nice cold beer to reward your efforts.
The most recent day that I went was beyond gorgeous. The sun was out and the trail was lit up with wild poppies and calla lilies. The Tourist Club, once known as one of the best kept secrets in San Francisco, has quickly become a popular hangout location for locals in their most recent Lululemon and Patagonia purchases. While there are some serious hikers for whom the Tourist Club is mainly a stop along the way, most hikers view the Tourist Club as their hike’s main attraction and love to pack in picnics, order a pitcher or two of beer, and camp out on the deck to enjoy the day (you can even snag a picnic bench if you’re lucky).
The view is gorgeous, the beer is cold, and board games are available to check out with your ID. The next time you find yourself struggling for something to do on a sunny day, grab your friends, some picnic food, and head to the Tourist Club for a nice hike and a refreshing beer.