Off the Grid: William Wurster's Steep Ravine Cabins

By Carl Baker

Last week we were lucky enough to spend a night at Steep Ravine cabins, the humble yet perfectly sited shelters designed by William Wurster in the 1940s just above Stinson Beach in Marin. 

Since the Park Service took ownership of them in the 70's, the cabins have hosted a nearly continuous stream of 'campers' who prize the perfectly framed views that can be enjoyed inside while keeping warm by the wood stove, and the proximity to a rugged beach during their stay when drawn outside to explore.

Sharing the cabin next to ours at Steep Ravine were Abbey and Steve: a late 60's couple whose tradition is as quintessential Bay Area as the cabins themselves.  For 30 years, the couple has taken an hour to drive from San Francisco to the cabins to settle in for a week with no electricity or running water; relying on wine, food, games, books, and a good pair of hiking shoes for entertainment. 

This tradition was shared by Dorothea Lange, who leased a cabin with her second husband Paul Taylor starting in the late 1950s.  She spent many weeks a year at Steep Ravine with her family, and extensively photographed the cabins and landscape.


Dorothea Lange taking photos on the beach just below the Cabins.

The remote, off-the-grid experience of the cabins belies the competition and challenge in booking them, as they are booked out 6 months ahead of time and sell out in a matter of minutes.  It's another traditional Bay Area experience- you've got to earn all that perfect relaxation.

Photo by Dorothea Lange of a Steep Ravine cabin.