If you're in the San Francisco area, make Muir Woods a must-visit. This is a great chance to see some huge, rare coastal redwoods, and the drive across the Golden Gate Bridge can be made into a killer day trip with a stop in Sausalito. But I digress, back to the park. Parking *will* be a headache, but it's all worth it once you step onto the boardwalk and make your way into the forest. You can take a quick walk or a longer hike here, but whatever you do, take a moment to lay down on a bench, stare up at the majestic giants, and just soak it all in.
“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
Walk among old growth coast redwoods, cooling their roots in the fresh water of Redwood Creek and lifting their crowns to reach the sun and fog. Federally protected as a National Monument since 1908, this primeval forest is both refuge and laboratory, revealing our relationship with the living landscape. Muir Woods lies in the middle of the redwood's latitudinal range that spans from the California/Oregon border to Big Sur, just south of Monterey. The weather is mild throughout the year, but summer is the busiest time to visit Muir Woods. The incredible diversity of flora and fauna at Muir Woods can be daunting some times, elusive at other times. The redwoods themselves dominate the scene, but the humble Steller's jay, ladybugs, ancient horsetail ferns, and the banana slug hold their own beneath the canopy. Plants adapt to low light levels on the forest floor, while whole plant and animal communities bustle in the canopy above our heads. Muir Woods National Monument is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is one of more than 400 national park units across the country. Plan on spending a few hours in the park, exploring the trails or particular points of interests. If time permits consider a longer hike, participate in a Junior Ranger program, recreate in Golden Gate, or consider attending a ranger-led program to learn more about these special places. Guided walks and tours occur at various times, please check with a ranger for program available on the day of your visit.
The weather here is perfect all year round: it rarely gets above 70 degrees in the shade of the huge trees. Tons of trails of varying difficulty as well.
Unfortunately, the entire place does not allow pets, and parking is SUPER limited (get there early, or be prepared to take a shuttle or park on the street). It also has no camping, but you can camp at Tamalpais which is right next door (so to speak).
We stopped in after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge with the intention of just picking up an Annual National Parks Pass, but stayed to walk around a bit. There was an easy loop -flat with benches and wide bridges that could easily accommodate a wheel chair. Other trails came off this loop, but we weren't prepared for too much hiking that day. It's a hidden gem in the Bay Area.
One of my favorite state parks. As a resident of Alameda, this is a very convenient destination, and it is connected to the Mt. Tamalpais State Park. If you give yourself a day to do so, you can hike down to Stinson Beach from here - a must for visitors and residents! This forest is an extremely peaceful, rainforest retreat from the busy and often smoggy Oakland and SF city life (and neurotic inhabitants). As a plus, you can end your day trip in Mill Valley at the base.
Lovely trails north of San Francisco filled with towering redwoods. Kids can take a small workbook with them to learn about the woods and become a junior ranger. I've even seen older teens line up to do this and earn their wooden badge. Be sure to get a parking reservation. Check the site to see the exact dates you can log on to get one. They release a chunk about 90 days out and then again about three days out. If you can't secure a reservation, you'll have to get a ride in on a shuttle. Lots of trails to choose from with varying degrees of difficulty, and if you've got limited mobility, you can still go quite a ways on a man-made route before the trails become more natural. Lots of people visiting won't be in hiking attire either; just those venturing farther outward. I found that the trails we went on were pretty well marked to keep us on the right track.
It’s a beautiful landscape, yet please keep in mind that the city has highly commercialized this area. Unlike other parks, where you can pay for parking at the main post, you must reserve a particular time slot and parking lot for your stay. This does not allow you to enjoy the terrain on your own time nor explore all of the trails. In or to do that, you will have to purchase additional parking and times. Honestly, keep driving north. You will have “more bang for your buck” and a better experience by driving an additional 45 minutes to the actual Redwood Forest.
Visiting Muir Woods was the highlight of our trip to San Francisco. When you walk in you can just feel the magic! The trees are so beautiful and you can feel their energy!
You do have to do a bit of work to get in. So make sure you call ahead to book your time spot so you can park and go in. Yes this is annoying but so worth it.
We walked around and explored the trails later in the afternoon with the setting sun beaming down through the trees. It was not busy since we were there close to when it closed so we had lots of time to ourselves.
Be warned that you need to buy parking in advance online or you‘ll get turned away at the park if the lots are full. Trailers need two parking passes if they are car size and can be detached. In 2019 the parks was just way overcrowded with tourists and in general it just wasn’t worth the hassle.
I’m slightly disappointed in the fact I didn’t know that parking had to be reserved... $8 for a “regular” car and than don’t forget it’s $15 per adult (16 or older) or you can take the shuttle and it is $3 per adult (15 or older) and when younger than 15 is free. I arrived at 11:30 and parking wasn’t available until 2:30-3:00... my hotel was 6 hours away and I was not driving late so I did not end up going, from what I drove it looked quite amazing but I sadly could not go.
Super packed. Limited parking. Extremely glad they preserved this area of Redwoods but I suggest going north a little and enjoying the more quiet avenue of the giants.
Do yourself a favor and find a bench, and lay down and just look up for a little bit. Yes it's crowded and people don't listen to the keep quiet and stay on the trail signs.... but this place is so incredible none of matters.
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Muir Woods National Monument
- Sun - Sat: 8:00 am - 7:00 pm
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Good for bird watching, hiking, and 2 more activities.
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