Muir Woods National Monument
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Muir Woods is situated close to San Francisco therefore pretty popular. One well-maintained boardwalk and paved trail are leading through the park. The path is suitable for the entire family with pushchair and wheelchair as well. The magical times to be there are early morning and late in the day to avoid the crowds and to enjoy the unique atmosphere. The light filtering down into the valley through the enormous trees is utterly delightful.
It’s a magical place, but it’s also heavily crowded. Due to the close location of the urban area, only 12 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge the park is overrun from spring to fall. First of all, avoid weekends and go mid-week if possible. Rainy, foggy or cold days are less crowded as well. To avoid the crowds during the day get there very early. The park is open from 8 a.m. until sunset. Be there at about 7:30. The visitor center opens at 9 a.m. You could also park on Muir Woods Road in the early morning. If you go in summer, we recommend taking the Muir Woods Shuttle. Quote from a Park Ranger: "It takes away all the worries and headaches of driving and parking." Shuttle information
In September and October, many school classes visit the National Monument. Winter is less busy but consider it’s the wet season with most of the annual 40 inches / 1016 mm of precipitation.
Best Accommodations Close to Muir Woods
There are some hotels and lodges around to explore the Bay Area. It's quieter to stay here than in San Francisco, and it doesn't take long to reach the Golden Gate Bridge. Our first choice is the charming boutique hotel Mill Valley Inn. It is just a 3 miles drive to Muir Woods and 5 minutes walk to shops ansd restaurants. What we loved most there are already redwoods in their garden.
Muir Woods National Monument is a must-visit destination if you are in the area. It’s a 30-minute drive from San Francisco. The mountain, the trees, the Ocean, and fabulous trails to hike makes it truly a wonderland. The downside is the crowds. It’s very popular with over 1 Mio visitors each year. It's a day-use park, without camping possibilities. Most people visit this forest to see the giant redwoods, which are the tallest trees on our planet. Although redwoods dominate the scene here, there is also an incredible diversity of flora and fauna at Muir Woods.
Over 600 years old redwoods grow among dead trees and rotten logs. These majestic trees can withstand storm, flood, fires, drought and even termites due to their red pigment, a chemical component called tannin. Although their roots grow only 6-10 feet / 1,80 – 3 meters deep they are resistant to storm. The reason is the roots are almost as wide as the tree is tall. Due to their thick protective bark of up to 12 inches / 30 cm, they usually survive in a big forest fire. Million years ago the coast redwoods were in Asia, Europe, and Greenland but due to substantially weather changes 4 % remain on a 30-miles wide coastal strip only. Fog can add up to 10 inches of rain each summer which is sufficient for the redwoods, but the coastal fog has decreased by 30 %.
The park is an excellent location for the whole family even with buggy and wheelchair due to the well-maintained boardwalk and paved trail of more than one mile up to bridge 4 / almost 2 km. The trail leads along impressive, old growth redwoods. The highlights are Founders Grove, Cathedral Grove and Bohemian Grove which you should visit at least. If you like to enjoy the tranquillity of the park you have to hike one of the many trails at least the 2-mile loop trail with a return on the hillside walk. The hillside walk is a footpath and less busy.
We recommend to not only hike the main trail (2 miles). There are some fascinating other hiking trails (scroll down to the very bottom)
Thanks to the local businessman William Kent and his wife Elizabeth Thacher Kent these redwoods are uncut and saved for future generations. They bought the land in 1905, but two years later the North Coast Water Company tried to grab the grove to build a water reservoir. The Kents decided to donate the land to the federal government for steady protection if it gets declared as National Monument. In 1908 Theodor Roosevelt proclaimed Muir Woods a National Monument. Kent wished to name the park after John Muir his mutual friend, writer, and naturalist.
(Updated by When to be Where)