Spend a Day in Muir Woods National Monument (Everything You Need to Know Before You Go)
If you are in San Francisco or within driving distance, I recommend making a trip to explore the gorgeous redwood forest and spend a day in Muir Woods National Monument. Coastal redwood trees (and their cousins, the giant sequoia trees) are the biggest and tallest trees in the world. You can (now) only find redwood trees on the coast from Central California through Southern Oregon so walking amongst these amazing giant trees is a must in California! Though the Muir Woods trees are not the tallest on the California coast, they are still quite impressive.
I have been in the redwood forests around Santa Cruz (just south of SF) and Northern California in Mendocino. Still, I had never visited this particular forest of Muir Woods til this past weekend. I decided to take a day trip from my home in the central valley of California for a nice dose of nature and to admire these fantastic giant trees.
With 6 miles of hiking trails, this is a great way to escape the city and experience nature. There are trails for all levels, from easy to challenging, and varying lengths of paths, from short half-hour loops to an hour and a half loops and even longer full-day hiking trails leading into the surrounding Mount Tamalpais State Park. Everyone can enjoy this beautiful woodland forest no matter your hiking style or level.
Read ahead for everything you need to know to plan to spend a day in Muir Woods… including the required reservation!
A Little History About Muir Woods
The land is rich in history, starting with its use by the Coast Miwok people. The land was eventually purchased to ensure its preservation from advancing civilization and proclaimed a national monument in January 1908. It was named after John Muir, one of the first conservationists, soon after becoming a popular tourist attraction.
After a few years, visitors were trampling the woods and causing damage to the fragile vegetation. Restrictions were put in place to preserve the land, such as fences better and built-in pathways in the heavily trafficked areas.
More projects are underway to enhance trail network improvements, enhance transportation alternatives, and protect the park.
Where is Muir Woods?
Muir woods is located on Mount Tamalpais in southwestern Marin County, just 12 miles north of San Francisco.
Due to limited parking and to limit traffic in the national park, reservations are required before you arrive at the park. You can not purchase a parking reservation when you arrive at the park. Reservations can be made online or by phone up to 90 days before your visit. You can book a parking reservation if you plan to drive your car to the park or reserve a shuttle seat from a pickup point in Sausalito. You will also pay a park entrance fee which is recommended to be purchased in advance but can also be purchased on-site.
Parking Reservation Cost: $8.50 per vehicle (electric vehicle $11.50)
Shuttle Reservation Cost: Adults 16+ $3.25 Kids (Under 16) Free
Park Entrance Fee: Adults 16+ $15 Kids (Under 16) Free
*Free entrance if you have a National Parks Pass, or you can purchase one on-site
Important Tip- Like most national parks, there is no cell phone reception or wifi in Muir Woods, so be sure to download or screenshot your reservation before going to the park!
Best Time to Visit
Weather-wise, the summer months are the best time to spend a day in Muir Woods, May-October. This is also the busiest for crowds, so going early in the morning or later in the evening will be less traffic. These are also the most magical times to visit, with the beautiful sunlight shining through the forest trees as it’s rising or setting.
Nov-April is the rainy season and averages about 40 inches a year in this area, nearly three times the amount of rain the bay area gets. This rainfall is necessary for the trees to survive after the dry season.
Most of the year, temperatures range from 40-70°F.
Muir Woods Trails
There are 6 miles of hiking trails and multiple trails to choose from when you spend a day in Muir Woods. There is one main pathway with a boardwalk and paved trail. This path is suitable for everyone, including strollers and wheelchairs. Several other trails lead off from the main path.
Here is a list of trails you can hike and links to maps you can download or print ahead of time for your visit. There are also trails for full-day hikes that can take you up through Mount Tamalpais State Park or Muir Beach. Plan and start early if you want to hike one of these trails.
I honestly can not tell you exactly which trail I hiked… I have a terrible sense of direction (maybe one day I will be a real hiker). I just wandered the main trafficked pathway and found a trail leading uphill somewhere around the fourth bridge; I hiked up until I got tired and turned around headed back. All in all, I spent about 3 hours walking around and closed all the rings on my apple fitness watch. Definitely a great way to get some exercise without even realizing you are!
Tips for Visiting Muir Woods
Plan ahead- Make your visit smooth by making your reservations ahead of time– parking reservations are required to visit the park.
Be patient- Especially when visiting during the busy summer months of June-Aug, there will be many other visitors. Expect there to be traffic along the windy road leading to the park.
No cell service or Wifi- download your parking reservations and any online maps you want ahead of time. You can also use the NPS app to download offline maps and info for your visit.
Bring snacks and water!
Wear comfortable hiking/outdoor clothing- it will probably be cool in the morning and warm up in the afternoon. It stays cooler on the forest floor and gets warmer when you hike up in elevation.
No pets allowed
Buy a National Park Pass- if you plan to visit other national parks, this is a great deal. $80 for a year allows you access to over 2,000 recreation areas. 100% of proceeds go to improving and enhancing recreation services. (I’m thinking of buying for 2022 and visiting as many national parks as I can!)
I hope you found this post helpful and/or inspired you to plan to spend a day in Muir Woods, please let me know in the comments! Or message me on Instagram.
And stay tuned for weekly posts on my blog!