Spring has arrived in one of Marin's most majestic nature spots: Muir Woods. Described by conservationist John Muir as "the best tree-lovers' monument that could be possibly found in all the forests of the world," this collection of old-growth coast redwood trees, the tallest living things in the world, attracts nearly a million domestic and international tourists each year.
Because the 560-acre park is so popular, the natural wonder of Muir Woods is now by reservation only to allow for a more improved visitor experience. Parking is very limited and therefore requires a reservation to alleviate park crowds especially in the afternoon.
Hiking the monument's six miles of trails and paths brings you deep into the ancient groves, many older than 600 years. It's a fleeting opportunity (the crowds come quickly) but the further you hike into the woods, the more powerful and majestic the trees become and the distractions fewer.
The park's trails follow meandering Redwood Creek, whose waters originate high on the slopes of Mount Tamalpais, and along hillside terrain where the trees rise improbably high into the sky, their canopies soaking in the fog, rain and mist that sustain the forest. These trees are true survivors of the ages, having been subjected to fire, drought, earthquakes, climate change, and nearly two centuries of intensive logging in the coast region.
But Muir Woods carries on and, in the early hours, it comes alive with Steller's jays, Sonoma chipmunks, Western gray squirrels and the occasional black-tailed deer, who graze a shady forest undergrowth dominated by blankets of redwood sorrel and thickets of sword ferns. Delicate wildflowers like trillium, clintonia, and redwood violet decorate the forest floor in spring.
Muir Woods is located 12 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge and is reached via Highway 101 and California Highway 1. The monument is open every day of the year; between 8:00AM and sunset, the entrance fee is $15.00 per person with a parking fee of $8.50 (16 years and older) and ages under 16 are free. For post-visit diversions, Muir Beach is about 3 miles away and Stinson Beach is about 10 miles away.
The park continually strives to improve visitor arrival experience and enhance resource protection through the redesign of parking areas, pedestrian paths, and other visitor amenities. Infrastructure projects for 2020 are underway to restore and protect the health of the forest. Visitors should expect up to a half-mile walk from the parking areas to the Muir Woods entrance so plan on comfortable shoes. For more information on the changes to Muir Woods read more.
If you're not an early riser and plan to visit Muir Woods this summer, avoid the hassle of parking by taking the Muir Woods Shuttle. It operates weekends and holidays through October. Visit marintransit.org for details.
*Please note that under concerns for the spread of Covid-19, as March 17, 2020, Golden Gate National Recreation Area will follow the public health orders of Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo Counties. These orders require non-essential operations to cease, for everyone's health and safety. All existing reservations will be refunded. Please look for the park to reopen soon.