Our our 2nd full day in San Francisco, we actually left the city to see a few things north. After picking up some breakfast in Chinatown we headed out of the city (sort of) early. Muir Woods is a 1 hour drive from downtown San Francisco and had planned to arrive at about 8am. That did not happen. Instead we left our hotel about about 8:30am.
We went to Muir Woods National Monument on a holiday weekend which meant it was going to be an extra busy weekend which was why we really wanted to get there by 8am (time when Muir Woods opens).
When we were approaching the exit we were supposed to take to continue driving up the mountain into Muir Woods, I sort of freaked out and saw signs saying “Muir Woods Parking Full Use Shuttle” (or something like that). So we followed those signs and found a relatively empty parking lot with a big bus sitting there (that bus was full by the time we walked up to and we waited about 15 – 20 more minutes for the next bus (at least we got some good seats up front).
Muir Woods Shuttles run seasonally only, and from our view on the bus Memorial Day weekend shuttles were absolutely necessary. Parking is usually already extremely limited on a regular day due to its popularity.
I was honestly happy to NOT be driving up the windy mountain road in our rental mini van. And on our way down, I was even more happy because by then the roads were even more narrow and crowded with people parked off the road (and many in No Parking areas).
Our bus shuttle driver was actually radioing “Muir Woods shuttle service HQ” with these concerns making it very dangerous and difficult for them to navigate. HQ responded by calling the Muir Woods Visitor Center and calling the police for traffic help. wow….
When we finally arrived at Muir Woods, it was quite crowded! And many people made their way directly over to the Visitor Center to buy their tickets.
Entrance Fee: $10/person
$10/person is actually kind of expensive for a national park because isn’t it usually priced per car? But then again, parking here is not easy and at least we were able to take advantage of the
free $5/person Muir Woods Shuttle. (thank you Yunti for reminding me that we paid for that shuttle ride!)
This place is were you get to walk among old coastal redwood trees just an hour from downtown San Francisco.
And you can either spend the whole day there or just half an hour. It all depends on your interest level and how much time you have. You can buy a map for $1 at the Muir Woods Visitor Center or just follow signs after looking up the trail descriptions which range from 3o minute easy hikes to 7 hour strenuous hikes.
Before even entering the Muir Woods National Monument there is already quite a bit to see. First, this is where the bathrooms are which is very important. There is also an hollow dead redwood trunk out for people to climb and crawl into as well as a redwood carving. And BH was rather entertained “warming up” for our hike.
We decided to go on an easy 2 hour (2 mile) hike along the main trail crossing over on bridge 4 and then back on hillside trail.
The beginning of the trial starts with a beautiful and rather nice boardwalk. There is a gift shop to the right and then a quiet stream on the left. Part of the path way was blocked because to keep people away from a fox den nearby.
As we continued walking along the trail, we managed to find several quite moments as we looked beyond what was right in front of us. We remained right next to Redwood Creek the whole time which made the hike rather enjoyable as we listened so the water flow down the creek with some of the tree rustling and of course the many other people talking and taking pictures.
With about 9 different trails that covers the 554 acres of protected land people were sort of scattered once we continued deeper into Muir Woods. Although we were never alone with people nearby no matter where were, I was still happy to be able to capture random moments that made me feel as though we were alone in a giant forest.
When I first thought of the big trees in Northern California, I immediately imagined the giant Sequoia Trees where people could actually drive through the tree trunks. Although they are related the trees at Muir Woods are actually California Coast Redwood.
These trees have a smaller tree trunk but grow to be taller than the Sequoia Trees. The world’s 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 6th tallest trees are actually redwoods in Northern California (not at Muir Woods though).
At a closer look you can see the “redwood” color. It was pretty impressive being able to walk up to these giant trees. Of course, stay on the trail because you don’t want to mess up any more of the environment. I remember seeing signs that new California Coast Redwoods are growing there.
These ancient trees were once found all over the world, but today they are only in the North Western Coastal area of the U.S. We’re pretty lucky to have a place like this just outside of the city making it a great place for people to visit, take pictures, and learn about these giant trees. And it’s truly accessible to anyone.
It was pretty cool to see some of these trees with a bigger base and even split open to a point where it looks like you can even crawl inside. I wonder if animals live inside of this one since it’s off the trail and you cannot go near it.
But Muir Woods did a wonderful job allowing visitors experience and learn about the California Coast Redwoods with 1 one the trail where you can actually go inside and take pictures. We snapped a few shots with the family but I didn’t go inside. There were more people coming through waiting to take a picture as well.
One of my favorite parts of our short visit to Muir Woods was when we arrived at Cathedral Grove. This is the “quiet area” where visitors are actually asked to be quiet. Unfortunately, it really wasn’t much quieter for us with the crowds since it was a holiday weekend. But it was cool to see some volunteers hanging out in the grove ready to answer any questions anyone may have.
This is also where you will find some of the oldest and most impressive trees. Standing in Cathedral Grove was rather impressive being surrounded by these tall old trees. The tallest tree is named Tree 76 standing at 249 feet high (nearly 23 stories tall) and is only 777 years old.
Shortly after walking through Cathedral Grove, is bridge number 4 where we crossed over to loop back to the front entrance.
The other side of the creek was a little different as we walked along the Hillside Trail. There was a bigger variety of things to see as we walked through more greenery.
We really did take about 2 hours as we strolled through Muir Woods. We hopped on the next available shuttle bus and made our way back to our car and then drove to Santa Rosa.