Muir Woods National Monument: The Complete Guide

Redwood trees of Muir Woods National Monument

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Just north of San Francisco and part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Muir Woods National Monument is known for its ethereal groves of centuries-old redwood trees. The land has a special place in the hearts of many nature enthusiasts, as it was originally created through a land donation meant to protect the ancient trees from a logging industry boom. Before that, the landscape hosted the Coast Miwok people for more than 10,000 years. Today, Muir Woods is a popular spot for both locals and tourists looking to escape the city for some crisp, clean air and lush vegetation within the dense forests.

Things to Do

Most visitors come to Muir Woods looking for solitude amongst nature, and hiking provides the perfect way to do so. Although many of the most popular hikes can get overcrowded on busy days, it is entirely possible to venture far enough on one of the park’s six miles of trails to find some peace and quiet in the forest. The trees here average between 600 to 800 years old, with the oldest as much as 1,200 years old, and wildlife can be hard to spot due to the thick foliage.

For families with smaller children, the Muir Woods junior ranger program is a great way for kids to learn about the park and the nature inside. Forest rangers also give 15 minute “Tree Talks” throughout the day as well as longer ranger-led tours when staffing permits; check the program board at the park entrance when you arrive to confirm times.

Best Hikes and Trails

Trails at Muir Woods National Monument

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There are six miles of trails in Muir Woods National Monument with main half-hour, one-hour, 1.5-hour loops, and longer hikes that extend into the neighboring Mount Tamalpais State Park. Maps of the Muir Woods hiking trails and those that connect with Mount Tamalpais are available for $1 with the nature guide at the visitor center.

  • Muir Woods Fern Creek Loop: This 1.3-mile hike is easy for beginners and those using strollers thanks to the wooden boardwalk. It’s also one of the most popular trails in the park, so be ready for larger crowds on this hike during the busier hours.
  • Dipsea Trail: At nearly 10 miles long, this trail is considered difficult due to the steep climbs and 2,000-foot elevation gain. The trail is known for its stunning wildflowers and takes hikers near the coast toward Stinson Beach.
  • Main Trail: The Muir Woods main trail begins at the visitor center and follows Redwood Creek past several bridges and old growth redwood trees. There’s a wheelchair accessible boardwalk until the third bridge (about one mile) to Cathedral Grove — a silent preserve home to the tallest, oldest redwoods at Muir Woods.

Where to Camp

While there are no options for camping inside the park, there are several campgrounds nearby with sites available throughout the year. Golden Gate National Recreation Area as a whole has four campgrounds, all of which can be reserved on Recreation.gov. Additionally, the Presidio of San Francisco nearby has one group campground available. For more information about the area’s nearby camping options, read our guide to camping near San Francisco.

Where to Stay Nearby

San Francisco offers the most diverse options when it comes to accommodations near Muir Woods National Monument. The city’s downtown area will take a minimum of 35 minutes because of the winding road and time it takes to cross the Golden Gate Bridge. For those who don’t want to head into the city, consider Marin city about seven miles away or Sausalito eight miles away.

  • Mountain Home Inn: One of the closest options to Muir Woods, the Mountain Home Inn is a relaxing, rustic retreat perched on a Mt. Tamalpais ridgeline overlooking the bay. Reservations for one of the lodge’s 10 guest rooms comes with complimentary breakfast and access to the onsite bar and romantic restaurant.
  • The Inn Above Tide: This famous inn is situated just over the water in Sausalito about a minute walk from the Sausalito Ferry Terminal and three miles from the Golden Gate Bridge. The pricey accommodations feature beautifully decorated rooms with private terraces overlooking the bay.
  • Hotel Kabuki: A boutique hotel in San Francisco’s Japantown, Hotel Kabuki is a trendy spot with a hotel bar and a great location. The Japanese-inspired hotel is just three blocks from Fillmore Street and 1.2 miles from Union Square.
  • The Parker Guest House: Popular with returning visitors to San Francisco’s Castro district, this charming bed and breakfast is made up of two Edwardian style homes that date back to 1909. Right across the street from Dolores Park, the Parker Guest House includes complimentary continental breakfast, an afternoon wine social, and a cozy lounge with a piano and fireplace.

How to Get There

Entrance to Muir Woods National Monument

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From San Francisco, take Highway 101 North to the Mill Valley/Highway 1/Stinson Beach Exit and follow signs to Highway 1 and Muir Woods. The national monument is found 11 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. If coming from the East Bay, take Highway 580/Richmond/San Rafael Bridge West to Highway 101 South and look for the exit towards Stinson Beach/Mill Valley to get to Highway 1.

The Muir Woods Shuttle offers seasonal service from stops in Sausalito and Marin City. Round trip shuttle tickets cost $3.25 for adults and are free for children 15 years or younger, but passengers won’t have to pay the $8.50 for parking. The shuttle schedules change often, so be sure to check the website for the most current information.

Accessibility

The main parking lot at Muir Woods has accessible parking stalls close to the visitor center and park center, also located across from the accessible restrooms. There are a few accessible benches found near the entry plaza, which has a stable surface made of compacted asphalt and dirt. Stop inside the visitors center for assistive listening devices and mp3 players with audio descriptions of the property, brochures and trail maps in Braille, and more information about the raised accessible boardwalks found throughout the park.

Tips for Your Visit

  • There is no cell phone service or wifi inside the park, so always organize your transportation ahead of time to avoid getting stuck there. If you’re taking the shuttle back, download or screenshot your return ticket while you still have service since drivers require proof of reservations.
  • Muir Woods is known for its large crowds on the weekends, so try to visit on the weekdays if possible (and make sure to arrive early). The busiest months in the park are June, July, and August.
  • On the same note, the parking situation there is also notorious for being pretty chaotic, making the shuttle service even more convenient since it means not having to deal with the limited parking lot.
  • Temperatures inside the park range from 40 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit for a majority of the year (the redwoods thrive in chilly, damp coastal weather), so don’t forget to bring an extra layer or two. If traveling in the winter months, supplement with a poncho or other rain gear.
  • With the exception of service animals, there are no pets allowed in the park.
  • There is a small counter service restaurant inside the park near the visitors center and bathrooms, but it can get very busy depending on the day and time. There is no picnicking allowed inside the national monument, so try not to plan any meals there if you don’t want to waste time in line (or bring along some light snacks).
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