Muir Woods National Monument

What You Need to Know About Visiting Muir Woods

Trees at Muir Woods
Aftab Uzzaman/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

Muir Woods National Monument is the closest place to San Francisco where visitors can see coastal redwood trees, just a few miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

Lots of people want to visit it, but it's not always what they expect. Here's what you need to know before you go to Muir Woods.

Why You Should See Muir Woods National Monument

Coastal redwood trees are the planet's tallest living things. They can reach 379 feet tall. The tallest of them would tower 74 feet above the Statue of Liberty if they were side by side. In Muir Woods, they don't get that big, just a mere – but still impressive – 258 feet.

You can see the Muir Woods redwoods in just a few minutes. That is after you get there which may take longer than you think. It's an easy, flat walk that starts near the entrance. It takes about an hour to walk all the way to Cathedral Grove and back out (more with photo stops).

If you're visiting San Francisco and don't have time to see California redwoods trees in other locations, Muir Woods is your only option. 

Why You May Want to Skip Muir Woods National Monument

Unfortunately, Muir Woods draw crowds that are nearly beyond its capacity to absorb them, replacing the forest experience with constant human hubbub. Because of that, I give it 2 stars out of 5 for ambiance.

Getting to Muir Woods can take a long time. You may have to take a shuttle from Sausalito and traffic on the road to get there can be maddeningly slow.

Overall, Muir Woods is a three-star attraction. You will enjoy it more if you go off-season or hike far enough into it to get away from the crowds. 

What You Won't Find at Muir Woods

To see the biggest coastal redwoods, you'll have to travel further north, where you may enjoy them more. You can find all the other places to see the tallest trees on earth online.

Visitors often arrive at Muir Woods asking where the "tree you can drive through" is. It isn't in Muir Woods. There are four drive-through trees in California, but they're in Humboldt County further north.

The world's most massive trees, giant sequoias like General Grant and General Sherman aren't in Muir Woods either. They're in Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks. Use our guide to California redwood forests to find all the places you can see redwood forests in California.

Muir Woods Tips

  • See "Getting There" below for all the details about parking reservations and shuttles.
  • Muir Woods is damp and cool all year, reaching a high of only 70°F on a hot day. Bring an extra layer for comfort and be prepared for rain November through April.
  • Among the best things to enjoy at Muir Woods are the forest sounds, but you have to be quiet to hear them. Respect the silence especially in the Cathedral Grove, keeping your voices down and kids under control.
  • Muir Woods has six miles hiking trails of varying length and difficulty. Your best bet is to discuss them with a ranger, who can help you figure out which is best for you.
  • You'll find a gift shop and snack bar near the entrance, in case you're hungry.
  • Only service animals are allowed at Muir Woods, so leave Fluffy at home.
  • Poison oak and stinging nettle grow in the woods. Both can make you miserably itchy if you're allergic. If you don't know what they look like, check the signs near the entrance. Use your phone to take a photo of them, so you don't have to guess later whether you're looking at one of them or not.
  • Don't feed any animals. It makes them too dependent on humans, can cause behavior problems and can even make them sick.
  • There is no cell phone service or WiFi in Muir Woods.

All the Details About Muir Woods

You have to pay an entrance fee to get into Muir Woods, with a few exceptions. During the annual National Parks Week, held in April, entry fees are waived in more than 100 parks nationwide, including Muir Woods National Monument. Get more information at the National Parks Week website. Admission is also free on selected other days that vary by year. You'll find the current year's list online.

The shortest loop is a 0.5-hour walk, but it's better to allow 1.5 to 2 hours or more - and also allow time to get there from San Francisco. It's best to plan to spend at least half a day for your round-trip visit.

Spring and fall are less crowded than summer. Winter can be rainy and muddy.

You can get more information about the park at the Muir Woods National Monument website.

Getting to Muir Woods

To ease crowding at Muir Woods, all visitors arriving in a vehicle are required to have a reservation. This requirement went into effect in January 2018. These are your options:

Take a Shuttle: On weekends and holidays, and on weekdays from June 18 to August 10, you can take a shuttle to Muir Woods from any of three locations in Sausalito. You can get maps and public transit directions to the shuttle locations at the Muir Woods Reservations website. Riders under the age of 16 can go for free, but they must have a reserved seat. The shuttle can accommodate wheelchairs, and service dogs are allowed. Shuttles return to Sausalito at frequent intervals throughout the day.

Drive Yourself: You can also reserve a vehicle parking space and driving there yourself. Drive-in reservations are valid only for the 30-minute time window you select when you make them. Muir Woods is 11 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Search for "1 Muir Woods Rd., Mill Valley CA" instead of just Muir Woods to get accurate directions and travel time. 

No matter how you go, here’s what you need to know about the reservation system:

  • A reservation ensures entry within a specific time window, but once you arrive, you can stay as long as you want, until the park closes.
  • No matter how you get to Muir Woods, all visitors over the age of 16 must also pay the park entry fee.
  • Reserve up to 90 days in advance at GoMuirWoods.com or call 800-410-2419. 
  • If you need to cancel or make a change, you can get a full refund or change with no penalty if you do that at least 72 hours in advance of the reservation time.
  • If you can’t plan that far ahead, a few reservations will be released just five days ahead, but to snag one of those you need to be ready to call or reserve online as soon as they become available. You could also try for a cancellation 72 hours ahead of time.
  • There is NO cell phone service or WiFi at or around Muir Woods, which makes it essential to download or print your parking reservation or shuttle ticket before you go.