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Muir Woods

Visiting Muir Woods

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At Muir Woods near San Francisco, you can see a redwood forest, but it can be annoyingly crowded if you go at the wrong time - and you may be disappointed if you were looking for those big, wide trees you've seen in photos. This guide will help you avoid the crowds, know what to expect and where to go if you're looking for something else.

©2009 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.
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Walking at Muir Woods

©2009 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.
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Details of Muir Woods

©2009 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

Muir Woods is the closest place to San Francisco where visitors can see an old-growth stand of coastal redwood trees, just a few miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Proclaimed by President Theodore Roosevelt as the country's seventh national monument in 1917, it was the first created from privately owned land, donated by conservationist William Kent.

What You Won't Find at Muir Woods

Visitors often arrive asking where the "tree you can drive through" is. It isn't in Muir Woods. There are actually four of them, 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.

What you will find at Muir Woods are coastal redwoods, the tallest living things which can grow up to 379 feet tall - 74 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty - but that's up north. In Muir Woods, they top out at a mere 258 feet. You can see them in just a few minutes on an easy, flat walk that starts near the entrance. It will take you about an hour to walk all the way in to Cathedral Grove and back out (more with photo stops).

To get away from the crowds and explore more of the park, 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.

Muir Woods Tips

  • During busy times, Muir Woods is plagued with parking problems, with spaces filling up early in the day. Avoid the congestion by taking a shuttle. See "Getting There" below for all the details.

  • 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.

  • 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, pay attention to the signs on your way in.

  • Don't feed any of the animals. It makes them too dependent on humans, can cause behavior problems and can even make them sick.

Muir Woods Review

We rate Muir Woods 5 stars out of 5 for its importance as an old-growth redwood forest. Unfortunately, its closeness to San Francisco and well-known name draw crowds that are nearly beyond its capacity to absorb them, replacing the forest experience with constant human clamor. Because of that, we give it 2 stars out of 5 for ambiance. Overall, it's a three-star attraction unless you go off-season or hike away from the crowds.

All the Details About Muir Woods

  • Hours: Check website for current hours
  • Reservations: Not required
  • Cost: Entrance fee - exceptions below1
  • Location: 11 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge, directions below
  • How Long: The shortest loop is a 0.5 hour walk, but it's better to allow 1.5 to 2 hours or more
  • Best Time to Visit: Spring and fall are less crowded

Getting to Muir Woods

Muir Woods National Monument
California Hwy 1
Mill Valley, CA
415-388-2596
Muir Woods website
Muir Woods is 11 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Take US Hwy 101 to the CA Hwy 1/ Stinson Beach exit. From there, you can follow the signs, taking Panoramic Highway or Muir Woods Road to the park. The roads to the park are steep and winding, with vehicles more than 35 feet long prohibited. Parking space is limited and there are no RV parking spots at Muir Woods.

If you're going north on CA Hwy 1 after leaving Muir Woods, take Muir Woods Road to get to it instead of Panoramic Highway, avoiding a sharp right turn onto Hwy 1 that's nearly impossible, even in a compact car.

From early May through late September, on weekends and holidays, you can drive to a park and ride lot and take a bus to Muir Woods. Watch for signs posted on northbound US 101 north of the Golden Gate Bridge which may warn that parking is full. If that happens, or if you'd rather not have to drive there yourself, take Marin Transit Route 66 Directions to the shuttle parking lot (are here).

From San Francisco, you can also take a ferry to Sausalito and catch the Muir Woods shuttle near the ferry landing, a 5 minute walk from the ferry landing. Directions to the stop (are here.

If you're not driving or taking a ferry to Sausalito, you can take a bus. Check routes and costs. Or take a guided tour from San Francisco.

1During 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. Entry is also free on selected other days that vary by year. You'll find the current year's list here.

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