Exploring Muir Woods
If you’re visiting San Francisco or driving down the California coast, the opportunity to see coastal Redwoods lies in Muir Woods National Monument. I love nature and have always wanted to see these gorgeous towering giants, so on our recent Pacific Coast Highway trip, we decided to take the time to visit.
Word of caution: if there is one thing I learned while on this trip, its that Californians are fearless. California, you rock. However, your roads are a little on the scary side. The honest truth is that the roads are not as bad as you may read in reviews online, but it should be noted, that like many of the other places we visited in California, the roads are sometimes narrow, sometimes very curvy and sometimes a little (or a lot) of both. I love road trips and am usually the driver when I take them; I’ve driven through all kinds of terrains, through mountains, etc and I admit, it did take me some time to get used to driving here. So if you’re not a native to the area and are unfamiliar with the roads here, please just drive with a little added caution and you’ll be fine.
So why am I starting out a Redwoods post with driving precautions?? Because the route that takes you to Muir Woods is all of the above: curvy and narrow with limited to no cell reception. I feel the need to stress this because it was the biggest thing I had read over and over and over again in online reviews and I don’t want that to discourage anyone from visiting. Its a gorgeous place, well worth the drive and the roads are not that terrifying if you just.slow.down. P.S.-Don’t worry- I didn’t take these photos while driving. G took them for me from the back seat;)
There are also several tour buses that can bring you here if you’re not up for the challenge of driving, or really, if you’re just a tour bus type of person. I prefer to be in control of my own destiny, so I opted to take myself. But it’s an option.
The biggest perk of coming here on our own was that we were able to arrive as soon as they open, 8 a.m. and the park was almost completely empty. Keep in mind we went in May, so its definitely possible this may not be the case come the busier summer months. Tour buses generally show up around 9 a.m., so you could potentially only be sharing the park with a few others for a whole hour. Trust me, you will know when the tour buses arrive….
Also, be aware that parking is extremely limited, especially in the summer and on weekends. We went on a Thursday and were able to find parking without an issue, but we were also there very early so just keep it in mind. When we left several hours later, both parking lots were packed to the brim.
Another perk was that we got in for free! Normally, admission will cost you $10 per person over 16 years old and those under 16 are free. I am not sure if its normal or not but when we arrived, there was actually a sign at the ticket booth covering prices that read “free” so I assumed it was one of the free days at the National Monument; however when we left, we saw everyone entering was in fact paying the entrance fee. Sheer luck due to arriving early? Not really sure, but I would’ve paid the $10 entrance fee regardless.
The best part about Muir Woods is that there really is something for everyone. Whether you want to come here to spend an hour, leisurely walking through the well groomed trails or spend a day and hike to the beach, they’re both options you can take advantage of here. Here is a list of popular hikes in Muir Woods which will outline what you can see and approx times for each hike. Find one to explore!
We didn’t do any of the longer hikes, mostly because we just didn’t have the time; but if you are able to take a day trip here, the ranger suggested for us to check out the Ben Johnson trail and the Muir Woods to Muir Beach trail. Definitely on the list for next time! Even so, this place is beautiful, serene and humbling even if you do just stick to the main trail! I highly recommend a visit if you are in the area.
Come early for the best parking options and for more tranquility during your visit. Once the tour buses arrive, you will be sharing the forest with a lot more people and you will definitely know it! The park opens daily at 8 a.m. we noticed the buses arrive shortly after 9.
Pack a water and/ or snack. There is a small cafe inside the forest, however they are not open until 9 and the prices are a little high. If you are heading out on a longer hike, you’ll definitely want to be prepared.
Wear layers– although you will be hiking, the temperature inside the forest is a little cooler, especially during the morning.
Stop at the gift shop before you leave. I’m not always a huge fan of gift shops; they’re usually pretty overpriced with some cheesy souvenirs, but this one had some really unique items and I actually did some of my Christmas shopping for my family here! Plus you’ll be helping support the park.
If you’re only spending a few hours here, check out Sausalito! Its a 15 minute drive from Muir Woods and is a great place to grab some lunch, a snack or check out the unique shops of this laid back seaside town.