Giant Coastal Redwoods rise up around me. I stand in awe that less than 30 minutes ago I was standing among the skyscrapers of San Francisco. A short drive across the Golden Gate Bridge is a wilderness oasis near one of the US’s largest cities in the most populous state. These coastal redwoods aren’t a hidden. They stand proudly in the Muir Woods National Monument.
I didn’t know what to expect when I finished work early and made the decision to drive to the Muir Woods. The quickest way route from San Francisco to Muir Woods National Monument is across the Golden Gate Bridge. This drive was my first trip across the Golden Gate Bridge. As an engineer, the Golden Gate Bridge is has a fascinating history as an engineering marvel. I was really impressed driving over this marvel.
Learn more about how to get the best views of San Francisco.
As I got to Tamalpais-Homestead Valley, I realized I might have an issue. There are signs for a shuttle and off-site parking for Muir Woods. I followed the signs to Muir Woods. I discovered that Muir Woods National Monument has a small parking lot near the visitor center as well as a slightly bigger overflow lot. Neither lot is particularly large. I found a parking spot easily but I arrived at 3:45 pm on a weekday afternoon.
Travel Tip: If going on a weekend, I would get there early so I can park in the main lot. The park is generally open between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm (closing time may stay open late seasonally)
I stopped by the visitor center and showed my national park pass. The pass saved me on the $10.00 on the entrance to the park and headed down the boardwalk and into the coastal redwoods forest.
The Coastal Redwoods are one of the tallest and oldest trees on the planet. They can live for more than one thousand years and grow up to 379 ft high and 29 feet wide. These massive trees are fragile. Most of the hiking in the redwood forest is on a boardwalk. Walking around the base of the redwoods can damage the root systems. So the boardwalk is designed all the visitors close to the redwoods with out damaging the root system.
Travel Tip: There is no cell service in Muir Woods.
There are 6 miles of hiking in Muir Woods National Monument but many of the trails connect with trails in Mount Tamalpais State Park. The Main Trail takes one on a walk along Redwood creek and thru the old growth coastal redwoods. There are four bridges across the creek. The bridges allow one to create different length trails depending on time. Option 1 is to turn around at Bridge 2 and creates a 0.5-mile loop that takes about 30 minutes to walk. Option 2 is to turn around at Bridge 3 and is a 1-mile loop that takes about an hour. Option 3 is Bridge 4 which combines the Main Trail with Hillside Trail. This takes about 2 hours and is 2 miles. Option 1 and Option 2 are handicap accessible.
With my limited time, I was planning to do Option 2 and maybe push to Option 3 if I had time. I had to make sure I got back to my car by 5:00 pm. The rangers lock the gates about 15 mins after closing time and will issue tickets to anyone found there after hours.
I headed out along the boardwalk. I headed into the Bohemian Grove. Most of these trees are considered to be mid-sized old grown redwoods. These are some of the oldest trees in the San Francisco Bay area. If hiking into Mount Tamalpais State Park, it is possible to see some young redwoods due to turn of the centrery logging in the area. These magnificent trees were saved by a savvy politician. William Kent bought the Muir Woods from a logging company. A few years later, a water company was going to build a dam and flood the valley. Rather than fight it in court. Kent donated the land to the federal government. A year late, President Theodore Roosevelt had it declared a National Monument. At Kent’s insistence, the monument was named after his good friend, John Muir.
The trail is flat and is a nice stroll thru the woods. I took my time and stopped and listen. I could hear the water of the stream. The rustling of the squirrels. The chirping of the crickets. I couldn’t hear the sounds of cars or cities. It was a relaxing experience. Standing by the massive Redwood trees, I can only lament the millions of old-grown tree that were lost to logging. Each redwood stands proudly over the forest floor. The redwood canopy blocks out much of the light but moss and ferns are found in abundance on the forest floor.
Everywhere I looked there was new flora to discover. I forgot about the time and just enjoyed my walk. Around 4:30, I got to Bridge 3. I decided that I would rather enjoy the walk back to the rush and try to get out to Bridge 4. I crossed Bridge 3 and started back.I took my time and enjoyed exploring. There are a few section on the way back where you can get close to the base of a few trees and explore the area further.
Have you been to Muir Woods National Monument? Can you believe that these massive trees survived less 30 miles from San Francisco?