A Guide to Exploring The Muir Woods, a perfect day trip from San Francisco.
One of the highlights of our recent trip to San Francisco was our visit to The Muir Woods National Monument! This beautiful redwood forest is about 12 miles north of San Francisco which makes it an easy destination when visiting the city. Redwood trees are the tallest trees in the world and the trees in the Muir Woods stand more than 250 feet tall. It has been a federally protected National Monument since 1908.
This beautiful and breathtaking forest has so much more to see than just trees! The other wildlife and vegetation help make the park unique and special. If you follow the Main Trail hike, you will criss cross the crystal clear Redwood Creek. There are ferns and moss growing everywhere along the banks. You might even get lucky and see some wildlife on your visit. One of our favorite finds was a log completely covered in ladybugs! There are also birds, deer, moles, rabbits and squirrels.
We also loved the Junior Ranger program the offer for kids. When you first enter the park, you can pick up a Junior Ranger booklet. It is full of information and activities to teach kids about the area around them. I actually learned more about the trees from the boys’ activity books than I did from the park plaques we passed. They learned how to see how old the trees and sprays were and how forest fires recycle nutrients. Show your completed book to a park ranger at the end of your visit and get a Muir Woods Junior Ranger Pin. These are great little souvenirs for kids.
Hiking at Muir Woods
Muir Woods has six miles of hiking trails within the park. They also connect to the trail system at Mount Tamalpais State Park.
The Main Trail is the easiest hike. Most of the trail is boardwalk so it’s great for those with strollers, little ones or people with disabilities. You can take a half mile loop (Bridge 2 and back) or a 1 mile loop (Bridge 3 and back). If you’d like a little longer, but still easy route, continue on to bridge and return on the Hillside Trail. This is a 2 mile hike and is easy.
My family did the Main Trail hike all the way to Bridge 4. Just before Bridge 4 we detoured onto another trail that took us on a half mile loop into part of Mount Tamalpais State Park. The trail put us back onto the Main Trail and it was a perfect short jaunt off the main trail but still easy enough for our kids.
You can see a full trail map here. There are so many neat hikes you can take from the Canopy View Trail to the Dipsea Trail that takes you all the way to Stinson Beach.
Know Before You Go
- Wear layers! Even on a warm summer day, it’s rare for the woods to get above 70 degrees. We were grateful for our sweatshirts. You’ll also want to be prepared for rain – especially from November to April.
- There is no cell phone service in Muir Woods. Keep this in mind if someone is dropping you off at the entrance, you’ll need to make solid arrangements for them to pick you up. Also, keep in mind that if you are separated from someone in your group, you can’t call them! Designate a meeting spot in advance.
- New for 2018 you must make parking or shuttle reservations in advance. You cannot just show up at the woods and expect to park. There is no street parking either.
- Stay on the path! Poison oak and stinging nettle grow in the woods. Stay on the path ago avoid coming into contact with these plants. Also, make sure you know what they look like and keep kids from getting too close.
Getting to Muir Woods
Reservations are required for all vehicles and shuttle riders. This reservation system is new for 2018 and is designed to help protect the park and make it easier for visitors.
The parking reservation fee is $8 per vehicle. If you choose to ride the shuttle, there is a reservation fee of $3 per person, age 16 or older. A free reservation must still be made to secure a shuttle seat for visitors under 16 years of age. The Muir Woods shuttle can be picked up at the Pohono Street Park & Ride Lot and the Sausalito Ferry Terminal. The shuttle does not run daily so be sure to check the schedule before planning your visit.
The Muir Woods is a very popular destination so booking a reservation far in advance is recommended. You can also organize a trip through a private tour company or use a ride sharing service. Just remember, that there’s no cell service so pick-ups may be tricky.
We loved our day at The Muir Woods and I’m certain you will love it too. It’s such a wonderful change of pace from the hustle and bustle of the city. A beautiful way to see some of the other things San Francisco has to offer without venturing too far.
And while you are enjoying the great outdoors, check out the other off-the-beaten path activities we enjoyed on our San Francisco trip:
- A Guide to San Francisco’s Urban National Parks
- Exploring San Francisco with Kids
- Exploring The Presidio in San Francisco
- Inside the Historic Inn at the Presidio