Muir Woods is an excellent option for anyone visiting San Francisco and wanting to see huge redwood trees up close! Check out all the tips and tricks to visit the place.
MUIR WOODS NATIONAL MONUMENT
Founded in 1908, Muir Woods National Monument is a small American nature reserve located less than 20 km north of San Francisco. It is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, one of the largest national parks in urban areas in the United States and is completely surrounded by the Mount Tamalpais State Park (see map here). The park's name is a tribute to naturalist John Muir, who organized environmental campaigns that eventually helped establish the US National Parks system. (Read more: California: Home of John Muir, Father of National Parks). Muir Woods owns about 224 hectares, with nearly 100 hectares dominated by coastal redwood forests
O Muir Woods type of sequoia is not the one known as giant sequoia, reminiscent of a large pine tree. The height may exceed that of a giant sequoia, but the trunk is much thinner, averaging half the diameter. Most of the Muir Woods sequoias are “younger” than the giant sequoias. However, they are considered the biggest living things in the world. The tallest tree in Muir Woods is 78.6 meters tall, equivalent to a 23-story building!
- Height: 116 meters
- Age: 2000 years
- Diameter: 6.7 meters
- Shell: 3.7 meters thick
- Height: 95 meters
- Age: 3200 years
- Diameter: 12 meters
- Shell: 9.5 meters thick
Although the films “Planet of the Apes: Inception” (2011) and “Planet of the Apes: The Confrontation” (2014) suggest scenes that would be in Muir Woods (due to the proximity to the city of San Francisco), they were filmed in Canada, in the province of British Columbia. In the film “A Body That Falls” (1958) by director Alfred Hitchcock, there is a scene that was recorded in Big Basin Redwoods State Park, the oldest state park in California, although the movie is supposed to be Muir Woods.
NATURE IN MUIR WOODS
Muir Woods is home to around 380 plants and animals, including 27 species of mammals, 12 species of reptiles and 5 species of amphibians. A curiosity is that Muir Woods has only about 50 species of birds. This number is considered relatively low, but is a result of the lack of insects. The tannin in the trees repels insects and the volume of flowers and fruits produced by the plants is limited by the shade provided by the height of the sequoias. Redwood Creek is the park's main stream and is often home to salmon and trout. However, during our visit to the site, it had a very low volume of water and it was possible to see the bottom and the stones in the bed.
SAVINGS TIP: ACTIVITY CARDS
San Francisco is not a cheap city. If you intend to visit several attractions that have paid admission, the tip is to purchase one of the activity cards that include tickets to several attractions at a price well below that if you were to buy them individually at the box office. Discover 7 of the main options:
GO SAN FRANCISCO CARD: This card saves you up to 60% on 28 of the city's top attractions and tours, including the hop-on hop-off bus! You even have discounts and special offers in stores and restaurants! The card is available in 1, 2, 3 or 5 day versions. Price: from US$ 78
SAN FRANCISCO CITYPASS: This pass includes tickets to famous attractions and lots of discounts! The pass includes: 3 days unlimited transport by Cable Car and Muni, admission to the California Academy of Sciences, admission to a boat cruise across the bay, access to the San Francisco Aquarium and admission to either the Exploratorium or the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Price: from US$ 94
SAN FRANCISCO MEGA PASS: This pass includes 3, 4 or 5 options from over 20 tours and attractions in San Francisco. It is valid for 7 days and gives you the freedom to create your own itinerary. Price: from US$ 79.99
THE SAN FRANCISCO SEIGHTSEEING PASS: Choose 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 attractions and visit them at your own pace over a period of 30 days. There are more than 20 attractions to choose from! Price: from US$ 54
SAN FRANCISCO FISHERMAN'S WHARF PASS: Admission to 5 iconic attractions in the Fisherman's Wharf area, including the Aquarium, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, 7D Experience, The San Francisco Dungeon and a Bay Cruise. Price: from US$ 90
IVENTURE CARD: Take must-see tours, see attractions and enjoy San Francisco day cruises for a much lower price! The card includes a 48-hour Hop-On Hop-Off ticket and 2 or 4 attractions to choose from. Check details in versions of 3 days or 5 days. Price: from US$ 65
PIER 39 ATTRACTION PASS: The pass includes admission to the Aquarium, Bay Cruise, 7D Experience, 48-hour Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Ticket, Magowan Infinite Mirror Labyrinth admission, and Pier 39 discounts and coupons. Price: from US$ 90.95
THE CLIMATE IN MUIR WOODS
Due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, the forest is regularly shrouded in a layer of coastal sea mist, contributing to a humid environment that encourages vigorous plant growth. Fog is also vital for the growth of redwoods, as they use up moisture during dry seasons, particularly in summer. In this way, the place is very cool all year round, with temperatures ranging from 4ºC to 21ºC, on average. Winter is the rainy season in the state of California and rain can occur during the period from late October to early May.
HOW TO VISIT MUIR WOODS: BOOK BEFORE!
Muir Woods suffered for years from overcrowding. As parking spaces have always been very scarce, queues to park in the park have always been common. That changed in 2018 when a new system was deployed. Currently, to visit the park it is necessary to book in advance. You can visit in two different ways: by booking a parking space, in case you go with your own car or if you reserve a spot in the shuttle service, in case you don't go by car. To make a reservation, you must access this site.
Clicking the orange button “CLICK HERE TO BOOK NOW” (click here to book now), a calendar will open and you will need to choose the date of the visit. There are dates available for the next 4 months only. Click on the desired day to advance. Then, the page that will open will show the option of “Shuttle reservations”, on the left; and “Parking Reservations” on the right.
PARKING SPACE RESERVATION
All visitors traveling by car must book in advance. It is not possible to get a parking space by arriving at the park, as tickets are sold online. Parking is a short walk from the park. You have to pay a fee of US$ 8.50 per car and there is a window of up to 30 minutes from the time indicated on the ticket. Electric cars pay US$ 11.50 to park. There are 2 spaces for electric cars to be charged while visiting the park. Don't forget that parking has nothing to do with the entrance ticket to the park. You also need to pay for the ticket to visit Muir Woods (US$ 15).
Following the procedure shown above, if you intend to go by car, select the number of vehicles (maximum 2) in “Parking Reservations”. Then the option “Select arrival time” will appear, an estimated time for you to arrive at the park. Time slots are displayed every 30 minutes. Select the desired time and click on “Add Parking Reservation to Cart” (Add parking reservation to cart).
You can use the next screen to buy your park ticket. One ticket per person is required. If you prefer, you can leave it for purchase at the Muir Woods Visitor Center when you arrive at the park. Click on the button "Continues" to continue. You have 25 minutes to confirm that the tickets you purchased are correct, create an account or access social media and pay via credit card.
- Need to cancel? If you change plans, you can cancel your reservation up to 72 hours in advance of your reservation time to get the full amount paid back. Anyone who cancels less than 72 hours in advance will receive the value of the entrance ticket back, but not the value related to parking. Follow the instructions in the email you will receive with the tickets.
IMPORTANT: If traveling by car, don't forget that you have to pay the Golden Gate Bridge toll, but there is no toll booth on site. See all the tips in our post dedicated to the subject.
SHUTTLE BUS RESERVATION
The Muir Woods Shuttle takes visitors from select locations to the park. When you make a shuttle reservation, you don't need to make a parking reservation (it's one or the other). I recommend booking in advance because, depending on the time of year, the shuttle is very popular. THE Shuttle fee is US$ 3.25 per person (over 16 years old). Do not forget that the parking lot has nothing to do with the ticket to enter the park. You also need to pay for the ticket to visit Muir Woods (US$ 15). To make a reservation, follow the same instructions as above, accessing this site. Clicking the orange button “CLICK HERE TO BOOK NOW” (click here to book now), a calendar will open and you will need to choose the date of the visit. Click on the option “Book Now“, after choosing the desired date. The options for the number of people will appear and where will be the place where the shuttles leave for you to choose and also the time you will take it.
There is 3 bus departure locations and it is necessary to pay close attention when making the park reservation, the tickets reserved are specific to the place where you will embark and disembark. The shuttle points are:
1. Pohono Park & Ride
- Address: 100 Shoreline Hwy, Mill Valley, CA 94941
- When: only available on weekends and reservations can be used within a window of up to 30 minutes
- Observation: You can drive to the site, leave the car parked for free and take the shuttle to the park.
- Address: Bay & Bridgeway, Sausalito, CA 94965
- When: daily with departures only at the exact time of the reservation (it is recommended to arrive 15 minutes in advance to avoid the risk of missing the shuttle)
- Observation: There is no on-site parking available. The recommendation is to take the Sausalito Ferry from San Francisco to get there.
3. Marine City Hub
- Address: Donahue & Terners, Sausalito, CA 94965
- When: daily with departures only at the exact time of the reservation (it is recommended to arrive 15 minutes in advance to avoid the risk of missing the shuttle)
- Observation: There is no on-site parking available.
As well as booking parking, you can buy tickets for entry to the park online or at the Visitor Center.
Click in "Continues” to confirm the information, identify yourself and make the payment via credit card. You will receive your tickets by email and you will need to download them to your cell phone or, a less ecological option, print them out to take with you on the day of the tour. Remember that there is no cell phone signal in the park and no wifi, so you will need to have your tickets ready to show to the shuttle driver and at the entrance to the park.
- Need to cancel? If you change plans, you can cancel your reservation up to 72 hours in advance of your reservation time to get the full amount paid back. Anyone who cancels less than 72 hours in advance will receive the value of the entrance ticket back, but not the value for the shuttle. Follow the instructions in the email you will receive with the tickets.
WHAT TO DO IN MUIR WOODS
As we said earlier, Muir Woods is relatively small and can be known in a short time. Below, check out the interactive map of Muir Woods that we prepared, which is completely surrounded by Mount Tamalpais State Park. We put the main attractions and the itinerary that we made inside the park in blue. In purple, we have included some additional attractions for those who want to extend the tour.
Once you arrive at Muir Woods, you will need to buy your ticket. as we have the card which gives access to all American parks for 1 year, we show it at the entrance and we don't need to buy tickets. We got a leaflet about the location with a map and we moved on.
Muir Woods has a small Visitor Center which is the starting point to visit the other areas of the park. It is next to the ticket office and is very small and simple and has a little shop that sells various articles and books.
STARTING THE TOUR IN MUIR WOODS
Going a little further on, you'll find a Cafe/Shop (more on that later) to the right, and to the left is the stream that runs through the park. There is also Bridge 1 (Bridge 1) which is the first bridge that passes over the creek and has the function of connecting the park's trails. And speaking of trails, the main ones in the park form a loop, that is, they always follow along the sides of the stream. Along the way, you will find 4 bridges that you can cross and return to the Visitor Center whenever you wish. Ideally, you should go one way and come back the other, to get a more complete view of what Muir Woods has to offer.
TRAILS IN MUIR WOODS
The main activity in Muir Woods is the trails through the forest to admire the sequoias and the local vegetation. The little park offers almost 10 km of trails. To check the complete map of all trails, visit this link which has information about distances, difficulty and what to find on each of the trails. Among the most famous are:
- Main Trail to Bridge 2 and back: Trail with about 0.8 km in length that is covered in about half an hour. The trail starts at the Visitor Center and follows Redwood Creek on both banks. In this section you will find the Bohemian Grove it's the Founders Grove, one on each side of the creek that divides the park.
- Main Trail to Bridge 3 and back: Trail about 1.6 km long that can be covered in about 1 hour. Follow the same path as described in the previous item, but go to Bridge 3 and return.
- Main Trail to Bridge 4 and back: A trail about 3.2 km long and 27 meters high, which takes about 1.5 to 2 hours to walk. It also starts at the Visitor Center and runs along Redwood Creek (a stream that cuts through the park). you will go through Cathedral Grove to reach Bridge 4. Cross the bridge and go up the Hillside Trail, which will take you back to Bridge 2, where you can enjoy a different view of the forest. It was this trail that we did and we highly recommend it (see the route indicated in the blue line on the interactive map). The ride is very peaceful and pleasant and we didn't even see the time pass.
RECOMMENDATIONS TO VISIT MUIR WOODS
- Always bring a warm coat because the park usually has low temperatures, even in summer.
- Wear comfortable shoes and clothes to walk with tranquility and get to know the place well.
- Don't forget to bring a bottle of water to stay hydrated during your visit. The park has several points with drinking fountains and to refill your bottle for free.
- There is no cell phone signal or wifi available in the park. Download your parking reservation before going to the park and use a form of offline GPS (you can download maps from Google Maps to take them offline or use some other app – I recommend maps.me).
- The following are prohibited: pets (except guide dogs), smoking, cycling, horseback riding, fishing, removing trees and flowers, camping and picnicking inside the forest.
WHERE TO EAT AND BUY AT MUIR WOODS
As Muir Woods is a relatively small park, there is only one place to eat, the Muir Woods Cafe of Muir Woods Trading Company. Located at the entrance to the park, this Cafe offers hot and cold sandwiches, soups, snacks, croissants, muffins, brownies, cookies, coffees and teas.
It is next to a gift shop with many items with park logos, including t-shirts, mugs, cups, fridge magnets, crafts, among others. Schedules: open daily from 9 am to 7 pm
WHERE TO STAY AT MUIR WOODS
There are no hotels or campgrounds within the park. For camping, there are a few areas around San Francisco that you can check out. here and also in Mount Tamalpais State Park. For accommodation, some alternatives in areas close to Muir Woods that are recommended by the official website of the American parks are: The Inn at the Presidio (3 stars), Cavallo Point Lodge (4 stars), Marin Headlands Hostel (2 stars) and SF Fisherman's Hostel (1 star).
BOOK NOW your hotel and save up to 50%. Travelers readers are with a SUPER DISCOUNT! And the best, with FREE CANCELLATION*!
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EXCURSIONS FROM SAN FRANCISCO
For those who don't have a car or are short on time and want to combine other interesting activities, there are some tour options from San Francisco to Muir Woods that are worth considering:
SUGGESTION: COMBINE WITH OTHER TOURS
If you have a car, you can combine the Muir Woods tour with other super cool attractions. In addition to taking advantage of amazing photos of the Golden Gate Bridge with the city of San Francisco in the background at Marin Headlands, it is possible to visit the beaches of Muir Beach and Stinson Beach which are close to the park. Check out more information about the beaches:
>> Muir Beach
Located about 5 km from the park, Muir Beach is a beach with a long stretch of sand that is relatively close to the park and is well worth a visit if you have a car. There, it is possible to see birds in an impressive scenery of cliffs and very strong waves.
Also take the opportunity to discover the Muir Beach Overlook (the access is not the same as the one from the beach and it is almost 6 km away from the park) which provides beautiful views of the coast. The site has a parking lot, a picnic table and restrooms. Get ready to face a freezing wind in the place.
It is a beach that is around 5 km long, formed by white sand. The beach is considered very good for fishing, but not recommended for swimming, as there is a current and the waves break very strong. The Stinson Beach area has a great structure with restrooms, showers, picnic areas and grills. A snack bar is open during the summer months at the base of the main lifeguard tower. A suggestion is lunch at Stinson Beach at the The Siren Canteen, close to the beach that serves tacos, crepes, hamburgers, fish and chips.
We've also blogged a post about some attractions on the coast north of San Francisco that include: Sausalito (graceful city, great for a lunch overlooking the bay), Point Reyes, Bodega Bay, Sonoma Coast State Beach, Jenner, Fort Ross, Salt Point State Park, Gualala, Point Arena Lighthouse, Mendocino, between others.
Read more: Northern California Tour
- Address: 1 Muir Woods Rd, Mill Valley, CA 94941
- Schedules: daily from 8 am until sunset (varies between 5 pm and 8 pm depending on the time of year – see in this link)
- Entrance: US$ 15 for ages 15+ | The National Parks Annual Pass is valid at the park (see more information here)
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Read more about parks in California:
- The amazing Yosemite Park in California
- California: Death Valley, the Valley of Death
- California: Sequoia National Park, the park of the giant sequoias
- Crystal Cave: Marble Cave at Sequoia Park in California
- California: Kings Canyon Park and the Deepest Canyon in the USA
- Big Basin Redwoods Park: California's Oldest Park