9 Reasons to Explore the Redwoods at Muir Woods
Have you seen the redwoods at Muir Woods? If you haven’t been to this National Monument, it may be time to take a trip to see these awesome giants up close!
One of our favorite places in the Bay Area is the famous redwoods at Muir Woods National Monument. Once known as Redwood Canyon, this park is home to ancient groves of towering redwood trees, diverse wildlife, and spectacular views. And if that isn’t enough to lure you in, they also have an amazing coffee shop with a tantalizing selection of light bites and craft beverages.
There are so many things to love about this incredible park, which is why it is one of the main highlights on our Famous San Francisco and Muir Woods Combo Tour. After seeing some of the San Francisco sights, we devote an entire hour of this tour to the park. It’s the perfect opportunity for you to experience the majesty of the forest. You’ll also capture some incredible photos of Muir Woods!
It’s hard for us to describe the feeling you get while wandering through woodland paths amidst trees that are over 1,000 years old. So, we’re going to let these photos, captured by our tour guests, do most of the talking. Come with us as we outline these nine reasons to explore Muir Woods redwood forest!
By the way, if you’re ready to come see the redwoods in person, reserve your spot on our Dylan’s Famous Tour from San Francisco! You can learn more or book our Muir Woods tour here.
Muir Woods History
Muir Woods history is almost as interesting as its trees are majestic. During the late 1800s, Muir Woods was known as Redwood Canyon. Because of this, it was considered one of the most profitable resources for the logging industry.
To preserve its natural beauty, it was purchased by US Congressmen William Kent and his wife, Elizabeth. There was a reason behind this action. John Muir, the man Muir Woods is named after, inspired Kent to buy nearly 300 acres of the forest. John inspired him with his wildlife quotes, redwoods quotes and naturalist quotes.
Photo submitted by Stephanie P. via Facebook
Not many years after being rescued from the threat of the logging industry, a water company planned to block off the creek that feeds the woods. As a result, William Kent donated the land to the Federal Government. This way President Theodore Roosevelt could protect the land by declaring it a National Monument in 1908. Muir Woods was one of 18 monuments and over 100 million acres of forest that Roosevelt preserved during his time in office.
The forest was planned to be named after William Kent, to honor him for his donation. Kent wanted the woods to be named after John Muir, the man who inspired him to save the forest. If it wasn’t for John Muir the redwoods near San Francisco would probably not exist. Kent urged Roosevelt to name the woods after John Muir and the 300 acres of Mount Tamalpais became The Muir Woods National Monument. John Muir was thrilled with the dedication. He stated that “this is the best tree-lovers monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world.”
Photo by @carlsturgess63 via Instagram
Muir Woods Trees
Muir Woods is covered in dense forests of coastal redwoods. These incredible evergreens are a close relative of the Giant Sequoia and are noteworthy for their fragrant red bark and towering heights. Muir Woods’ tallest tree is 258 feet tall, and the average age of the trees is 600-800 years. The oldest tree in the woods is at least 1200 years old, but don’t think this is the oldest they can get, the trees can live up to 2200 years!. If you go further north the trees can reach heights up to 379 feet, the oldest redwood tree can be found in the Sierra Nevada.
The trees have a very important role in the forest. Being long-lived and large in size they play a significant role in nutrient, carbon and water cycling in the forest. They help support an abundance of plant and animal life.
Redwood trees can only be found on the Pacific coastline between Monterey and Southern Oregon. So, visitors to San Francisco will definitely want to take an opportunity of seeing these ancient groves. Trust us, you won’t want to miss out on seeing these awesome giants up close!
Photo by @dr._a2sah via Instagram
If the trees themselves aren’t enough of a draw, this coastal monument offers sensational ocean views to the adventurous hiker! While much of the park is devoted to the flat terrain of the valley floor, there are several hikes that lead up the sides of the canyon.
A short distance down from the main path of Muir Woods you can find The Canopy trail. This trail will take you outside of the main area and offers a beautiful hike. The Canopy Trail is 1,5 miles in total and on an intermediate level, it is one of the easier trails. This is because of the many switchbacks you will encounter on your climb to the top. One thing we really like about this trail is that it is outside of the main area, this means it is less touristic than the other trails! If you want to extend your hike, you can connect this trail with the Lost Trail or the Panoramic Trail. Both of them offer amazing views!
One of our favorites, the Dipsea Trail, climbs up to the valley crest. From this soaring vantage point, hikers can overlook both the ocean and the dense redwood groves of the park. While the loop is long and can be steep and strenuous, it’s worth it for the spectacular sights! If you want to extend this hike you can stay on the Dipsea Trail until you reach Stinson Beach.
The dipsea trail is 4 miles in total and a bit longer and more difficult than the Canopy trail. Another good suggestion if you like longer hikes is the Bootjack Trail. The Bootjack Trail is 6 miles in total and at the end you will connect with the Ben Johnson trails which will take you back to the main area. During this hike, you will cross many beautiful canyons.
Photo submitted by Stephanie U. via Facebook
A lot of Muir Woods visitors think there is no wildlife in the woods, it is at first glance very quiet. But if you look closer you will see that the redwoods are home to a diverse mix of animals. The animal species you can find in the woods depends on the time of the day or the season, so if you want to spot a particular animal make sure to check if it already arrived in Muir Woods before your visit!
Muir Woods is home to more than fifty species of birds and a variety of woodland animals. It is also the spawning and rearing sight of the threatened fish species coho salmon. While most of the wildlife in Muir Woods keeps well out of sight of visitors, you may be able to catch a glimpse of some if you keep your eyes open!
Look out for chipmunks, white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, gray foxes, butterflies, and, of course, banana slugs. Even though you most likely won’t see them, the woods are also home to river otters, spotted owls, bats, and bobcats.
Some tips to help you spot the animals
The Black-tailed deer are frequently seen in the woods and can be spotted throughout most of the year. Only in the winter is it very uncommon to see them. You can recognize the deers by their large ears and black tails. If you are lucky and visit the woods from April through August you have a chance to spot fawns. Yes, you thought that right, those are very cute baby deers!
Chipmunks are most active during spring and summer. They are commonly seen throughout the forest and near the sunny forest edge.
Even though the spotted owls are rare and very well camouflaged, there is a chance you can spot them. They are most audible during the breeding season from March through August. However, hey sleep during the day which makes it even harder to find them. Keeping an ear out is the best way to encounter one of these spotted owls.
The Coho Salmon can be best viewed from the bridges. The best period to spot them is from late November through January. Are you curious if they have arrived? Call the park information at (415) 388-2595 to find out!
NOTE: keep wildlife wild. Feeding or approaching wildlife can cause problems for both humans and wildlife. Don’t give your food to wildlife and never leave food unattended.
Photo by @sujitrahoney via Instagram
Muir Woods is conveniently located in Marin County on the northwest coast of California. If you’re staying in the Bay Area on vacation, you may be wondering how far Muir Woods is from San Francisco.
The answer is that it’s very close! Located just 17 miles north of the city, it takes about an hour to drive to Muir Woods from San Francisco.
The problem of driving to Muir Woods with your own car is PARKING. You have to reserve a parking spot in order to park your car at the lot. these spots sell out quickly, which means you have to make a reservation month in advance, which can be a struggle.
A great solution would be getting there with an uber, you don’t have to think about parking and you can enjoy the views while the uber drives you to Muir Woods. There is only one issue, at Muir Woods, there is no cell phone reception. This means when you hiked through the woods and are ready to get back to the city you are not able to call an Uber for the ride back. This means you are stuck at the woods..
A solution for both of these problems is booking a tour that gets you to Muir Woods. We created our Dylan’s Famous tour with Muir Woods, on this tour you will see the city, Sausalito and Muir Woods all in one day! The best part? You don’t have to worry about a parking spot and we will bring you all the way back to the city.
There also is a shuttle that goes from Sausalito to Muir Woods, you do have to reserve tickets in advance, but this is a great option as well. The only thing is you have to get to Sausalito. We recommend getting there by ferry or bike!
As you can see there is a variety of convenient ways to get to Muir Woods from San Francisco, either by car, shuttle, or even one of our guided Muir Woods shuttle bike tours. Whatever mode of transportation you choose, we recommend planning ahead and getting an early start because parking can fill up at this popular destination.
Photo by @carlsturgess63 via Instagram
Like most of coastal California, Muir Woods experiences mild weather almost year-round. Whether you come in high summer or mid-winter, the climate in the redwood grove is similarly mild and comfortable, if a little cool in the deep shade of the trees.
Due to the Pacific Ocean just over the hills, the woods are often enveloped in a dense morning fog that usually evaporates in the late afternoon. Seeing the mist-shrouded redwoods is a breathtaking experience, so we recommend trying to get to the groves early in the day if you can!
Photo by Teresa M. via TripAdvisor
Muir Woods Hikes
This 554-acre park is crisscrossed with hiking trails for every level of hiker. Along the valley floor, you’ll find the Bohemian Grove trail, a two mile-loop of wide wooden walking paths.
When you walk along the wooden walking paths you will pass 4 bridges. Every bridge is connected to his own loop, bridge 4 is the farthest away so this hike is the longest. Check out the 3 best hikes in Muir Woods before your visit to make the most out of your time there!
If you wander down the wooden walking path, be sure to take note of some of the famous groves that grow along it: Founders Grove, Bohemian Grove, and Cathedral Grove. Here you’ll find prolific growths of massive redwoods, including the largest tree in the park, the Pinchot Tree in Founders Grove.
Leading off from the main wooden path are a variety of steeper trails, including the 4.7 mile Sun Trail, the 5.2 mile Ben Johnson Trail, and the 7-mile Dipsea Trail. This trail connects Muir Woods all the way to Stinson Beach! Each of the paths offers unique and beautiful vantage points for observing the tremendous beauty of the natural park.
Whether you spend your hike simply breathing in the beauty of nature, or snapping epic Muir Woods Instagram photos, you’ll be sure to make some unforgettable memories in the redwoods!
Photo by Robin I. via TripAdvisor
If you’re wondering how to get to Muir Woods, we’ve got you covered! Finding the park entrance can be surprisingly challenging, and the devoted parking lot is often full. Because of this, we think booking a redwood tour is an amazing way to easily access the park.
There are several options for Muir Woods tours, including our Famous San Francisco Tour to Muir Woods and our Bike the Bridge & Shuttle to Muir Woods Tour. Both of these tours include a lengthy visit to Muir Woods. During the stop, you’ll have plenty of time to take a self-guided walk around the Bohemian Grove Trail!
During our Dylan’s Famous Tour our local tour guide will take you through San Francisco’s neighborhoods, Sausalito and all the way up to Muir Woods where you can explore the woods for over an hour. At the end of the tour we will bring you back to the city so you don’t have to worry about transportation back into the city. Want to see more about our Dylan’s Famous Tour? Check out the video below!
More a fan of biking? Don’t worry we have another perfect combo tour! The Bike the Bridge + Shuttle to Muir Woods Tour allows you to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge, drop off your bike in Sausalito at our partner shop and hop on our shuttle to Muir Woods. At the end, we will bring you back to the city with our minibus!
Photo by Tony B. via TripAdvisor
Last, but certainly not least, the Muir Woods Trading Company Cafe is well worth pointing out! After hiking through the sometimes chilly redwoods, do yourself a huge favor and stop at this little restaurant for some warm refreshments.
The cafe boasts a menu featuring hot and cold beverages, paninis fresh off the grill, hearty soup, deli sandwiches, and locally inspired pastries. It’s the perfect way to end your Muir Woods trip.
What are your favorite things to do in Muir Woods? Next time you find yourself among the Muir Woods redwoods, don’t forget to share your photos with us on Instagram & Facebook by tagging us #DylansToursSF!