Everything You Need To Know About Visiting Muir Woods
If you are planning a trip to San Francisco, visiting Muir Woods should be at the top of your bucket list.
Experiencing the energetic buzz of our big city is always a blast but fitting in one of California’s most memorable nature escapes just may be the highlight of your San Francisco experience.
There is a reason Muir Woods is one of the most popular day trips from San Francisco – this small national monument packs a powerful punch. From experiencing breathtaking coastal and forest views to wandering through the famous redwood forest, Muir Woods is easily one of our favorite places in the Bay Area.
But there’s the catch: Muir Woods can be tricky to visit. Knowing just a few insider tips for visiting Muir Woods can make or break your trip, so planning ahead is crucial. Lucky for you, we’ve gathered all of the info and tips you’ll need to visit Muir Woods like a local!
Ready to plan your forest adventure? Here is everything you need to know before visiting Muir Woods!
What Is Muir Woods?
While the city of San Francisco offers endless opportunities for new experiences and social engagements, visiting Muir Woods provides tranquility, private reflection, and a connection with nature.
Muir Woods is a National Monument just a stone’s throw away from the heart of San Francisco in the Golden Gate Recreation Area. One of few national parks or monuments where you can find redwoods, visitors can walk among towering trees thousands of years their senior.
Benefits of Visiting Muir Woods with Dylan’s
If you have a limited amount of time to spend in our beautiful city, managing your time wisely is the key to an amazing trip. Our San Francisco adventures cover all of the well-known spots on your bucket list and offer a seamless shuttle service to Muir Woods, so you don’t waste any time getting to know our beautiful city.
We offer two amazing tours that include visiting Muir Woods:
- You can explore the city neighborhoods before heading to Muir Woods on Dylan’s Famous San Francisco Tour with Muir Woods. Consider this tour your introduction to the city! This is the best tour for a fantastic overview of the famous San Francisco spots and landmarks you should see. And after all of that, you will still have time for more activities after the tour (we recommend adding on the Alcatraz excursion!).
- Cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge on an e-bike and visit Muir Woods on our Bike the Golden Gate Bridge and Visit Muir Woods tour. This tour is great for people who want to get their blood pumping before the shuttle to Muir Woods. Biking across the Golden Gate Bridge is a unique experience that we highly recommend!
In just a handful of hours, you will have a lay of the land and a good understanding of the San Francisco areas and activities you want to explore further.
Maximize Your Time Exploring San Francisco
Most tour companies only combine visiting Muir Woods with a small break in Sausalito. We know that you want more out of your San Francisco experience, especially if you are only in the city for a short time.
On Dylan’s Famous San Francisco Tour with Muir Woods, we combine our Muir Woods tours with an exploration of San Francisco neighborhoods and a lunch stop in Sausalito, so there is no need to take three separate tours to experience the best of our city.
Dylan’s Takes Care of the Planning for You
Creating a list of the things to do and see in San Francisco can be overwhelming, especially if you are juggling the interests of both kids and adults in a small window of time. Having a tour expert to make the tough decisions for you can be a lifesaver.
After 15 years of running the San Francisco streets, you could say our tour guides are experts in all things Golden City. We have curated the perfect San Francisco tour from start to finish so you can hit all of your San Francisco bucket list items on a single outing.
Transportation is a Breeze
As people quickly find out when trying to plan a Muir Woods excursion, getting there is not as simple as you think. There is no direct shuttle from San Francisco, and advance parking reservations, limited shuttle space, and zero cell service can make transportation difficult for locals and tourists alike.
When visiting Muir Woods with Dylan’s tours, you don’t need to give any of these details a second thought. All you need to do is book the tour of your choice, and we will do the rest.
Our Muir Woods allot about 75 minutes to visit the park, which is more than enough time to explore this small national monument. You can even go on many of the recommended hikes while still making it back for our shuttle back into the city.
You can Bike the Golden Gate Bridge and Visit Muir Woods in One Tour
For those who want to have a seamless experience visiting Muir Woods and also explore San Francisco by bike, you can have the best of both worlds with our Bike the Woods tour. You get to switch up your mode of transportation by biking the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and then hopping on our shuttle to Muir Woods the moment the road gets difficult!
This tour is perfect for those who want to fit multiple highly recommended San Francisco activities into one day without the headache that goes with planning your own transportation.
Select Your Tour To Visit Muir Woods
Why Visit Muir Woods
There are endless reasons to explore Muir Woods – here are just a few of our favorites!
Muir Woods is the Perfect Complement to the “Big City” Activity
After exploring vibrant and energetic San Francisco neighborhoods, you may crave some quiet, natural beauty. Muir Woods is a convenient escape for a few precious moments to appreciate the majesty of towering Redwoods and lush green forest views. From smelling the fresh evergreen-scented air to feeling the soft dirt under your feet to listening to the music of the wilderness around you, Muir Woods will remind you that you are a small part of something much bigger.
After an hour or so of connecting with nature, you will feel grounded, refreshed, and ready to dive back into the buzz of the city.
It is One of Few Redwood Forests You Can Explore in the San Francisco Area
Due to deforestation and a specific ecosystem in which this giant species can thrive, Muir Woods is home to some of the only redwood groves in the world.
Coast Redwoods, a close cousin of the colossal Sequoias, are towering evergreens with deep roots in the area’s history. Some of these trees are well over 1,000 years old, and can grow up to 250 feet tall. A cornerstone of the natural ecosystem, these trees house diverse and thriving wildlife.
When you walk among these trees, you feel as if you have traveled back to a time untouched by mankind. Thanks to their proximity to the coast, it is common to experience a thick marine layer that only adds to the drama and mystery of the Redwoods grove.
It’s An Easy Day Trip from San Francisco
While it may feel like you are stepping into a completely different world when visiting Muir Woods, it is only a short drive from the city. If you are touring San Francisco and curious if visiting Muir Woods is worth your time, you only need a few hours to get the most out of your San Francisco trip and experience this one-of-a-kind national monument.
Muir Woods is Incredibly Kid-Friendly
Traveling with kids? This is the perfect addition to your trip! Visiting Muir Woods is always a great option for families who want to get some wiggles out and expose their kids to nature. Many of the hikes and strolls are very kid-friendly – even the longer trails are doable for most ages. Your kids will get to wander, learn, and gain a new appreciation for the great outdoors – and even become a Muir Woods Junior Park Ranger!
You can Explore and Learn About this Unique National Monument
For almost 100 years, people have been advocating for the protection of and respect for this national monument. There are many ways for you to become an advocate as well. Hikers can learn historic and scientific facts from plaques posted along the way as well as chat with knowledgeable and passionate park rangers. You have every opportunity to understand just why people have dedicated their lives to preserving the area. And if you are a local, you can even join the community by becoming a regular volunteer!
Know Before You Visit Muir Woods
Where is Muir Woods? How do you get to Muir Woods?
Muir Woods is a short 30-minute drive away from the hustle and bustle of San Francisco. Located in Marin County, a small area about 12 miles from San Francisco, Muir Woods is a great half-day trip to consider if you want a quick and quiet escape.
What is the history of Muir Woods?
Purchased and protected by US congressman William Kent in the early 1900s, Kent donated the land to the government, and this redwood forest was quickly designated a national monument by Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. Originally known as Redwood Canyon, it was later dedicated to the father of national parks, John Muir, to honor his advocacy for the protection and admiration of our nation’s most unique places. There are many John Muir quotes about Muir Woods.
How much time should you schedule for visiting Muir Woods?
Many people think they need an entire day to experience Muir Woods, but most people find they are satisfied after an introductory stroll, a small hike or two, and a quick bite at the Muir Woods Trading Company Cafe. This national monument is not large, so it doesn’t take a full day of hiking to get a great feel and appreciation for the area.
When visiting Muir Woods with Dylan’s, we take care of the schedule for you! You will have about 75 minutes to explore Muir Woods, which is more than enough time to finish many of the hikes at an easy pace, with time to stop and take photos along the way!
What are Muir Woods Hours?
Here’s the great news – you can visit Muir Woods 365 days a year! While transportation to the national monument is not as flexible, you can rest assured that once you get to Muir Woods the entrance will generally be open from 8 am to 6 pm daily, but always make sure to check the National Park Service website for updates or seasonal hours!
*However, keep in mind that some of the stops inside the park have varying hours. The visitor center hours are 8 am – 30 minutes before close daily. The gift shop opens at 9 am to an hour before the park closes, while the cafe doesn’t open until 10 am and closes an hour before the park does. It’s also important to note, especially if you’re visiting in the winter, that the beaches accessible from Muir Woods (Muir Beach, Muir Beach Overlook, and Stinson Beach) will always close an hour after sunset.
You won’t have any cell service in the park.
Don’t expect to be able to Facetime your buddies or post videos on your Insta story while visiting Muir Woods.
The redwood groves are great for many things, but cell reception is not one of them. It’s important to have your affairs in order (letting people know you’ll be out of service, having a confirmed way to get back into the city, downloading any maps or podcasts you want) before entering the Muir Woods. Once you get in the park, you’ll be back in the stone age before cell service was a thing.
This may seem like an inconvenience, but consider it a gentle nudge from the redwoods to stop looking at life through a screen and focus on the endless beauty at your fingertips!
You have to reserve parking at Muir Woods.
Muir woods is unique in many ways – one of which is the limited number of parking spots for a very well-traveled area. Though Muir Woods has over 1 million visitors every year, there are only 232 parking spaces for private vehicles in the Muir Woods parking lot.
Muir Woods uses a reservation system for people hoping to park at the national monument. Many people reserve their spot months in advance to confirm their ideal trip date. The Muir Woods parking reservation costs $9 per car. Because reservations can be competitive on popular days, most people opt for alternate, more convenient forms of transportation to the park.
*And make sure to download your parking reservation in advance, because you won’t have cell service once you arrive!
How much does it cost to get into Muir Woods?
The Muir Woods entrance fee is $15 per person over the age of 16 regardless of the mode of transportation you use to get there. However, if you have a national parks pass, you can get in for free. If you intend on visiting multiple national parks within the year, we recommend this option. You can enter several national parks across the country for an annual purchase of about $80.
If you don’t have a national parks pass, you can purchase one at the Muir Woods entrance!
How accessible is Muir Woods?
Muir Woods is very accessible for people with limited mobility. There is a good amount of boardwalks and paved trails that are mostly flat. There are many benches along the way for a scenic rest, and the cafe, gift shop, and restroom amenities are all up to ADA standards. There are also six accessible parking spots reserved for those with disabled parking placards.
Best time of year to visit Muir Woods?
The best time to visit Muir Woods depends on whether you want to experience fewer crowds or have nice weather. Peak visitation happens between May through October, but thanks to mild weather year-round, you can enjoy the park any month out of the year. But if you’re visiting in the winter (or any time of year, really), just be sure to wear layers and bring a raincoat!
How to beat the Muir Woods crowds?
As with any recreational activity, the weekends see the largest crowds visiting Muir Woods. On top of that, the Muir Woods Shuttle only runs holidays and weekends, adding to the weekend trip popularity. If you really want to beat the crowds and have more of the trails to yourself, visiting during the week would be your best bet.
Due to the lack of a public shuttle, using a tour company is hands-down the most convenient way to get to Muir Woods during the week.
How to prepare for your Muir woods tour?
We may sound like a broken record, but the most important way to prepare for your trip is to reserve and confirm your transportation to and from Muir Woods. Regardless of how you travel, there are necessary prior arrangements to make! Make sure you reserve a parking spot, a seat on the public shuttle, or a spot on a private tour company.
Other ways to prepare are prioritizing the hikes you want to take and the sights you hope to see! Especially when you’re on a public tour like ours and have limited time in the park, doing some research before will help you maximize your time visiting Muir Woods. But if you don’t have a game plan when you get there, our awesome guides will give you some great recommendations!
What to bring on your visit to Muir Woods?
Here is our list of items that will come in handy for a great time visiting Muir Woods!
- A raincoat – from surprise showers to constant mist, you’ll want to stay dry.
- Layers – the weather can change drastically throughout the day, so have some options.
- National Parks Pass – have one? You can get in the park for free!
- Spending money – from the entrance fee to a delicious snack at the cafe to a cute souvenir, you’ll want a bit of pocket money to make visiting Muir Woods that much more memorable!
- A bottle of water – while there are amenities at Muir Woods, having your own water bottle will help stay hydrated on some of the longer hikes.
Want to learn even more about trip details? Here is a full list of Frequently Asked Questions about visiting Muir Woods.
Getting to Muir Woods
The biggest challenge of visiting Muir Woods is the transportation to and from the national monument. You wouldn’t think twice about simply driving your car to many national parks. Thanks to winding roads, poor cell service, and competitive parking reservations, driving to Muir Woods can be tricky. But these extra obstacles shouldn’t scare you! There are several options for transportation at your fingertips – some more convenient than others.
Transportation We Recommend:
Dylan’s Famous Tour with Muir Woods (add-on Alcatraz tickets)
Fit three tours in one by joining us for a bus tour of San Francisco, a shuttle to Muir Woods, and a drop-off at the Alcatraz ferry, all in one day! We love this tour for visiting Muir Woods because there is built-in transportation and parking for the park. You can enjoy the best of Muir Woods without spending any mental energy on getting there.
- A top-rated bus tour of San Francisco’s coolest neighborhoods. Learn about the history and nuances of San Francisco that make the city so unique.
- A lunch break in Sausalito where you can take in the views of this sweet little town. (Available on the 8:00 AM tour only.)
- A minibus shuttle up to Muir Woods, where you can spend over an hour enjoying the national monument without worrying about transportation.
- A shuttle back to Fisherman’s Wharf area, perfect for continuing your San Francisco exploration.
On this tour, you have the opportunity to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge and then hop right on a shuttle to Muir Woods. This tour is great because you get the best transportation of both worlds – an exhilarating bike ride that switches to a shuttle for when the roads get steep, narrow, and dangerous for bikers.
- A top-tier bike or e-bike to take the self-guided trek across the Golden Gate Bridge and around the small town of Sausalito.
- Detailed directions and recommendations for awesome stops and views to experience on your bike tour.
- An easy and convenient spot to drop off your bikes right next to where the shuttle will leave for Muir Woods.
- A shuttle to visit Muir Woods, and recommendations of hikes, views, and trails to see.
- A shuttle back to either the bike shop or a convenient stop in the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf.
Other Ways of Getting to Muir Woods:
Driving to Muir Woods
While it’s possible to drive to Muir Woods from San Francisco, you need to work on your game plan ahead of time and many decide driving to Muir Woods is not worth the trouble.
You can’t drive through Muir Woods, so taking a private car does not offer any advantage. Because there is a limited number of parking spaces at the entrance of Muir Woods, you need to reserve and pay for a parking spot in advance. Especially if you are trying to visit during the busy season or on a weekend, there is no assurance that you will land a parking spot on your proposed trip day.
Reservations can be made 90 days in advance, and the National Park Service suggests reserving your spot as far out as possible. The sooner your trip is, the less likely you’ll be able to reserve a spot.
Taking an Uber/Lyft/taxi to Muir Woods
You can use a ridesharing app or taxi service to get to Muir Woods (though it can be super expensive), but you’ll run into issues trying to get back into the city. Thanks to the little to no cell service in the Muir Woods area, you won’t have a way to find a ride back. While ordering a taxi via landline is possible, most do not consider the instability worth the trouble.
Biking to Muir Woods
Renting a bike and cycling the 12+ miles to Mount Tamalpais is possible, but many people opt out of this option. The long trek and steep hills will leave you quite tired and not equipped to hike around Muir Woods once you get there. The road is narrow, curved, and there are no bike lanes, so it isn’t an incredibly safe road to bike on. And on top of that, you have to bike the 16+ miles back to San Francisco.
Muir Woods Shuttle
The Muir Woods public shuttle is a popular, cheap, and convenient way to visit Muir Woods. The shuttle runs every 30 minutes and offers shuttles both to and from Muir Woods.
However, this is another mode of transportation you should plan in advance. Reservations are required for a seat on the shuttle, and spaces can run out during peak hours.
Shuttle rides only run on weekends and holidays! If you hope to miss the crowds and visit the park during the week, plan alternative transportation.
Looking for a splurge? Other than using a tour service, visiting Muir Woods by private car is the second most convenient option for getting to Muir Woods. While this option is the most expensive by quite a bit, you will have a confirmed way to get to and from the national monument. Most companies require a minimum of 4 hours for a private car service and can take you all around the city and the surrounding areas.
What You’ll See Visiting Muir Woods
We’ve mentioned the Redwood groves that call Muir Woods home so much because we know they will be one of the most memorable aspects of visiting the national monument. Craning your neck to examine the entirety of the towering Redwoods is an extremely rare experience you can only gain in this specific area of the West Coast.
Plant and Animal Life
Thanks to the crucial role that the Redwoods play in supporting nutrient, carbon, and water cycling in the forest, there is an abundance of thriving plant and animal life to explore while visiting Muir Woods.
While much of the wildlife in the area hides from the crowds of tourists, if you are patient, quiet, and lucky, you may be able to get a quick look at some of the animals that call Muir Woods their home. Some bucket-list animal views to get are black-tailed deer, chipmunks, salmon, and (if you’re really lucky) spotted owls!
Karl the fog makes frequent, if not daily, visits to Muir Woods as well. (With those beautiful views, can we blame him?)
While the fog may obstruct some views, we think you’ll actually find that the fog matches the feel of the area perfectly and adds some magic and mystique to the surroundings.
Muir Woods Views
From seeing the forest meet the coast to spotting Muir Woods’ oldest tree, chasing the most noteworthy sights in Muir Woods will astound you.
We Recommend Seeing:
- Canopy View Trail for romantic pathways, emptier trails, and lush green forest views. Just remember to look up!
- For a well-earned view on a more difficult trail, try the Lost Trail.
- For an easier hike with equally gorgeous Muir Woods views, try the Panoramic Trail.
- To view a breathtaking valley crest and an amazing coastal and forest vantage point, try our favorite – the Dipsea Trail.
What to Do in Muir Woods
Help your Kid Achieve Muir Woods Junior Ranger Status
Did you know your little adventurer can come home with a brand new title after visiting Muir Woods?
Children under the age of 12 can fill out this junior ranger activity book that will teach them about the trees, plants, and animals found in Muir Woods, as well as the best ways to protect them. Once they finish, they can be sworn in as a Muir Woods Junior Ranger and have their certificate signed by a real park ranger!
While you can get a book during your park admission, we recommend printing the book in advance.
Listen to Ranger-led Talks
If learning while listening is more your speed, you may be able to sit in on interesting ranger-led talks. When staffing allows, Muir Woods rangers and volunteers host 15-minute talks that teach you about the trees, conservation efforts, and many other interesting topics. Reservations are not necessary for these free programs, you just need to find them when they happen!
Grab Something to Eat Near Muir Woods
You can work up an appetite exploring Muir Woods, so good thing Muir Woods Trading Co is right there to save the day! This cafe is available to anyone visiting Muir Woods, and the quality of the food will surprise you – this little cafe was featured on the Food Network’s TV Show “Best Food I Ever Had”! From the infamous Marin Melt grilled cheese to sweet local snacks you can only find in the Muir Woods area, this spot will satiate any empty belly.
Set Off on Muir Woods Hiking Trails
Did you know that the San Francisco area is a fantastic destination for hiking enthusiasts?
The main thing you’ll be doing when visiting Muir Woods is exploring the several beautiful trails at your disposal. There are hikes great for all ages and levels of ability, so you’ll be able to find the perfect hikes for you and your group.
Here are the top Muir Woods hikes we love the most!
- Muir Woods Bridge 3 Loop – This is the perfect trail to take on if you want something flat, beautiful, and will leave you with time to enjoy the Muir Woods cafe and gift shop before shuttling home. Don’t miss the hollowed-out redwood tree photo op!
- Muir Woods Bridge 2 Loop – This loop is similar to the Bridge 3 loop and is great for those who want to stay on a flat trail. This trail gives you a chance to spot salmon in the creek and gives you time to relax at the cafe and your kids time to work on their junior ranger workbook!
- Muir Woods Bridge 4 Loop – This loop takes about an hour to hike and offers a taste of Mt. Tam and a gorgeous view looking down onto redwood groves. This adventurous and rigorous route is one of our favorite hikes in the park!
- Muir Woods Dipsea Trail – this 4-mile hike has a little bit of everything. You can get coastal views, a great vantage point of Mt. Tamalpais, and a peek of San Francisco.
- Muir Woods Bookjack Trail – this 6-mile loop is a great Muir Woods hike for those looking for a longer adventure, steeper trails, canyon views, and historical importance.
Common Mistakes People Make Visiting Muir Woods
Trying to Drive Yourself to Muir Woods
Trying to make the drive without a plan (and especially without a reservation) will likely leave you pretty disappointed – you may even make the trek up for nothing. That’s why we’ll always recommend taking one of our Muir Woods tours!
Trying To Do It Alone
Some people think that the strict schedule of a tour group will hold you back. Especially when visiting the Muir Woods, traveling with a tour company will only simplify and elevate your experience. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it – we promise you’ll become a believer!
Not Bringing Enough Snacks/Water/Layers
Don’t get stuck feeling too cold or damp or thirsty to enjoy the mind-blowing views!
If you’re visiting Muir woods with Dylan’s tours, there are multiple snack stop opportunities throughout the tour. There is also water and snacks on the bus to keep you energized and avoid empty stomach grumpiness!
Not Scheduling Enough Time for Transportation To and From Muir Woods
While the drive itself is around 45 minutes, don’t fall for thinking that’s what your transportation time is from start to finish. You need to account for getting to the shuttle site, slower public transportation, different pickup times, traffic, and other time-suckers you should expect. If you’re only budgeting a couple of hours altogether for visiting Muir Woods into your schedule, you will probably feel rushed.
If you visit Muir Woods through Dylan’s, you can depend on the itinerary. Things will stay as streamlined as possible so you can make plans for before and after your tour.
Not Having a Game Plan for Getting Back To The City
So, you took a taxi or Uber to visit Muir Woods and had the time of your life. You grab your phone to order a returning ride and see that you have zero services. Now what?
Muir Woods is gorgeous – but still, you don’t want to get stuck there! Skip feeling stranded by confirming your mode of transportation back to San Francisco in advance. Whether that’s a shuttle reservation, private car service, or traveling with Dylan’s, a confirmed ride back will put you at ease so you can enjoy the redwoods in peace.
What to do after visiting Muir Woods
Easily one of the most iconic spots you can visit in San Francisco, this tour will enthrall history buffs, supernatural believers, and adventurers alike. Planning your Alcatraz tour in advance will ensure you get to visit when you want. Adding Alcatraz to your itinerary with Dylan’s will also get you a convenient drop-off right at the ferry at the end of your tour – one less logistic to plan!
Learn all about visiting Alcatraz here.
Enjoy a Post-tour Snack near Fisherman’s Wharf
When you finish your Muir Woods tour with Dylan’s, you can be dropped off right in the thick of San Francisco fun. Fisherman’s Wharf is home to a long list of restaurants, snack shops, and photo ops. Grab an ice cream cone and find a spot overlooking the lounging seals, and toast yourself to a day well-spent.
Explore Lombard Street
Still have some sight-seeing gas left in the tank? Walk a couple of blocks to Lombard Street and view the “most crookedest street in San Francisco”! This charming (albeit bizarre) street is one of the most iconic photo ops in the city. From checking out the famous houses to walking the zigzags of this famous street, it’s a quick way to get yet another great photo and better memory.
Explore Golden Gate Park
You may have driven across Golden Gate Bridge to get visit Muir Woods, but to get the full experience of this emblematic structure, you should experience it from all angles. Renting e-bikes to ride through golden gate park is the perfect way to stretch your legs after the shuttle ride and gain a new appreciation for this towering bridge. On the e-bikes, you’ll get to see much more of the park than if you were walking while also reserving energy for your San Francisco nightlife plans. Happy cycling!
Book Your Tour & Transportation Muir Woods
Ready to have a one-of-a-kind experience visiting Muir Woods? Check out our Bike the Golden Gate Bridge + Shuttle to Muir Woods offering or our Famous San Francisco Tour with Muir Woods to have a full, seamless day of adventuring and exploring our favorite national monument!