Muir Woods can easily be seen in an hour, or you can really get the experience and spend a few here.
Muir Woods is essentially a gulch, with Redwood Creek cutting down the middle. The main loop trail straddles the creek, is almost totally flat, and is only about a mile and a half round trip. On this walk, you'll be at the bases of some of the tallest trees on Earth. This is a great little hike, and, for 90% of the tourists that come here, it's enough. Back in the bus!
But to really get a sense of Muir Woods, it's a good idea to hike some of the other spur trails that wind up through the hills. These trails let you look at the trees from a whole differenet angle, and really give you a better sense of just how big these trees are. At the very least, take the Hillside Trail on your way back, which parallels the main trail on the other side of the creek, but it's about 80 feet up the side of the gulch.
If you're there on a foggy day (which is entirely possible any day of the year), it's worth it to take the Ben Johnson Trail, which starts at the end of the loop. It winds its way up the hill and into the mists. On a clear day, you may instead want to do the Ocean View Trail, which winds up through the trees and eventually ends up on the ridge, giving you a great view of the ocean (hence the name).
We went to stay near here rather than staying in San Francisco. Although I have been to some of the other big tree parks as a child (including another Coastal Redwood park Big Basin), I hadn't been to Muir Woods. The park was named for John Muir - Upon learning of its dedication, Mr. Muir declared, "This is the best tree-lovers monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world."
Children under 15 are free. After we went to the visitor center, we took the self-guiding
nature trail. There is a 1/2 hour loop, a 1 hour loop, and a 1 1/2 hour loop as well as longer hikes on trails that extend into surrounding parks. All of these walks afford views of thousands of old-growth coast redwoods, the tallest living things in the world.
The plaque in front of this tree bears the inscription "bicentennial tree". It was planted in 1776, the year America declared its independence. The tree has grown continuously ever since. It is a young tree by redwoods standards inasmuch as the United States is a young nation by global standards. But its amazing how much growth and development this tree has manifested since its young seed was put into the earth.
You'll find the bicentennial tree along the a spur path that leads away from the third marked bridge.
Muir Woods is a short and scenic drive from San Francisco. It is located a couple of miles north of the city on hwy 101. The road to the woods is steep and winding and goes up a portion of Mount Tamalpais.
If you're visiting San Francisco, you'll need a car to get here, unless you're willing to pay for an expensive taxi ride. An alternative is to take on of the half day tours. The drawback to this is that you are only allowed about an hour in the park. But, if you want to make a day of it, you can sign up for the morning tour and arrange to take the afternoon bus back. Most tour companies offer the tour twice a day and are willing to accommodate such requests.
There is a 2 mile round trip trail that allows you to visit part of the woods. The trail is flat and level, wheelchair accessible and branches off at four bridges and loops back around, in case you don't want to do the entire thing. Along the way, you can read signs about the trees in the area, the growth of the Redwoods and the like. There are some interesting sights along the way, although this is the main tourist portion of the park and its pretty crowded. But its a good way to catch a glimpse of the massive redwoods and its a nice relaxing walk that can be done in less than an hour.
These mighty redwoods are among the tallest and oldest trees on earth. It is difficult to gain perspective as to how mammoth these trees actually are, and its next to impossible to photograph them in their entirety. But its kind of fun to watch people crouch and practically lie down on the floor attempting to capture the entire dimensions of a redwood.
Since the trees are the reason why you're here, the thing to do is walk around and view them. There are plenty of redwoods along the 2 mile main path beginning at the entrance into the national monument. Even a short visit here will allow you the opportunity to experience what a redwood forest looks like. As you walk and admire, try to imagine what the area now known as Marin County looked like when it was covered with these trees. Try to imagine the sight of redwoods rising gracefully above the shroud of fog that covers the bay area on many mornings.
Muir woods can best be appreciated by getting out of your automobile and walking through the forest on the path. The color, height, girth, straightness and age of some of the Redwoods will leave you spellbound.
Muir Woods is accessible from a spur road off the Panoramic Highway. There is a moderate sized parking lot. The visitor center lies at the trailhead into the redwood grove. You should stop by the visitor center first before starting your walk. There are a good number of books for sale, including some that describe redwoods; there is also a model of the entire Muir Woods area, with trails and even trees marked out. Entrance past the visitor center is $3 per person, free under 17; the trail is open from 8 AM to 5 PM. There is also a nearby gift shop. Just past the visitor center on the trail, there is a small plaque/exhibit that shows the redwood and its various relatives around the world; quite interesting.
The Bohemian Grove of giant redwoods contains the tallest redwood in the park, a 258-foot tall towering coast sequoia. It is the closest grove of redwoods to the visitor center. The grove got its name because it was an original meeting place of the Bohemian Club. The Bohemian Club was (and still is) an organization of the most powerful and wealthiest Americans, which hold an annual, secret, members-only meeting. The meetings used to be held in this grove, but were eventually moved northward to a redwood grove on the Russian River. Former and current members include both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
While walking through this grove, just look up, and you'll be amazed by the height of the trees.
Cathedral Grove is one of the most enchanting places in Muir Woods National Monument, probably because you've thrown off a good two-thirds of the visitors by the time you get there. The trees here are just as tall and beautiful and stately as their siblings in Bohemian Grove, and you get a sense here that it is an almost sacred place; some of the trees around you have been around before Joan of Arc. Take your time to wander through this beautiful grove of redwoods; don't hurry, observe each tree individually and soak in the greenery.
There are quite a few interesting trees in this grove. One is dedicated to the late President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, another is a cracked stump, perhaps fell by lightning. Look closely at some trees and you'll see small redwood sprouts emerging, signs of a new life and generation of these trees.
The Hillside Trail lies on the opposite (west) bank from the main paved trail in the monument. The scenery here is still redwood forest, but this is the easiest accessible part of the park with the least crowds. The trail starts (or ends, depending on which direction you go in) at the end of the paved trail in Cathedral Grove. The trail crosses the creek and then begins a gentle ascent onto the hillside, where it remains level for most of the rest of the way before connecting with the other main paved trail at Bohemian Grove. The nice thing about this trail is that for much of the way, you look down instead of up at the bases of the redwoods. Along this trail, you'll see quite a few redwoods with small sprouts about them.
on jan 8 2008 Muir Woods turned 100. there are all sorts of activities going on all year to celebrate this event. there are plenty trails to choose from, which makes this place perfect for all kinds of visitors.
There are two main trails that lead from Muir Woods monument to overlooks above and away from the tourist throngs. You can take either the Ocean View Trail or the Fern Creek Trail, or, better yet, take one trail up and one trail back. You will need to set aside a couple of hours for the hike since it covers a good few miles.
Having a ranger tell you all about the forest life and how it works is educational and can be entertaining as well.
Depending on the path, you'd likely devote at least 45 minutes to enjoying a stroll through Muir Woods. Some paths can take as much as 2 hours to loop around.