Muir Woods National Monument, located just north of San Francisco, is a little slice of peace in a very busy part of the world. After the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, world leaders were brought to this grove of trees to work out a peace accord. This was because no one, they believed, wouldn’t favor peace in this environment. Muir Woods National Monument is the perfect day trip from San Francisco.
The peace comes from the towering redwoods that grow in this area. The trees may not be as large, or as famous as those up the coast in Redwoods National Park, but they are still amazing. The largest are over 200 feet tall and large enough it would take more than ten people to wrap their arms around them. The main draw of the Muir Woods is these massive redwood trees. We only saw a few animals, which included a woodpecker and a few bright yellow banana slugs.
There is a short walk through the redwoods, as well as a few longer hikes. The short path is paved and wheel accessible. It crosses the creek four times at four small bridges that are used as distance markers. The hike to the end of the paved area is only a couple of miles roundtrip, depending on which route you take as you cross the river.
We took the full long loop to Bridge 4. This hike is 2.0 miles roundtrip and easy (one section is not wheel-friendly). We began at the main entrance and crossed the first bridge and continued walking on that side of the trail. Then we headed up to the Hillside Trail. Hillside Trail is not wheel-friendly, but can easily be skipped (see map below). We loved this section of the trail and saw fewer people. At the end of the Hillside trail, we crossed Bridge 4 back to the main paved trail and headed back to the Visitor Center area. Below is a picture of the map we received at Muir Woods. It shows the trail that we followed.
Muir Woods is quite busy, but there is a place called The Cathedral Grove where you are required to be quiet. Though there are plenty of people, most are respectful and quiet as they walk through this area. The trees are close in The Cathedral, and there is a real sense of peace and awe as you pass through.
Parking is limited at Muir Woods National Monument, and you will need a reservation to visit. Reservations are made online, and more information can be found here. If you are unable to get a parking reservation, or don’t have a vehicle, there is a shuttle that takes people from just north of the Golden Gate Bridge over to Muir Woods. The shuttle also requires reservations. You must pay the entrance fee, on top of these reservation fees, or you can use your National Parks Pass to cover admission.
If you have a vehicle, we also recommend Point Reyes and the Marin Headlands. These are two other nature areas that are beautiful and worth a visit if you head outside of the city.