Muir Woods Travel Guide: Day Trip from San Fransisco
Explore the magic of Muir Woods National Monument. This is the perfect day trip when visiting San Fransisco. Check out what to bring, what not to do, and extra tips for how to make the most of your day near the San Francisco bay.
My time exploring Muir Woods was my favorite day during my week long San Francisco trip. I was (and still am) amazed by the sheer size and age of coastal redwood trees. These beastly plants are the main attraction in Muir Woods, but you will also be in awe of the other plants and animals throughout the forest.
Muir Woods is classified as an “old-growth coastal redwood forest.” Ferns line the understory and giant redwoods sway in the wind 250 feet above you. You can literally hear the wood creaking if you’re quiet!
As a Midwestern girl, I’m accustomed to seeing rolling prairies and scattered trees. It’s easy to understand why trees as tall as skyscrapers would take my breathe away. But, I am confident that every visitor to Muir Woods leaves with a sparkle in their eye.
Muir Woods National Monument became a federally protected area in 1908. The park was designated by President Theodore Roosevelt and named after John Muir, both huge advocates for environmental protection.
I even know a forest service worker with a tattoo of Roosevelt’s face. Yeah. He’s that big of a deal for us environmentalists 😉
The most famous trees in the park are coastal redwoods. The majority of redwoods in Muir Woods are between 600-800 years old. Believe it or not, this is actually YOUNG for a redwood. They can live for over 2000 years and are the tallest living things on earth.
More specifically, the tallest tree at Muir Woods is over 250 feet high! The understory is primarily mosses, ferns, and mushrooms.
What You Need to Know
There is an entrance fee of $10 per adult (over 16 years old). Once you arrive, you will receive a brochure full of information about the plants and animals that call this forest “home.” A confusing map of hiking trails is also detailed in the pamphlet. Do not rely too much on the map – simply explore until you’re sick of hiking…then turn around. TA DAAA!
A boardwalk path lines the bottom section of the forest. Once you’ve explored this area and read the placards (don’t look over the placards – they are full of super cool information!), take a turn off the main path for a more authentic, hiking experience. The boardwalk area is handicap accessible and great for kids, too.
There is only one concession stand in the park, and like any tourist attraction, prices are pretty ridiculous. Also, there aren’t any food vendors nearby. Come prepared with your own water and food.
Public transportation runs to and from Muir Woods during peak season. You can check that out here on the Marin Transit Schedule. Parking is extremely limited at the national monument. The small parking lots are full within an hour of park opening. Dozens of cars line the streets for up to a mile! The good news is that all the parking is free, regardless.
What to Bring
Muir Woods is the perfect destination on a scorching hot day. Within the park, it is damp and the temperature rarely climbs above 70°F (21°C). You will definitely want a light jacket, possibly layers, and good walking shoes.
Skip the expensive concession stand and bring daypack with snacks and water. And, don’t forget your camera. The photo opportunities are overwhelming!
What NOT to do
Bicycles and picnics are not allowed in the park. If you bring a snack, simply eat it while wandering around the forest.
Unfortunately, pets are not allowed either. While I am a huge dog lover, it is crucial to preserve the wildlife that is already there – so leave your pup at home for the day. There are plenty of nearby areas that DO allow pets such as the Marin Headlands, Muir Beach, and Marin County Parks.
As always, “Leave No Trace!” This means don’t leave anything behind OR take anything from the forest.
You do not need a reservation to visit the park nor is there any lodging/camping within Muir Woods. Check out lodging within Marin County if you’d like to stay the night in this area.
You will lose cell service within a few miles of Muir Woods, so I wouldn’t recommend an Uber or taxi service unless you have designated a time to be picked up. The best advice would be to take public transportation or arrive early (even during weekdays).
Keep an eye (and ear) out for animals and bugs around the forest. There are some sneaky bugs and animals that you’ll miss if you are distracted! I was lucky enough to spot an endangered Northern Spotted Owl. I stood in awe with my neck kinked for a good five minutes 😊 (hehe)
And then this awesome caterpillar appeared. Funky bugs, amazing plants, and cool weather…this might be my heaven!
While a day trip to Muir Woods was my absolute favorite day in San Francisco, there were tons of other activities and destinations that were amazing, too! Sign up for my email list to stay updated and hear about the rest of my San Francisco adventures!
And, let’s link up on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest. I’d love to hear what you think about a trip to Muir Woods in the comments below. What is your favorite protected area? What are your favorite destinations in California? There is so much to see along the Pacific coast – I can’t wait to go back!