Muir Woods

Day Trip to Muir Woods

In this post, I’m going to share with you some tips for visiting Muir Woods with the necessary link you’ll need to get into the national park.

Mostly though, I hope to be able to depict, even if only in a tiny glimpse, the extraordinary greatness of Muir Woods.

For starters, getting there…

My husband and I were in California in January and had a few days to explore around San Francisco. We’d never seen the Redwoods. (here is the post I wrote on Chinatown)

Doing a little online research I learned a few things…

I learned there are two types of giant redwoods. One variety, the giant sequoia are wider (you’ve probably seen the picture of a car driving through it). The other variety is the coast redwood, they are plenty wide, just not quite as wide as the giant sequoias, but coast redwood are the tallest trees in the world!

I also found out there is a coast redwood national park about a half hour drive from San Francisco, ‘Muir Woods’.

Perfect! I thought, maybe we can just drive by, see the tall trees and continue on to Sonoma Valley. 

Yes, I admit it, I was feeling lazy and uninspired as I seemed to mostly only find information on the ‘local tour buses’ to Muir Woods. I am just not a ‘tour’ kind of person.

Solid information online was a bit sparse in my searches, so I just didn’t understand what the area was going to be like. Having never been there, I envisioned the whole area full of redwoods, not just the actual park, but the entire landscape with the highway going through them. I imagined there were redwoods all over through the drive. What’s the big deal? Drive by, see a big tree, move on.

Finally, I found this website: Muir Woods National Monument. It is the official Muir Woods site. On it, it’s explained that you can bring a tour bus to the park, OR you can drive to the park yourself. Great!

Reading on… (I tend to skim as I read, thus can miss important details) Fortunately this time I did read the details!

To drive yourself there, you must have a parking reservation ahead of time.

You can’t go online quick on your phone when you get there and get it because there is no cell service up there. (not to mention if it’s the busy season you probably wouldn’t get one last minute anyhow) If by chance you could get in last minute, you’d first need to go back to town where there’s cell service and get a parking reservation online. Then go back up.

Just plan ahead, and you’re set.

After having been there, I cannot imagine taking a tour bus on the road to Muir Woods!!! (Or having to trek up, then back to get a parking reservation, then back up again!) There are even signs that say not recommended for vehicles over 35′. I guess the tour bus is just under that… but still… we were driving an SUV and there were plenty of ‘gasps’ in the vehicle… (mostly from my side of the vehicle). My husband is a bit nervous with heights, (he was driving). He admitted afterward he couldn’t look down because he got super dizzy. (Did I mention he was the one driving?!) Some of those hairpin turns were quite close to the edge of the cliff… didn’t measure it, but it certainly felt to be several thousand feet to the bottom.

The drive is a nail-biter. If it ever gets cold enough to freeze there, I’d stay off that road that day.

Below you can see from the ‘Panoramic Hwy’… according to this article in the SF Gate   that’s a famously dangerous road. I gotta say, on the part of the Panoramic Hwy. we drove on, compared to Muir Woods Rd., (that’s the really curvy road you take off of Panoramic Hwy) it’s a cakewalk.

Hard as it may be to drive there, it’s a good thing. It’s because of this crazy curvy road and hard-to-get-to place these millennium trees still survive!

Further in this post is a vintage video showing what was happening to other giant redwoods more easily accessible in California

Muir Woods Road is the nail-biter!

I tried to snap a picture to show you the beautiful valley view on the drive. You know the majesty in real life never quite shows up in a photo.

The view is incredible… and the drop-off is real! You can’t quite see it in the picture, but it’s a very steep drop just to the other side of that non-existent shoulder.

Day Trip to Muir Woods

Getting there is an experience to not be taken lightly!

We arrived intact.

Living in the Midwest, which is in the throws of winter right now, all this green was beyond welcome to our eyes…

Day Trip to Muir Woods

Redwood Creek meanders throughout the woods.

So perhaps part of the euphoric feeling we were experiencing was because we snuck away from a very cold wintry home in Midwest Wisconsin to enter this bucolic setting with the birds singing and the brook bubbling.

Maybe a part of it was the release of endorphins pulsating through our bodies so thankful to be alive after surviving the harrowing drive to get to there.

Whatever the reason, we were pretty thrilled to be there taking it all in… and as the saying goes, ‘we ain’t seen nothin’ yet’!

Day Trip to Muir Woods

Our first sight of the Coast Redwoods several feet off in the distance.

The parking lots sit on the edge of the woods with a path going along the stream leading into the woods where the visitor center is. As we made our way down the path to buy our park passes in the visitor center, we walked into the woods and started to spy some tall redwoods in the distance.

The moss was closer and so lovely…

Day Trip to Muir Woods

Beautiful green moss on trees.

The plants and trees are so happy here… It’s obviously a perfect environment for moss and ferns as well as redwoods…

Day Trip to Muir Woods

Ferns growing everywhere, even on the horizontal branches.

The foliage of the coast redwoods foliage even looks ‘ferny’:

Day Trip to Muir Woods

The foliage of the Coast Redwood has a fern quality to it.

They are definitely needles and not leaves, but grow in a very fern shape.

Day Trip to Muir Woods

Coastal Redwood, tallest trees on earth.

The bark of the coast redwood is super thick. It’s those 10″ of thick bark that offer protection from the fairly common forest fires around there. The fires do open up the seeds of the redwoods though, so then they can grow into trees.

Day Trip to Muir Woods

The super thick bark, (8-10 inches) helps protect Coastal Redwood from fires.

In the visitor’s center we were told all entrance fees were waived that day because of the government shutdown. (Whew, so glad they hadn’t closed the park due to the shut down) I think the cost per adult would have been around $15.

Leaving the visitor center and following the path into the woods we were looking across the path to the brook when suddenly we realized we were standing right next to the biggest tree we’ve ever seen.

Day Trip to Muir Woods

This tree just keeps going up!

This one wasn’t off in the distance. This one was so close that we almost missed it!

Sounds crazy, but it’s true!

My husband’s back was to the tree, as I turned to talk to him I suddenly focused on what was just behind him. We seriously both gasped as our eyes focused on the massive tree right there.

It was so huge we couldn’t see around it or to the top of it!

I couldn’t count the number of times we both said ‘amazing’ as we walked through Muir Woods. I don’t think it was because of anything from us… not escaping the cold weather back home, not the survival endorphins, it was simply because there is a certain majesty to behold in Muir Woods.

Day Trip to Muir Woods

Redwood Creek meanders throughout Muir Woods.

The trees grow in clumps, or families.

Day Trip to Muir Woods

The height of the Redwoods is absolutely stunning!

It’s impossible for you to be able to understand the size of these trees without being there. They are the height of a skyscraper.

Being in Muir Woods with these 1000 year old giant trees felt somewhat sacred to me. No, I’m not ‘worshiping’ the trees, but instead the Maker of the trees! I don’t know how anyone can go to a place like Muir Woods and leave saying that this all just ‘happened’.

In the Bible, Job 12: 7-10 says:

‘But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
    or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
    or let the fish in the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know
    that the hand of the Lord has done this?
10 In his hand is the life of every creature
    and the breath of all mankind.

When you go to Muir Woods they ask you to keep your voices low, that was easy to do, because talking loud felt out-of-place.

It is an extraordinary setting. There is even a section of trees called ‘Cathedral Grove’… the name is perfect as it beckons you to be still and listen to the voice of God.

Day Trip to Muir Woods

Every ‘family’ of trees impressive girth, then height, draws gasps from both of us as we walked through the woods!

We read a little on the history of Muir Woods that stated there were a couple reasons these these still exist.

First of all, these particular trees were treacherously difficult to get to, so that protected them from the lumberjacks that clear-cut so many more accessable giant redwoods in California.

Then in the early 1900’s, the land owner was nearly forced to give it up to a Sausalito water company trying to claim ‘imminent domain’ on the land. Thankfully the land owner fought back, going all the way to the federal government. President Theodore Roosevelt saw the importance of keeping the redwoods protected. You can read more about this history and why the woods were named after John Muir here.

A couple days after we got back from California, this vintage video popped up on my Facebook newsfeed. Seeing these massively ancient trees being cut up for lumber nearly made me cry.

We totally lucked out the day we went having no rain gear packed, because it was clear blue skies. They do recommend bringing rain gear with because of the frequent rains.

Day Trip to Muir Woods

Everytime I looked up I was shocked at how tall the trees were.

If you ever get a chance to stop by Muir Woods just north of San Francisco, I highly recommend it. Take a couple hours and walk the mostly paved paths to behold the tallest trees on the face of the earth!

Day Trip to Muir Woods

The forest floor was covered with massive ferns.

I guarantee…

you won’t regret actually getting out of your car and not trying to do a drive by! LOL, I can’t even believe that I thought I wanted to do that!

Day Trip to Muir Woods

As the sun was getting lower in the sky in the late afternoon it glimmered through the canopy.

Many of the trees have openings at the bottom of them.

Day Trip to Muir Woods

A family of redwoods.

Like this one…

It’s so hard to share the size of how massively large these trees are, so here’s a comparison…

Without a man:

Many of the trees have hollow spots in the bottom.

With a man:

Day Trip to Muir Woods

Here is that same hollow spot, this time with a man in it! This tree is huge!

That’s my husband being a good sport for us. It gives you an idea of just how huge the trees really are.

That tree is so tall I couldn’t even see the top:

Day Trip to Muir Woods

The height of this tree just keeps going… couldn’t see the top!

Did you know you can count the rings in a tree to see how old it is?

Day Trip to Muir Woods

This tree’s rings show it started growing 909 A.D. It was over 1000 years old when it fell in 1930!

Look at the history that happened while it was living!

Day Trip to Muir Woods

Walking among the redwoods.

Here’s the official website for Muir Woods… I highly recommend reading it in full. If I would have missed the parking reservation part (which is a fairly new rule) it could have been a disaster!

This was our second time in the San Francisco Bay area. Here is a post I wrote last time about the 2 most impressive things I notice then. and Here is a post I wrote about our experience on the cable cars and an outdoor toilet!

On a side note, having a unique suitcase to identify easily on the baggage carousel at the airport is ideal! (almost took someone else’s bag!) Here’s a lovely unique luggage set I’d consider! I didn’t see any that looked like that there. They’re on closeout, (great price!) so I guess one would need to act fast to get it.

Thanks so much for stopping by! Please feel free to follow and share this blog with your friends, as well as on Facebook,PinterestFlipboardBloglovinYouTube and now Instagram! I appreciate you reading along.

This post can also be found at: Skip to My Lou, Refresh Restyle, Between Naps on the Porch

Reader Interactions


  1. Regality3 says

    You were very lucky that you were able to go there and not be prohibited by the government shutdown. If you travel further north, there are many state parks that have redwoods and sequoias., all just as beautiful. However, you might not like the roads there either, L

    • Liz says

      Donnamae, it is such a special place! I always thought I loved primarily New England, but being able to get out into the countryside and explore away from the city, I realized how wonderful that area of California is too!

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