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Muir Woods National Park

Top Tips & What to Expect During Your Visit

Founded in 1908, Muir Woods National Park is a popular attraction about 45 minutes north of San Francisco. It's one of the only places in the world where you can still see indigenous Coastal Redwood trees.

The park is open 365 days a year, so it's the perfect item to add to your San Francisco itinerary. It opens at 8 am each day, but closing times differ depending on the season.

How long should you spend in Muir Woods? If you plan to explore the main area, I recommend setting aside a couple of hours for your visit. If you plan to hike one of the longer trails, you could spend up to 3 to 5 hours hiking around.

In my opinion, the best time to visit is early in the morning as the fog is still hanging around the park. It gives it a mystical and peaceful feel to it. If you plan to stay for a couple of hours, the fog will sometimes burn off and you can see it's beauty in the sun too!

Discover more about the park, some of the best tours to take if you don't want to drive, and some tips for Muir Woods parking if you do plan to drive.

What You Will See in Muir Woods National Park

This species of redwoods is a close relative to the Giant Sequoias (which you can find a few hours away from SF). The Coastal Redwoods thrive in this area due to its cool, foggy climate all year long.

The average age of the trees here is between 600 to 800 years old - with the oldest one around 1,200 years old. Even though this seems quite old, this forest is actually relatively young, as redwood trees can live for up to 2,200 years.

muir woods sf

One of the best things about visiting this park is that the redwoods are easy to access. You encounter the trees the minute you enter the park.

Muir Woods National Park easy to explore for almost everyone since the main wooden walking paths are flat, wide and well maintained.

muir woods trails

Along the main wooden trails, you will also get the chance to learn more about these rare trees. Every few feet, you will find educational signs and displays.

One of my favorites is this display that shows the growth pattern for a 1,000+ year old redwood.

growth display in muir woods

The inner circle shows that it started growing around 909 A.D.

tree is born

The outer circle shows important dates in US history, so you get a sense for the types of events that happened during this tree's life. The final marking shows the date when the tree fell.

tree falls

How tall are these trees? According to the National Park Service, the tallest redwood currently in Muir Woods National Park is around 258 feet tall.

These pictures give you a sense of their height.

tall redwood sf

tall redwoods

You will find two miles of flat trails in the canyon area of the park. This includes four bridges that allow you to easily loop around the park and see a number of these gorgeous trees.

Most people follow one of the three main looping trails mentioned below. The estimated times listed include time to stop along the way to read the signs and take pictures. I also included the total distance, so you get a sense of what is included with each loop.

  • Bridge 2 Loop: On this walk, you will go all the way to Bridge 2. After you cross the bridge, head to your left. This takes you back to Bridge 1 and puts you on the main trail where you started. This walk is about a half mile and takes 30 minutes.

  • Bridge 3 Loop: Take the main trail all the way to Bridge 3. Cross the bridge and head to your left. You will again walk all the way to the end, cross Bridge 1 and return to the main trail. This loop is about 1 mile and takes about an hour.

  • Bridge 4 Loop: Walk the main trail all the way to end which is where you will find Bridge 4. Walk across the bridge and take a left to head back to the entrance. Walk along this second path all the way to Bridge 1. After you cross this bridge, you will be back on the main trail near the park entrance. This loop is about 2 miles and takes about one and a half hours.

Longer Hiking Options

In addition to the flat, wooden walking paths, there are also several great hiking paths within the park. The 560-acre park has a total of 6 miles worth of trails. The four additional miles are unpaved routes that take you up the hills.

Once you reach the edges of the park, many of these trails link up with longer trails on Mount Tamalpais. If you want to learn more about these routes, you can pick up a hiking map at the entrance to Muir Woods National Park.

Restrooms, Gift Shop and Cafe

On the eastern side of the main trail, near Bridge 1, you will find the restrooms, a gift shop and a small cafe. It's the perfect place to relax or fuel up either before or after your hikes.

There is another set of restrooms and a small gift shop at the park entrance.

Admission & Visiting Hours

Admission to the park is $10 for adults 16 years and older. Everyone 15 and under gets in free.

Free admission days in 2017 are:

  • January 16: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • February 20: Presidents Day
  • April 15, 16, 22, 23: National Park Week Weekends
  • August 25: National Park Service Birthday 
  • September 30: National Public Lands Day
  • November 11-12: Veterans Day Weekend

Visiting Hours

The park is open every day of the year at 8am including holidays. It closes based on the season and when the sun goes down. This is the schedule for 2017:

  • March 12 - September 16: 8am - 8pm
  • September 17 - October 7: 8am - 7pm
  • October 8 - November 4: 8am - 6pm
  • November 5 - January 27, 2018: 8am - 5pm

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Muir Woods National Park Tours

Many people opt to take a tour to Muir Woods National Park. This option saves you the hassle of renting a car for the day and dealing with bay area traffic. It also means you don't have to fight for parking, which is really difficult here on the weekends and during the busy summer months.

Muir Woods & Sausalito + One Hour Golden Gate Bay Cruise

Since Muir Woods isn't that far from SF, most people stop in Sausalito either before or after their visit. This tour combines a trip to both. It also includes a 60-minute narrated cruise around the bay.

  • Leaves at 9am and lasts about 5 and a half hours
  • First stop at Vista Point where you will get fantastic Golden Gate Bridge photos
  • Second stop is in Muir Woods, where you will spend about an hour (admission to the park is included)
  • Stop in Sausalito, where you can shop, grab lunch or walk along the waterfront
  • Finally, you will enjoy a one hour cruise around the SF bay
  • Tour runs all year long and includes an expert guide with commentary
  • Price per person starts at $93.00
  • Grab your seats for this tour today

Muir Woods & Wine Country Full Day Tour

If you want to visit both Muir Woods and California's Wine Country, then this is the tour that I'd recommend for you. This full day tour lasts around 9 hours and is full of activities.

  • Leaves around 7:30am
  • Starts in Muir Woods where you will spend about an hour (park admission fee not included)
  • Drive to Sonoma & Napa
  • Wine tasting at 3 wineries (tasting fees included)
  • Spend up to 45 minutes at each of these wineries
  • Save up to 20% vs. booking the two trips separately
  • Tour runs all year long and includes an expert guide
  • Price per person starts at $117
  • Book this tour online today!

Here are a few other top Muir Woods tours.

Other Ways to Get Here

By Car & Muir Woods Parking Tips

The next best option (aside from the tours) to get to Muir Woods National Park is to drive. It's an easy drive across the Golden Gate Bridge through Marin County. From most places in San Francisco, it's about a 45 minute drive.

The drive is gorgeous. After you leave 101, you will drive along a winding road that weaves back and forth through part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. You will see some great views of the forest and in some spots you can see the Pacific Ocean.

The downside to driving on your own is the challenge of parking at Muir Woods. Parking here is very limited, so you either need to arrive early or plan to walk a distance (sometime up to a mile) to get to the entrance.

Here are a few of my top Muir Woods parking tips.

  1. Arrive by 8am: The easiest way to avoid the crowds and get better parking is to leave San Francisco around 7am. This will get you to the park around opening time, when parking is easiest.

  2. Arrive One to Two Hours Before Closing: Most people arrive mid-morning and leave by mid-afternoon. This means you can sneak in before closing to enjoy this amazing park. It will also allow you to park closer and not have to deal with as much traffic.

  3. Visit During the Week: It's always less crowded during the week. You will find that it still gets crowded, but it's not as bad as the weekends.

  4. Visit in the Off-Season: This is always a tough one because not everyone can visit during the off-season, but if your vacation is scheduled then, it is a great option. You will find fewer crowds during the winter rainy season (the exceptions being the holidays).

Public Transit

A seasonal Muir Woods shuttle runs on weekend and holidays between May and October. It picks up in Sausalito near the ferry terminal.

It also runs every day between mid-June and mid-August.

Click here for the most up to date schedule for this year.

The cost of the shuttle is $5 per person for a round trip ticket. You will pay for your ride at the Muir Woods National Park entrance gate along with your admission fee for the park.

Just show your ticket to the driver as you board the bus for your return trip.

Fees for the shuttle are not waived on free admission days into the park even if you do not use it. You will still need to pay the $5 shuttle fee per person.

What to Wear During Your Visit

I recommend wearing layers during your visit here. It's often cool, foggy and moist in the mornings and warmer in the afternoons.

However, even if it is sunny before you arrive at the park, don't let the weather forecast fool you. The tall tress block the sun, so even on a warm day, it might still be cool in the park.

Here are some average Muir Woods temperatures to help you plan for your visit:

  • July, August & September are the warmest with high temps in the low 80s
  • April, May, June & October are mild with highs in the mid-70s
  • February, March & November have highs in the mid-60s
  • January & December are the coolest months with highs in the mid to upper 50s

You will also want to prepare for rain between late October and late March.

I also recommend wearing comfortable, flat shoes or tennis shoes. Even though the walkways are wooden, the parking lots are dirt.

You will also be happy with comfortable shoes if you end up having to walk down the gravel roads to get to the park entrance.

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