The Northern California redwoods entice visitors all year long, to experience their colossal size and beautiful structure in their natural settings. I can’t think of a better place to start exploring these massive trees than Muir Woods National Monument, located just a few miles north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. For years, my husband and I wanted to see these towering trees in person, and took advantage of a four day trip to San Francisco in 2004 to visit Muir Woods for the very first time.
Upon entering MWNM, we fully appreciated the care and efforts that have gone into preserving the redwood’s natural environment, right down to the sign at the entrance that request you leave all natural objects in place while you visit. A little historical information will give you a better understanding of how Muir Woods came to pass. Congressman William Kent and his wife valued land conservation and purchased 611 acres of the redwoods, then donated 295 acres to the government to preserve. President Roosevelt affirmed the acreage as a national monument and January 9, 1908, at the suggestion of Kent, the monument was named after John Muir, who was an Americanized Scottish known for being a strong advocate for nature preservation. What better way to honor his memory than to continue his cause and ensure that future generations stay motivated to keep and appreciate nature in its natural state.
The serenity of this place captures you right away, and all noises of the city, fade into the distance. Many people, including my husband and I, could not move for a few minutes as we spun in circles with our eyes gazing towards the skies, trying to locate the tops of these trees. From the red tones of the bark, to the vehicle size trunks, their very presence demands respect. Every tree has its own character, some with arched openings large enough to stand inside and some perfectly vertical, but it was the fallen trees that captured our attention the most. These trees had fallen across the trails, so part of the trunks were removed to allow visitors to pass through, but you just couldn’t without pausing for a little inspection of their markings. This brings to mind the slice of a tree trunk on display that is marked to show the tree’s specific growth pattern and rate. Not only are there trees over 1100 years old and about 300 ft tall here, but also seedlings were on display that will soon find a place of their own to call home within the monument’s property. Muir Woods is not only home to the Redwoods, but the giant Sequoias as well and both seedlings are grown on site.
There are several types of trails, from boardwalks, dirt and paved, with wooden fencing to keep visitors from venturing too far into the natural terrains. But there are trails that allow you the freedom to roam as well, some lead to their campgrounds. Speaking of trails, we found out the hard way that some trails are for simple sightseeing, where as others require some endurance! The paved trails are very relaxing, so much so that handicapped individuals have no problem exploring and enjoying the sights in their wheelchairs. My husband and I took a trail that progressed in altitude, but once we realized it, we decided to stay the course and wow, what a work out! We paused along the way for photos, where we also spotted several small snakes, squirrels, lizards and woodpeckers, but don’t worry, the snakes pretty much stayed off the trails and to themselves.
As we stood at the highest point of the trail, looking down at the redwoods cascading downwards, we were amazed that the tops of the trees still seemed to go on forever. Once the trail started back down to normal elevations, we were treated to pleasant sounds and sights of the Redwood Creek where steelhead trout and salmon both spawn certain times of the year. Foraging around in the streams were otters, with absolutely no care given to our presence, as well as a few deers who gently made there way through the abundant ferns. We sat for an hour, enchanted by the woods surreal panorama, wondering what took us so long to finally make this worthwhile trip. One thing is for sure, the backdrop for beautiful photos is endless. You’ll also observe a variety of plant life such as green moss growing up the tree trunks, maples, sorrels, mushrooms, violets and pink woodrose, to name a few. This is not a tour to be rushed, so plan to stay awhile and see every detail, but don’t be surprised if overwhelming sensation to return accompanies you as you depart. As you prepare to leave, don’t miss stopping by the gift shop for some souvenirs or the café for a quick bite to eat.
Accessing Muir woods can be done is many ways, either by POV or tour buses. Parking is very limited and some walking may be necessary, but there is handicapped parking available in the main parking lot and tour buses will take you right up to the entrance. You can also book tours of Muir Woods from other private organizations, rain or shine. Restroom facilities are available at the entrance. Before you visit, request further information so your trip will be more enjoyable. You can write the MWNM at: Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, CA 94941. To reach them by phone, there are two options: Recorded visitor’s information message line is 415-388-2595 or reach their headquarters at 415-388-2596. Entrance fees are as follows: Children 15 and under get in free, adults fee is $5.00 but subject to change. Hours of operations: 8am – sunset, open holidays, rain or shine! Don’t miss this chance to bond with natures finest, we certainly have no regret and plan to visit again soon!