Nomad by Trade

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Redwood trees in Muir Woods National Monument

Walking Among Redwoods at Muir Woods National Monument

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I’ve been awed by nature in many different places around the world, but walking among the redwood trees at Muir Woods National Monument was the first time I’ve ever felt my jaw drop at the sight of a living entity. Ever since I first learned about redwood trees in school, I’ve been dreaming of seeing them in person, so when I got sent to Sacramento for work, I made the couple-hour drive to the coast to finally lay eyes on them. Muir Woods, located just north of San Francisco, is one of the more easily accessible places to view these giant trees.

Entrance to Muir Woods National Monument

For those like me who never really knew the difference between redwood trees and sequoias, redwoods are found along the California coast whereas sequoias grow further inland. Redwoods are narrower and taller (they’re the tallest living things in the world!), while sequoias max out at slightly shorter heights, but have wider trunks. Though redwood trees can live to be very old – 2000 years isn’t bad for a lifespan – the oldest sequoias make them seem like young ‘uns as they can live up to 3200 years. Think about how much the world has changed in 3200 years, and yet there could be trees still standing in the same place for all of those centuries. Nature is incredible.

Redwood trees in Muir Woods National Monument

The Main Trail along Redwood Creek

Redwood trees in Muir Woods National Monument

There are some more hiking trails throughout the park, but the Main trail that runs along Redwood Creek is the most frequently visited at Muir Woods National Monument. It’s a relatively flat, level trail that’s paved and wheelchair accessible. The full loop is about two miles round trip, but numerous redwood trees can be seen without walking the full distance.

Redwood trees in Muir Woods National Monument

As you walk through the trail, the redwood trees seem to shoot upright, soaring toward the sky and making a thick canopy of leaves overhead. Their tall, straight trunks are mesmerizing, and it’s impossible to take a picture that does justice to their magnificence. My nerdy brain was immediately reminded of Endor (that’s a planet in Star Wars for those of you who aren’t quite so nerdy).

Redwood trees in Muir Woods National Monument

Wandering along the path that winds through the redwood grove makes you feel tiny in ways that only spectacular natural settings can.

Redwood trees in Muir Woods National Monument

The highlight of the trail is the famous Cathedral Grove, which has a high concentration of the famous redwoods. Signs request that visitors enter silently, as it’s intended to be a place of reflection, though there were a couple of screaming kids when I visited.

Redwood trees in Muir Woods National Monument

Redwood trees in Cathedral Grove in Muir Woods National Monument

I love the way the late afternoon light filters through the redwood canopy, creating gorgeous beams of light.

Redwood trees in Muir Woods National Monument

The Hillside Trail

At the end of the Redwood Creek trail, you have the option of turning around and retracing your steps toward the entrance or returning via a different, slightly more difficult trail. Channeling my inner Robert Frost (“two roads diverged in the woods…”), I opted for the second trail in the hope of seeing something new. Starting from the far end, there is a steep climb up a few flights of stairs, though if you pick up the trail closer to the entrance, you skip the climb up the stairs in favor of a winding uphill path.

Redwood trees in Muir Woods National Monument

Unlike the Redwood Creek trail, this one isn’t paved, and it’s much more narrow. Once you get to the top, it’s fairly level, but watch out for the drop-off on the edge. There are some fun spots where it cuts between trees and narrows even further too. It winds along the side of the canyon where the redwood trees grow and gives you a different perspective on them. From up here, you can see other visitors wandering through the grove and get a sense of just how tiny human beings are in comparison to these gigantic trees. If you’re able to climb the stairs, I highly recommend taking this trail one way during your visit.

Redwood trees on the Hillside trail in Muir Woods National Monument

Getting to Muir Woods

Muir Woods National Monument is located just north of San Francisco. The drive from the Golden Gate Bridge takes about 25 minutes, but parking is very limited and the park’s website warns that it fills up quickly during busy seasons. It’s also serviced by several shuttle buses and tours. There were a couple of taxis hanging around when I visited as well. Even at 4pm on a school day, the parking lot was packed when I arrived, and even the overflow lot was close to full. I’d recommend visiting in the off-season and trying to visit either early or late. Look for route 66 to take public transportation.

Redwood trees in Muir Woods National Monument

Amenities

Bathrooms are located outside of the entrance, as well as right at the beginning of the trail. There are also water fountains if you need to fill up a water bottle before you start. The entrance booth at the front sells admission ($10/adult) tickets, and there is a small store with park merchandise.

Redwood trees in Muir Woods National Monument

Just past the entrance is another small building that houses a shop and a little cafe. You can get soups, sandwiches, salads, and drinks there, as well as shop for more Muir Woods merchandise.

Muir Beach

Muir Beach near San Francisco, California

A short drive away from the Redwood Creek trail at Muir Woods is a secluded little beach called Muir Beach. It was pretty cool out the day I visited, but I stopped by for a few minutes to put my feet in the water and enjoy the view. Kids weren’t deterred by the chilly water or large waves and were happily swimming while dogs chased frisbees on the sand. Depending on the weather forecast, you can even have bonfires on the beach there. It’s definitely worth a stop on a hot summer day.

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Experience the magnificence of redwood trees just minutes from San Francisco, California in Muir Woods National Monument.

Experience the magnificence of redwood trees just minutes from San Francisco, California in Muir Woods National Monument. Experience the magnificence of redwood trees just minutes from San Francisco, California in Muir Woods National Monument. Experience the magnificence of redwood trees just minutes from San Francisco, California in Muir Woods National Monument. Experience the magnificence of redwood trees just minutes from San Francisco, California in Muir Woods National Monument.

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13 Comments

  1. I never knew the difference between redwoods and sequoias either – I’m pretty sure I’ve seen sequoias, and I was impressed enough by those! I feel almost sad to say I’ve developed this weird obsession with cool trees. I’ll be walking along and suddenly go “that is a GREAT tree” and get my camera out!! Have I really become that person?! Hahaha. Awesome post, I’d love to go here.

  2. So beautiful! We drove all the way there and it was so packed with cars, tour buses and people, that there was nowhere to park. And it was a random weekday! So we turned around and left. Love your photos, I’m sad we didn’t get to see it.

  3. I was just researching a potential San Fran trip last week and learned about Muir Woods. It looks like a great place to see the infamous Redwoods and get a bit of a break from the big city!

  4. Cat Holladay

    This forest is gorgeous! The tree are so majestic! Can’t wait to visit with our son one day!

  5. Bri

    I visited here when I was a kid! I remember thinking that we had left Earth and were on another planet because the trees were just SO huge. I need to return, badly. Northern California is one of my favorite places (even though I used to live in Southern California and there’s a bit of a rivalry between the two lol) 🙂

  6. This looks like the type of place I would want to visit for sure! You take some seriously great photos – I just love the one with the light shining through!

  7. Jean

    Wow thee trees look magnificent! I love how tall they grow. Just beautiful

  8. I am itching to see Redwoods!! I have only been to Cali once, but we spent our time on the coast. Thanks for all the tips on Muir Woods! Will be adding this to my Cali list!

  9. The whole northern coast of California is a majestic place. It is absolutely indescribable walking amongst these literal giants. They seemingly endlessly reach into the sky, while we little ants putz around below. We spent a day and a night in the area only, unfortunately, but it was awesome nonetheless. I highly recommend Patrick’s Point State Park on the coast and the surrounding Redwoods State Park.
    A little ways away and across the interstate is the national park. The Muir Woods National Monument is on my list, if only because of that dude’s history.

  10. Thanks for clarifying the difference between redwoods and sequoia trees. Learnt something new today. This seems like a nice trail!

  11. I have never seen Redwood trees before, nor did I know much about them. This forest looks stunning! Must make one feel really tiny next to all those towering trees..

  12. I wanted to rack John Muir onto our trip last May, but couldn’t fit it in. However, we went to Sequoia and, like you, I was enthralled! Great pics.

  13. The forest definitely looks great! I especially loved that picture of yours looking down at the camera with the tree-height giving you the edge.. 🙂 …

    Was Muir Beach worth it?.. Looks good though!

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