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.
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.
The Main Trail along Redwood Creek
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.
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).
Wandering along the path that winds through the redwood grove makes you feel tiny in ways that only spectacular natural settings can.
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.
I love the way the late afternoon light filters through the redwood canopy, creating gorgeous beams of light.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Check out other Evening Tourist adventures here:
- One Evening in San Francisco
- An Evening in San Antonio
- Thacher State Park
- The Fun Side of Business Travel
Don’t forget to save this post for later on Pinterest!