Is Muir Woods worth visiting? This is a question we are asked frequently so in this guide we will answer all your burning Muir Woods questions to help you decide if muir woods is worth the trip for you.
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Is Muir Woods Worth Visiting?
What is so special about Muir Woods?
Really to understand the pros of visiting Muir Woods you need to look at what is so special about Muir Woods.
So what is so special about Muir Woods? The answer is lots!
Firstly Muir Woods has a rich history since it became a national monument in 1908. Despite the name Muir woods and association with John Muir, Muir himself did not donate the land. In fact the land was donated to President Theodore Roosevelt by Congressman William Kent.
In fact it earned its place in history as the first National Monument that was created solely because of a land donation from an individual, in this case William Kent.
It was Kent that insisted that the land and national monument was named after the famed naturalist and s called “father of the national parks”, John Muir.
But what makes Muir Woods really special is its trees.
The main attraction of the Muir Woods National Monument are the Sequoia Sempervirens aka the enormous California Redwoods trees that are throughout the national monument.
These trees are the largest living things on earth and they are simply breathtaking! They look like they go on forever and you will find yourself looking at the sky the whole walk round.
These magnificent trees only grown in California and a small part of Oregon and some of the oldest specimens are between 600 to 800 years old.
The largest specimen in Muir Woods reaches a whopping 258 feet though the largest specimen is further north than Muir Woods and reaches 379 feet.
For this reason alone, Muir Woods should make both you San Francisco and California bucket list.
So now you know what makes Muir Woods Special we will look at the pros and cons of visiting to help you decide.
Pros of Visiting Muir Woods
Easy to Reach
Muir Woods is an easy day trip from San Francisco, whether you are traveling to Muir Woods with or without a car.
If you have a car with you then the drive to Muir Woods is very easy. Muir Woods is located in Marin County which is around 16 miles from San Francisco. This drive on a good day takes around 40 minutes but anyone who has been to San Francisco can tell you the traffic can be bad so allow extra time.
If you are traveling to Muir Woods without a car be sure to check out our post on the best way to visit Muir Woods.
If you have a few days in San Francisco it makes the perfect addition to any San Francisco itinerary. Muir Woods can be done in half day to a full day depending on what hikes and trails you want to go on.
If you are visiting Muir Woods with kids or toddlers I think a half day is more than adequate for Muir Woods.
Variety of Hiking Trails
One of my favorite things about hiking trails at Muir Woods is there is something for everyone. For instance there are some stroller friendly hiking trails such as:
- The Muir Woods Fern Creek Loop – around a 2km hike that is completely stroller friendly so great for those traveling to Muir Woods with toddlers or babies.
- Muir Woods Main Trail – another completely stroller friendly Muir Woods trail which distance can vary from 0.5 – 1 mile depending on when you decide toter back.
However for those that want something some intense you could consider:
- the Ben Johnson, Return Via Dipsea Loop. This is a 4 mile loop hike but has a rise of 925 feet in elevation. But for those who accomplish this hike you are rewarded with amazing views of San Francisco, Mt. Tamalpais, and the Pacific Ocean.
- Muir Woods to Muir Beach hike
- Muir Woods to Mt Tamalpais
One of the Best Bay Area Stroller Friendly Hikes
As I mentioned above, there are plenty of boardwalk and accessible trails at Muir Woods. In fact I would go as far as to say that Muir Woos have some of the best Bay Area stroller friendly hikes.
Located Close to other California Attractions
If you only plan on spending half a day at Muir Woods, then you don’t need to worry about rushing straight back into the city as there are plenty of things to see and do nearby.
For instance you could:
- explore the nearby town of Sausalito which offers some amazing views of San Francisco.
- head to one of the nearby beaches such as Muir Beach or Stinson Beach – please note that some of the waves and currents at these beaches can be very strong so do take care. Also Muir Beach has been known as a clothing optional beach so if you are visiting with kids be aware of this.
- Mt Tamalpais State Park – for those that want some more intense hiking trail than those you would find at Muir Woods.
Cons of Visiting Muir Woods
So now we have talked about why Muir Woods is so special, for sake of balance it is worth talking about some of the reasons why you might not want to visit Muir Woods
Need to be prepared
Muir Woods is a place that needs some forethought. Reservations are absolutely essential for every visitor to Muir Woods whatever time of year you are visiting – for more info on the best time to visit Muir Woods check out this post.
The reservation system operates both the on-site parking system and the shuttle bus to the further out parking lots. To book your reservation visit GoMuirWoods.com or call 1-800-410-2419.
It is absolutely essential to book your parking in advance as you can’t park without a reservation which could end your day before it has started.
Also there is no wifi, 4G or cell service at Muir Woods. Therefore if you arrive at the park without a reservation you will find yourself driving back into the nearest town to get signal to make your reservations and then have to drive back to the park. This is such a waste of your day so be sure to do this in advance.
Please note: if you are traveling to Muir Woods early in the morning it is worth noting that Muir Woods has its own microclimate. The mornings in particularly can be very cold and foggy and no matter what season you are traveling in we recommend taking a sweater.
For more information on what to wear to Muir Woods in any season check out this post.
May need to take a shuttle bus
PArking on site is limited so you may have to use the parking lot that requires a shuttle bus to get too. The shuttle bus is very well organised but for some this may add an added inconvenience.
Note: If you do need to use the Muir Woods Shuttle on your visit it is likely to take you around 30 minutes to get from the parking lot to the entrance
May be Crowded
As Muir Woods is only a half an hour drive away from San Francisco (give or take some time due to traffic), and is a perfect San Francisco day trip you may find Muir Woods is very crowded especially if you are visiting in peak season or at the weekend.
For more information on the best time to visit Muir woods check out this post.
Not the largest specimens
Although Muir Woods has some pretty impressive Californian Redwood trees they don’t have the largest specimen.
The largest specimen in Muir Woods tops out at around 258 feet according to the National Park service whereas the largest noted specimen is further north than Muir Woods and reaches 379 feet.
Muir Woods Vs Redwood National Park
It may come as a surprise but Muir Woods is not the only place to see Californian Redwoods.
Perhaps the most notable other place to see Redwoods is at Redwood National Park. However Redwood National Park is over a five hour drive from San Francisco so isn’t a day trip.
For this reason we recommend Muir Woods over Redwood National Park as it is the only one of the two that is a day trip.
For a more comprehensive comparison of Muir Woods Vs Redwood National Park check out this post.
Other Place to see Redwoods
But on top of Redwood National Park there are plenty of other places much closer to San Francisco where you can see Redwoods.
For instance you can see Redwoods at:
- Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve
- Big Basin Redwoods State Park – a one and half hour drive from San Francisco
- Butano State Park – around a 1 hour 15 minute drive from San Francisco
- Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park – around a 1 hour 25 minute drive from San Francisco
- Portola Redwoods State Park – around a 1 hour 15 minute drive from San Francisco
- Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park – a 30 minute drive from San Francisco
- Samuel P. Taylor State Park – a one hour drive from San Francisco
However I think the that the combination of historical significant and redwoods make visiting Muir Woods worthwhile.
If you are looking for dog friendly walks near San Francisco then Muir Woods is not the place for you. Dogs are not allowed in Muir Woods so if you want to check out the redwoods with dogs one of the above state or regional parks would be a better choice.