Muir Woods National Monument
A redwood sanctuary near San Francisco
HIGHLIGHTS: Eleven miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge, Muir Woods National Monument is a redwood sanctuary near San Francisco. Its coast redwoods are more than 250 feet high and 400 to 800 years old. "This is the best tree-lover's monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world," declared Sierra Club Founder John Muir. The forest's savior was not Muir, however, but California congressman William Kent, who donated the land to the federal government in 1907.
ACTIVITIES: Muir Woods has 6 miles of trails. There is a 1/4-hour loop, a 1-hour loop, and a 1-1/2 hour loop, as well as longer hikes on trails that extend into Mt. Tamalpais State Park. Children flock here for educational programs. Among those funded by Save the Redwoods League is "Quest," a poetic treasure hunt through the woods for families. There's also a Junior Ranger program, which involves a self-guided exploration of forest ecology for young people 6 to 12. No picnicking or biking is allowed in the park. Annual passes for the passholder and his or her family are available for $20.
VISITOR CENTER: Though only 560 acres, Muir Woods attracts about 800,000 people every year. Its visitor center (near the entrance) has excellent exhibits and a bookstore. There's also a cafe and gift shop.
CAMPGROUNDS: No camping. For information on nearby sites, visit the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
TRAILS: On a quick trip you might start from the entrance and hike half a mile to Cathedral Grove, which has some of the tallest and oldest trees in the monument. It's been declared a "quiet area." People are asked to speak in a whisper and refrain from using their cell phones. In 1945, the drafters of the United Nations charter held a commemorative ceremony here.
If you have more time and energy, you can descend into the Monument from Pantoll, Bootjack or Mountain Home trails in Mt. Tamalpais State Park. Each of these hikes takes at least half a day.
To get to the park entrance by car, take Highway 101 to the Highway 1/Stinson Beach exit and follow the signs to Muir Woods. By bus, May through September, take Golden Gate Transit's Route 66 Muir Woods Shuttle. More information on Mt. Tamalpais State Park and transportation.
MUST-SEE UNIQUE FEATURE OR SEASONAL HIGHLIGHT: In February, March and April, the pink and purple blossoms of redwood sorrel (which looks like a 3-leaved shamrock) accent the forest floor. In the same months, the coast trillium opens up its white 3-part flowers, which fade to a deep rose color after they've been pollinated. From March to August you might well hear nesting woodpeckers (downy and pileated) laughing and hammering on the trees. In May, deer are giving birth to their fawns. In late May, ladybugs start to show up after a 100-mile migration from the Central Valley. They swarm and cluster throughout the summer and fall, go under leaf litter when rains start, and leave in late winter. In late December through mid-February, steelhead and coho salmon spawn.
HIDDEN GEM: The park is open until 8 p.m. "It is truly magical to walk in the forest at twilight, as vibrant green dims to shadows," says Site Supervisor Mia Monroe. "Animal sightings increase, and you're likely to have the park to yourself."
SPECIAL EVENTS AND ACTIVITIES:
STEWARDSHIP PROGRAM. Enthusiastic volunteers are needed to help with nursery and field work in the beautiful setting of Muir Woods National Monument. No nursery experience is necessary; all ages, skills, and talents are welcome! Grow plants and learn about horticulture, botany and ecological restoration. The Redwood Creek Native Plant Nursery is a nonprofit nursery that grows native plants and restores natural habitat within the Redwood Creek watershed, which includes Muir Woods National Monument.
Volunteers participate in every aspect of nursery operation, from seed collection to planting. Regular activities include transplanting, sowing seeds, weeding, and watering. Activities take place at the nursery and in the field at the restoration or seed collection areas throughout the park. There is no need to register, though you may want to call ahead to find out what activities are planned.
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays
MORE INFORMATION: Visit Muir Woods National Monument. For recorded information about the park, call (415) 388-2595. To reach a ranger, call (415) 388-2596.
EAT: Ruskin Hartley, former League Executive Director, and Susan Ingersoll, former Education Program Manager, recommend the Dipsea Cafe. Susan says the Dipsea is "a quintessential Marin tradition." Ruskin prefers to see the redwoods in the morning and then enjoy breakfast at the Dipsea.
Susan also suggests trying Cafe Del Soul, which is across the street from the Dipsea. It's a great spot that is popular with locals but unknown to tourists.
STOP: Bob Hansen, former President at The Yosemite Fund, recommends stopping at the Pelican Inn. It's one of the most authentic British Pubs outside of England and it is also a good place to stay.
FAVORITE HIKE: The Coastal Trail at Hawk Hill is recommended. Susan says "Any trail is worth doing. Seriously!"
FAVORITE PARK ATTRACTION: Ruskin recommends going to the park early to beat the tour buses and have the park to yourself, even on a busy day.
The place Susan likes best is the cafe at Muir Woods. It's run by Muir Woods Trading Company and the cafe was recently honored on the Food Network for their commitment to serving only local, organic food that tastes great. Their tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich combo was raved about so much, that people started going to Muir Woods specifically for this dish. They are also really eco-friendly; for example, they only sell drinks in glass or cans - no plastic!
DON'T MISS: The fall migration of hawks (September through November) is not to be missed.
Ruskin suggests keeping an eye out for a glimpse of the Farallon islands on the horizon as you drop down to Muir Woods.
Tell us your favorite stops, hikes, places to eat, and more when visiting this park!
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