When Is the Best Time
Muir Woods National Monument is situated close to San Francisco therefore pretty popular. One well-maintained boardwalk and paved trail are leading through the park to experience these ancient redwoods. The path is suitable for the entire family with pushchair and wheelchair as well.
The magical times to be there are early morning and late in the day to avoid the crowds and to enjoy the unique atmosphere. The light filtering down into the valley through the enormous trees is utterly delightful.
The best time to visit Muir Woods regarding the weather is from May to October. Regarding the crowds in the summer, visit the National Monument in the morning or late afternoon. If you hike one of the half-day trails, you can enjoy the majestic ancient redwoods almost alone.
The summer from June to September is dry with dense summer fog in the morning. The mist provides the trees with much-needed moisture. Summer temperatures are pleasant and warm in the mid-20s°C/74°F. Overnight lows dropping to 10°C/50°F. However, outside the cooling forest, temperatures can climb up to 86°F /30°C.
The rainy season starts in late October and lasts until April/early May, with most of the annual 40 inches / 1016 mm of precipitation. It receives three times the rainfall of the Bay Area. The redwoods much need this rain after the dry summer. The average day temperature ranges between 16-12°C/60-53°F dropping chilly temperatures of 6-4°C/42-39°F. However, if you are dressed for the weather, enjoy the redwoods with very few people in the winter.
Avoiding Crowds and Parking
It’s a magical place, but it’s also heavily crowded. Due to the close location of the urban area, only 12 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge, the park is overrun from spring to fall. First of all, avoid weekends and go mid-week if possible. Rainy, foggy or cold days are less crowded as well. To avoid the crowds during the day, get there very early or after 4 pm. When the crowds thin out and commercial parking is open to the public. The park is open from 8 a.m. until sunset. Be there at about 7:30 if you are an early bird. The visitor centre opens at 9 a.m. When we paid the entrance fee at the office, the ranger mentioned it’s not busy today. I don't want to know what crowded means in Muir Woods.
You could also park on Muir Woods Road in the early morning. When we left the park at midday, all parking lots were full, and even the allowed roadside parking. If you go in the summer, we recommend taking the Muir Woods Shuttle. Quote from a Park Ranger: "It takes away all the worries and headaches of driving and parking." Shuttle information In September and October, many school classes visit the National Monument.
Yellowjackets (wasps) warning inside the park. Visitors got stung.
There are some hotels and lodges around to explore the Bay Area. It's quieter to stay here than in San Francisco, and it doesn't take long to reach the Golden Gate Bridge. My first choice is the charming boutique hotel Mill Valley Inn. It is just a 3 miles drive to Muir Woods and 5 minutes walk to shops and restaurants what we loved most the redwoods in their garden.
Best Months to Visit
Location and Tips
Muir Woods National Monument is a must-visit destination if you are in the area. It’s a 30-minute drive from San Francisco. The mountain, the trees, the Ocean, and fabulous trails to hike makes it truly a wonderland. The downside is the crowds. It’s very popular with over 1 Mio visitors each year. It's a day-use park, without camping possibilities. Most people visit this forest to see the giant redwoods, which are the tallest trees on our planet. Although redwoods dominate the scene here, there is also an incredible diversity of flora and fauna at Muir Woods.
Over 600 years old, redwoods grow among dead trees and rotten logs. These majestic trees can withstand the storm, flood, fires, drought and even termites due to their red pigment, a chemical component called tannin. Although their roots grow only 6-10 feet / 1,80 – 3 meters deep, they are resistant to the storm. The reason is the roots are almost as wide as the tree is tall. Due to their thick protective bark of up to 12 inches / 30 cm, they usually survive in a big forest fire. Million years ago, the coast redwoods were in Asia, Europe, and Greenland, but due to substantially weather changes, 4 % remain on a 30-miles wide coastal strip only. Fog can add up to 10 inches of rain each summer which is sufficient for the redwoods, but the coastal fog has decreased by 30 %.
Enjoy "The Sound of Silence"
The park is an excellent location for the whole family, even with a buggy and wheelchair due to the well-maintained boardwalk and paved trail of more than one mile up to bridge 4 / almost 2 km. The trail leads along with impressive, old-growth redwoods. The highlights are Founders Grove, Cathedral Grove and Bohemian Grove, which you should visit at least. If you like to enjoy the tranquillity of the park, you have to hike one of the many trails, at least the 2-mile loop trail with a return on the hillside walk. The hillside walk is a footpath and less busy.
I recommend hiking at least the main trail (2 miles), but there are other fascinating hikes.
Entrance Fee: 15 $ for each adult (age 16 and older) but free for 15 years and younger.
- A short stroll of less than an hour - 1 mi/1.6 km
The trail starts at the National Park Visitor Center and leads along Redwood Creek. You can either walk until bridge three cross the river and turn back, or you continue until bridge four. The trail until bridge three suits also people with limited mobility or wheelchair. Already this short walk gives you a stunning impression of the ancient redwoods. If continuing until the next bridge, the dirt path leads uphill, giving you another perspective of the old grown forest. The hike is 2 miles long and takes a maximum of 1.5 hours.
- Half-day hike - 3 mi/4.8 km
To escape the crowds and to enjoy a quiet redwood forest choose the Canopy View Trailhead. The path climbs up to 1000feet/300 m elevation and back along the Lost Trail. The trail is well marked. When you descend through the deep forest of Douglas-fir into the redwoods, the majesty unfolds.
- Half-day hike with an awesome view - 4 mi/6.4 km
Another uncrowded track is the Ben Johnson and back along the Dipsea Loop. Hike until bridge four, then climb uphill to the Ben Johnson Track. On top, enjoy the marvellous view of Mt. Tamalpais, San Francisco, and the sea. During the Coho Salmon spawning in winter, the footbridge back over the Redwood Creek may be closed. Asked at the Visitor Center first.
Thanks to the local businessman William Kent and his wife Elizabeth Thacher Kent these redwoods are uncut and saved for future generations. They bought the land in 1905, but two years later, the North Coast Water Company tried to grab the grove to build a water reservoir. The Kents decided to donate the land to the federal government for steady protection if it gets declared as National Monument. In 1908 Theodor Roosevelt proclaimed Muir Woods a National Monument. Kent wished to name the park after John Muir, his mutual friend, writer, and naturalist.