What’s Best: Feel small among behemoth redwoods; or hike above the treetops for a big view of the Pacific Ocean. Muir Woods is a national treasure. Get here early or pick a rainy day to avoid crowds.
Parking: From Hwy. 101 north of Sausalito, take Hwy. 1-Shoreline Hwy. exit toward Stinson Beach. Follow up and turn right on Panoramic Hwy. After about 1 ml, turn left on Muir Woods Rd. Continue for about 2 ml. to monument parking. Note: Entrance fee of about $7 charged, and trail maps are $1. Agency: Muir Woods National Monument; Mt. Tamalpais State Park.
In 1905, Marin Congressman William Kent and his wife Elizabeth Thacher Kent bought a 295-acre old-growth redwood grove that had been spared the sawyer’s blade thanks to its relatively remote location pocketed into a valley 2,000 feet below the south slope of Tamalpais. In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt declared the woods a National Monument, honoring Kent’s insistence to name the grove after John Muir. Roosevelt wanted the woods named in honor of Kent. Muir was pleased, calling the park “the best tree-lover’s monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world.” Muir Woods is now some 560 acres, enveloped by the sprawling lands of Mt. Tamalpais State Park and Marin Municipal Water District.
For all hikes, head straight through the entrance station and visitors center on a paved path alongside Redwood Creek. You’ll pass four bridges on the way to the end of the flat path, which is lined by ferns and split-rail fences. After Bridge 3 and Cathedral Grove, a boardwalk leads to the Fern Creek Trail. To your right about 100 yards up the trail is the William Kent Memorial, where you can pay your respects at a plaque beside a huge redwood. Not far past the Fern Creek Trail, and after passing a trail that leads to your right up the canyon toward Camp Alice Eastwood and Bootjack, is Bridge 4.
MUIR WOODS MAP SAN FRANCISCO Photo Gallery
For the Muir Woods loop, turn around at Bridge 4, double back, and then cross over to your right at Bridge 3. A trail on the other side of Redwood Creek goes back to the visitors center. For the Hillside Trail loop, which takes you back via a contour about 200 feet above Redwood Creek, cross Bridge 4 and head up the Ben Johnson Trail. You’ll see the Hillside Trail on your left not far up from the bridge. This loop gives you a woodsy alternative when larger numbers of pedestrians are on the lower paths.
For the Ben Johnson Trail to Cardiac Hill, continue up the redwood-shaded stairs from the Hillside Trail Junction. This hike is excellent, up through grand forest and ending with a spectacular view. From Bridge 4 you climb about 1,000 feet over the next 1.5 miles. After about 1 mile, you need to jog left, up a short connector trail that makes the last 200 feet up and joins the Deer Park Fire Road; the straight-ahead option from this connector trail, the Stapelveldt Trail, continues to Pantoll Ranger Station, TH58. To Cardiac Hill so named for its physiological effects on Dipsea Trail runners turn right on Deer Park Road. About .5-mile later you’ll pop out the Douglas fir forest to an open hillside joining the Coastal Trail with airborne views of the Pacific and Stinson Beach.
BiKE: Although the monument is closed to cyclists, you can ride the Bay Area Ridge Trail, up Deer Park Fire Road either on an up-and-back to Cardiac Hill or on a Coastal Trail loop via Muir Beach. For the up-and-back, covering 4.5 miles and climbing about 1,200 feet, begin at the Deer Park Fire Road gate, which is on your right, less than a mile downhill from the entrance to Muir Woods National Monument. Your toughest climb is during the first .5-mile. For the Coastal Trail loop a ride of some 7.5-miles, the last 3 on scenic car roads hang a left on the Coastal Trail when you come to the junction after humping 2.25 miles up Deer Park Road. You roll down the ridge, dropping almost 1,000 feet in 2 miles, and hit Highway 1 about a mile north of Muir Beach. Pedal left on Highway 1, dropping into Muir Beach, and then go left on Muir Beach Road. The Deer Park Road gate is less than 2 miles away, along an easy grade beside Redwood Creek.