Muir Woods National Monument is just a 30 minute drive north of San Francisco and definitely worth a visit if you are in the SF area. It is super easy to find. Once you have driven over the Golden Gate Bridge, take the exit for Highway 1 towards Mill Valley/Stinson Beach and from there it is well signposted. It’s a very scenic drive along the 1 towards the woods and there are a few places you can pull over should you wish to stop and admire the view from up in the hills. Due to its closeness to the city, Muir Woods attracts over a million visitors each year and because of this popularity it best to visit during the week when it is quieter. Plan to arrive early as, although there are a couple of car parks, car parking spaces fill up quickly and you may end up having to park on the road some distance away.
After paying a $7.00 entrance fee (no admission fee for children under 15) you are free to wander through trails of towering redwood trees. There are various trails that you can take to suit all levels of fitness and abilities, from easy-going, flat tarmac paths to hikes that take you way up into the hills and have the potential to go on for miles. If you stay on the lower trail there are rangers and volunteers that provide short talks. I was swithering whether or not to take my camera on my visit but I’m glad I did. One look upwards I knew I had made the right decision in taking it. The tallest redwood here is 258ft and, though that may mean they are not the tallest trees in the world, the redwoods here are impressive none-the-less. What I find particularly amazing is the age of the trees, with the average age of these coastal redwoods being between 600-800 years and the oldest being at least 1200 years old. Talk about impressive! In fact, Muir Woods is the only old-growth coastal redwood forest in the Bay Area and sadly one of the last left on the planet.
In addition to the flora there is also the opportunity to spot some wild animals if you are lucky. From insects to birds and mammals there is a vast array of wildlife here. Though it will take some patience to spot it. It was pretty quiet on the animal front when we visited but we did spot a cool little bird foraging around in the undergrowth that seemed to follow us up the path. I think it was a Pacific Wren (on looking it up), though I can’t say I’m well-known for my bird identification skills so I could be totally wrong!! I joked with Ross that we could potentially stumble across a mountain lion and didn’t actually realise until afterwards that it could have been a real possibility! Coyotes and bobcats also roam these woods but we never seen any (that we were aware of, who knows if any spotted us!).
The trees also provided some nice, diffused light for taking portraits, which I thought was great but I don’t know if Ross agreed seeing as he was my only available subject!
After a nice walk in the woods you can relax and grab a sandwich or salad at the cafe, which prides itself on using local, ethically sourced ingredients.