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October 17th, 2017

SCH Day Trip Guide to the Redwoods

Travel Tips

1200 years ago it was the year 817 — the middle of the Middle Ages, or, as historians call the era, “medieval times.” It would be 623 years until the invention of the printing press. And 803 years until the Pilgrims set out from England’s shores to settle a “new England.”

To see anything from 1200 years ago, you might think you’d have to go to the castles of Europe or at least to a museum. But, just a short drive from SF, ancient history towers overhead. And it’s alive.

12 miles north of San Francisco sits Muir Woods, which features 295 acres of old growth forest.

Thanks to President Theodore Roosevelt, Muir Woods has now been a National Monument for more than 100 years, and its trees range in age from 600 to 1200 years old. In the year 817, some of the forest’s trees were just seeds no bigger than a tomato. Over the hundreds of centuries since then, they have grown hundreds of feet tall, stretching upward through time as renaissances, revolutions, and world-changing inventions have changed the world around them.

But these beautiful redwoods stand unchanged, as monuments to nature’s beauty and strength. When you visit Muir Woods, you’re literally walking in the shade of living history.

Here are a few ways to make the most of that grand experience.

Driving there

Muir woods is very popular so if you’re driving, get there early, within an hour of when they open at 8 a.m. And if you can’t get there early, your second best option is to get there late, closer to when the park closes at sunset. Parking at Muir Woods is very limited, though you can park on Muir Woods Road and walk to the entrance, but that option could have you walking up to two miles … which brings us to your next option.

The Muir Woods Shuttle

For $5 per person, this is the stress-free way to go. You can pay for admission and shuttle tickets at the visitor center, and then take a short shuttle ride to the park entrance. No hunting for a parking space and no long treks just to get to the park entrance. The ride takes about 20 minutes.

The best times to visit

The busiest times at Muir Forest are when it’s sunny, a weekend, a holiday, or summer. So you can enjoy a quieter, less crowded experience if you go on a weekday or when the weather isn’t the best — but a little bit of rain or fog in an ancient forest is magical. Dress accordingly and it can be great.

What to wear

The Bohemian Grove Trail is the main attraction at Muir Woods, winding its way through an incredible array of beautiful redwoods for more than a mile. It’s mostly covered in boardwalks, so normal sneakers or walking shoes are just fine. If you plan to wander any of the other trails, like the Sun Trail or the Ben Johnson Trail, you may want to wear trail shoes or a light hiking boot. As for what else to wear, be sure to check the current conditions before you go.

Where to eat

Just inside the entrance to the park, Muir Woods Trading Company operates a cafe with plenty of lunch options. If you’re looking for options outside the park, check out Piazza D’Angelo for some incredible pizza or Mill Valley Beerworks for some exceptional brews.  

A word about cell phones

The cell coverage in Muir Woods is spotty at best, so make any calls or texts well in advance and plan ahead if you're meeting friends, taking separate cars, or need the internet for anything. Then enjoy a bit of disconnection in the ancient, breathtaking nature of Muir Woods. 

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