Muir Woods National Monument Overview

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The Golden Gate National Recreation Area protects areas throughout the San Francisco bay area that might be considered quintessential northern California landscapes—craggy cliffs overlooking the sea, beaches pounded by towering Pacific Ocean surf, Marin Headlands peaks disappearing into the fog. The old-growth coast redwood forest of Muir Woods National Monument is no exception. Until the last century or so, many valleys along the northern California coast were covered with majestic redwoods like these ones, which John Muir declared were "the best tree-lover's monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world."

Ironically, the area that is now Muir Woods National Monument was saved because in the 19th century it was just too hard for loggers to get there. Located just 12 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge, this old-growth stand is now wonderfully accessible to anyone who wants to take a walk in the woods. If you're looking for a backcountry experience, you'll have to go elsewhere, but if you want a leisurely stroll in an ancient forest, Muir Woods is a great choice.

Muir Woods National Monument, 12 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge, is reached by U.S. 101 and California Hwy. 1.

Hike Dipsea Trail
The main Muir Woods trail runs from the visitor's center to Cathedral Grove. It's a short, easy, paved loop trail that takes you on a journey beneath 1,000-year-old old-growth coast redwood trees that grow to over 250 feet. If you want to see more, though, there are plenty of trails that branch off of the main one. For views of Mount Tamalpais, follow the Dipsea trail to the Ben Johnson cutoff, which will bring you back to the main trail. If the ocean is calling you, the Dipsea will take you all the way to Stinson Beach.

Watch the Salmon Spawn
Redwood Creek in Muir Woods is home to both coho and steelhead salmon. You can see their peculiar mating dance—which involves a lot of tail flapping—if you come during the rainy season when they salmon are the most, um, active. Cohos are most prevalent from November through January, the steelheads from January to April.

Bike Mount Tamalpais
Muir Woods National Monument sits on the lower slopes of Mount Tamalpais, the birthplace of mountain biking. So while you're here, why not hit the trails that first inspired Marin locals to point their cruisers downhill and hope for the best. While not in Muir Wood, nearby 16-mile Eldridge Trail in Mount Tamalpais State Park will take you from the base of the mountain to the top. You'll be rewarded with spectacular views of the Marin Headlands and the bay.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 13 Sep 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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