They’re considered a national treasure, a symbol of America’s great forests and the tallest living thing in the entire world. Those statuesque redwood trees are a sight to behold, and it’s no wonder people flock to Northern California in droves to take them in! The most popular way is with a trip to Muir Woods, which is located just a half an hour from San Francisco, making for an easy day trip.
How to get there
The best way to make your way over to Muir Woods is by renting a car in San Fran and heading north. The best part is you’ll get to drive over the famous Golden Gate Bridge, so be sure to pull over at the lookout point for photos! From there you’ll pass through a toll booth (you only need to pay for one way) before hitting the highway towards the seaside town of Sausalito.
A word of caution: traffic can be horrific if there is any construction or if the Bay Bridge is shut down, so either plan your trip around that or pack some patience.
You can drive all the way to the woods and park on site for free, or take advantage of the shuttle service that runs from May through October on weekends and holidays. It costs $5 a person round trip, and will pick you up from Sausalito so you won’t have to navigate the hairpin turns on your own—though that could be fun if you’re lucky enough to be in a souped-up sportscar and aren’t nauseous! Keep in mind that it can be busy on the way back, and you might have to watch a few full buses pull away before it’s your turn to head home. The drive after you hit Sausalito takes about 20 minutes, during which you’ll be treated to some incredible views of the ocean, the thick brush dotting the hills below—and some near-death experiences as you negotiate each tight turn!
When you pull into Muir Woods you’re immediately greeted by the towering trees you travelled all the way there for, as well as the visitors information area. Admission is $7 for adults, which includes a brochure with a basic map. There are six miles of trails, made up of a number of loops which take as little as half an hour. The more adventurous folks can head off the beaten track (and away from the screaming children and stroller-pushers) and head up into the hills, to get REALLY up-close-and-personal with the gigantic redwoods.
The trees—which are technically called Sequoia sempervirens—can grow up to about 120 metres tall and some are the size of a car in thickness. Let’s just say you wouldn’t want to be near one of those bad boys if it toppled over.
Stick to the main loop if you’re just looking to wander through the forest and get some shots, otherwise branch off (pun INTENDED) and do one of the longer hikes which can take an hour. Outdoor enthusiasts can also head out on paths which will take you into the surrounding Mount Tamalpais State Park, or you can hit one of the nearby beaches (Muir Beach, Stinson Beach) after your hike to cool off.
When to go: The park is open every day of the year, usually from 8 a.m. to sunset depending on the time of year.
What to wear: The forest is actually quite cool as it is obviously (!) quite shaded by the trees, so wear a few layers just in case. Even though the main trails are perfectly flat and easy to navigate, those wanting to explore some of the other trails should wear running shoes or hiking boots as certain places can get quite steep.
Where to eat: If you need to stop to eat en route to the woods, drive into Sausalito and pick a spot along the strip—preferably with an ocean view. There is a fantastic Mexican joint that’s popular with tourists called Sausalito Taco Shop, which will satisfy any craving for fresh-made guacamole or a frozen margarita.
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