When you first enter Muir Woods, there is a sense of awe and peace that overcomes you. The redwoods and other trees are so healthy and tall. The hiking paths follow the natural curvy rhythm of Redwood Creek. Get there early to enjoy the quiet! Muir Woods has a nearly 1 million visitors each year, according to the park website. That’s a lot of people cruising around catching a glimpse of these beautiful old growth redwoods!
Muir Woods first became a national monument in 1908 and the 295 acre old growth redwood forest has been federally protected ever since. William Kent and Theodore Roosevelt named it after John Muir who was one of America’s earliest environmental activists. Visit the Muir Woods National Monument site for more stories on the interesting history of the land.
The hubs and I arrived at Muir Woods at 8:30 am within our half hour window for our parking reservation. We love that reservations are required now so we have a guaranteed parking spot! Walking up to the Visitor Center, we recognized our Sonoma County park ranger that we had volunteered with the day before! It was crazy to see her again but also great so we could get some insight on the park from someone who knows it well. Always ask the rangers for their favorite spots!
Walking onto the boardwalk at the beginning of the Nature Trail you are immediately greeted with hugs from the giant redwoods and comforted from the lush ferns along the forest floor. The creek next to us had just enough water in it to trickle along as we walked the boardwalk. Don’t forget to look up!! Muir Woods is in a canyon below the mighty Mount Tamalpais and the redwoods reach for the sky! They are beautiful and tall.
Along the way you will see signs along the trail with numbers on them. Grab yourself a Muir Woods map for $1 so you know what the signs are showing you!
There was a good amount of people in the park at this early hour and everyone was slowly walking through and admiring the giants and taking photos of trying to hug the trees.
In Cathedral Grove a sweet little sign reminds you to enter quietly. This was definitely appreciated! Everyone seemed to get very quiet and pause a little more. All we could hear were the clicks of cameras and feet walking slowly through this amazing grove of old growth redwoods!
Fern Creek Trail
After leaving Cathedral Grove, look to your right for a path leading you away from the main trail along Redwood Creek and follow it. The narrow trail follows Fern Creek as it winds around the canyon floor. There are fewer people on this trail but the views are just as amazing! The trail crosses the creek back and forth a handful of times. When crossing the creek on bridges you get to see the downed trees hovering over the creek in place until they eventually go back to the earth. At the trail intersection with Lost trail you can either go straight and walk over this creative bridge that was constructed on top of a fallen giant or head up Lost trail…go up for views of the creek below!
The Lost trail narrows even more as you start to climb out of the canyon floor. The views of the creek below are so beautiful!! This part of the trail really gives you a good view of the enormity of Muir Woods. As you climb you start to see more of the tops of the redwoods and the ferns aren’t as lush. Firs and bays are your new best friends with a little more sunshine peeking through the canopy. Careful as you walk along the trail, tree roots are like stairs that want to trip you!
We ran into several elder hikers coming down the trail and one of the gentlemen asked us if we lived in Marin. We replied “no” and he proceeded to tell us we were lucky. And then told us, “The bad thing about living in Marin is that when you die and go to heaven it will be a big disappointment!“ We smiled and agreed. Marin has some of the best hiking and views all in one place! Not to mention super nice people and delicious food!
After climbing what seems like hundreds of stairs, take a moment and breathe in the fresh air on the bench at the intersection. If you go to the right you will drop back down into Muir Woods, instead go left and head up Canopy Trail toward Panoramic Trail. It’s the last bit of climbing and then the forest opens up to expansive views of the canyon below and the ocean in the distance.
At the top of Lost trail the views are just a taste of what you will see on Panoramic Trail! We hiked along a fairly narrow trail following Panoramic Highway with low brush so we had views for days. This was just a short bit before we dropped onto Redwood Trail. This took us in and out of bays, redwoods and scrub brush as we followed the hillside around. The views of Muir Woods below and the ocean in the distance was spectacular! It was a lovely, warm, clear day and we took full advantage of this by taking in the views!
Redwood trail is pretty level in most spots, then it dips down and around and eventually goes by the Tourist Club. We had heard about this place and always wondered where it was. Now we know! It is a membership only place which sounds amazing and they have volunteer work days that you can sign up for and see if you want to join. Just after this secret little spot, follow the park signs and take the Sun Trail.
The Sun Trail is out in the open and you start to wonder how much further do you have to go to find the Dipsea Trail. It’s a bit deceiving. Then all of a sudden the trail drops down and you cross Muir Woods Road to join the Dipsea Trail. If you are feeling adventurous you could take this all the way to Stinson Beach! We weren’t feeling THAT adventurous so we stuck to the shade of the Dipsea trail and followed it along as it descended alongside Muir Woods road and dropped us back in the Muir Woods parking lot. Sort of felt like a sudden end to our beautiful hike but we were sort of thankful to see the parking lot! Tons of cars were waiting to get into the overflow parking lot instead of parking further down the road so we quickly changed and hopped into the car and headed for Muir Beach Overlook.
Muir Beach Overlook
Finally we planned ahead and brought after hike snacks! Yay for planning ahead! We found a picnic table on the bluff overlooking the ocean and cooled off as we ate our goat cheese and crackers. It was just enough to fuel us to explore the Muir Beach Overlook and our drive home. Always better to not be starving while driving. 😉
This spot is a beautiful place to stop and take in the views of the city to the south and the rugged Northern California coast to the north. We wandered down to the overlook and enjoyed the cool breeze and stunning views…then hopped back in the car with the top down and cruised north on Highway 1 home. It was a beautiful day to be out exploring!
Parking reservations are now required! They are $8 and can be purchased ahead of time. You pick your 30 minute time slot and can also purchase your $10/person entrance fee at the same time. They also have shuttle services available for $3.
Bathrooms are at the visitor center along with food for purchase. No dogs in the park. The 5.6 mile hike with 1,093 ft elevation gain is mostly shaded. We used the trail description from Redwood Hikes as our guide on this hike. The nearest town is Stinson or Mill Valley.
Things We Love:
This was one of those hikes where the weather starts out chilly then heats up so you need to be able to carry what you need with you. We have several hiking “essentials” in our Osprey packs and have had to use everything except the tic remover and fire starter so far. But we have them in our packs just in case! We carry first aid, bug spray, hats, beanies, maps, bandanas, tissue, spare camera batteries, snacks, headlamps, and hand sanitizer on all of our hikes. We love our slim Osprey packs that also carry our water bladder while keeping the pack off our backs and leaving enough room for air flow. Have we mentioned we carry a lot with us and need the packs? 🙂 When we get hot we have enough room in our packs to put a couple puff jackets and switch out from beanie to hat. We probably over pack but we don’t feel it with the hip belt and adjustable everything. These are seriously so comfortable to hike with! The bosslady hates being strapped into anything…shoes (necessary on the trails), backpacks, straight jackets (haha! just kidding she hasn’t had one of those yet!), but these backpacks are super comfy for her. They come in his and hers on Amazon!
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