Our Muir Woods:
The Visitors Guide
Insiders Tip: If you want to visit Muir Woods, buy your tickets early. We anticipate that during the summer travel season tickets will sell out months (yes, months) in advance.
Insiders Tip: There is no cell service or WiFi service at Muir Woods itself — it’s in a mountain “dead zone.” If you need to call anyone, arrange a ride or download anything, do so before taking the Muir Woods shuttle or leaving home.
Four generations of my family visited Muir Woods whenever we wanted to go. With attendance of over one million visitors a year and parking lots for less than 300 cars, on January 1, 2018 the National Park Service instituted a Muir Woods visitor reservations system similar to the one they use for Alcatraz. We have all the changes explained and Insider Tips below.
We’ll share what makes this place so special and prepare you for your visit
We have lots of advice on how to visit under the new reservations system
The new shuttle system offers some big changes in 2018
There are still some ways that you can go to Muir Woods
The Rangers here work 365 days a year
It’s a beautiful, twisty drive up a mountain road, which leads us to…
How to use the new parking reservations system
The Northern California maxim: Dress in Layers
An incredible setting that comes with some limitations
From wide pathways within the Park to narrow tracks that traverse it
A small cafe for visitors that earned a visit from The Food Network
You’ll see a wide variety
A unique and historic village just down the mountain from Muir Woods
The oldest trail race in the United States, first run in 1905
Muir Woods FAQ
Q: How much does it cost to go to Muir Woods?
A: Tickets to enter Muir Woods via the front gate for adults are $10, but you’ll also pay either to reserve a parking place ($8) or to reserve a seat on the Muir Woods Shuttle ($3) in order to go. Click on the links in this answer for more information, and be sure to reserve your spot early. During the warm weather months reservations will sell out weeks and even months in advance.
Q: How long does it take to hike or walk through Muir Woods?
A: That’s a tough question to answer, because it’s kind of like saying, “How long does it take to walk through The Louvre?” If you were focused on a fast, energetic walk I think you could walk the entire long, winding loop of paved trails and boardwalks along Redwood Creek in a little over an hour, but that’s missing the point. (BTW, I think if all I thought about were walking I could traverse all the galleries of the Louvre in about the same amount of time… which doesn’t feel like a coincidence!)
When I walk through this redwood forest — and when I watch other people here — it’s normally not a brisk walk, but a stroll. You look all around you, crane your neck to look up at the tall, straight trunks of the redwoods, and take lots of pictures.
There are side trails you can take, which are steeper and more narrow, that can extend the walk to several hours, but I think that if you plan to spend any less than two hours here you’ll feel cheated when you have to leave.
Q: Are there giant redwoods in Muir Woods?
A: That’s actually a trick question, and you can use it to stump (sic) your friends who think they know everything about redwood trees. Here are the two different “correct”: answers:
- Yes, there are many very large “old growth” redwoods here, and the tallest of them tops out at 258 feet (79 meters). “Old Growth” means redwoods from an area that has never been logged. After almost 200 years of redwood logging in California there are very few old growth redwood groves left, and this is one of them.
- When people say “Giant Redwoods” they are most often describing the Giant Sequoia Redwoods, which in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains grow as tall as 311 feet (95 meters). There are no Sequoiadendron giganteum in Muir Woods. What we have are Sequoia sempervirens, alias Coast Redwoods (although their Latin name means “sequoias that live forever”). One more way to trick people with this question: the biggest Coast Redwood ever discovered is taller than the largest Giant Sequoia!
Q: How old are the redwoods in Muir Woods?
A: The larger redwoods here are typically in the 500 to 800 year old range, though there are some older and many younger trees. At one fallen 1,000 year old tree along the main trail here you can see the rings marked where key world events took place, including the Aztec construction of Tenochtitlán, the arrival of Columbus and the Declaration of Independence. What’s striking is that when you look at the rings of a 1,000 year old tree, 1776 seems very recent!
Q: Who is Muir Woods named after?
A: William Kent, the descendant of a Marin County pioneer family who owned the land and donated it as a National Park in 1908, asked that it be named after his friend, conservationist John Muir. The town of Kentfield, on the other side of the main ridge of Mt. Tamalpais from the park, is named after Kent.
Q: How big is Muir Woods?
A: The park itself is only 554 acres, but its steep terrain makes it feel much larger. It’s also surrounded by large forested areas of the GGNRA and the Mt. Tamalpais watershed, so the wooded area is a much larger protected forest.
Q: What’s the best time to come to Muir Woods?
Q: Can I bring my dog to Muir Woods?
A: No, darn it. Only dogs trained to assist with physical disabilities (like Guide Dogs) are allowed in the park.
Q: When was the meeting of world leaders at Muir Woods?
A: There’s a reason why the organizers of the first-ever meeting of the United Nations, held at the Opera House in San Francisco at the end of World War II, brought the delegates to Muir Woods for a ceremony. Holding the gathering in Cathedral Grove reminded the delegates — many from war-torn Europe and Asia — of the many meanings of the word “peace.” Cathedral Grove is only one portion of the park, and there are other incredible spots to walk through as well.