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If you’re thinking about visiting Muir Woods from San Francisco and wondering if it’s worth it, or how to plan the best trip there, I’ve got you covered! One of the best day trips in Northern California is a trip to Muir Woods from San Francisco.
Muir Woods National Monument is a beautiful piece of protected land, home to some of the oldest and tallest trees in the world, the California Redwoods. Plus, it’s just a short drive away from San Francisco!
Tips for Visiting Muir Woods National Monument
Before we get into the full guide for visiting Muir Woods, California, here are some of the things you absolutely NEED to know before planning your trip. We’ll go into these in detail!
- The park charges a $15/person entrance fee for adults 16 years and older. This is separate from parking/shuttle fees!
- You need to make a (paid) reservation in order to park
- There’s a shuttle you can take to the national monument, and you also need (paid) reservations for it;
- There’s no cell service in Muir Woods;
- Food options within the National Monument are limited;
- Make sure you dress appropriately!
How to Get to Muir Woods from San Francisco
Getting to Muir Woods isn’t very difficult. In fact, you have several options to get there, but they do require a little bit of planning in advance!
How to Visit Muir Woods by Car
Because we were coming to from the Monterey Bay to Muir Woods, we found it easiest to get there by car.
To get to Muir Woods by car, you’ll take the 101 freeway north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge (this is a toll bridge, in case you didn’t know!)
Set your GPS to Muir Woods National Monument and familiarize yourself with the route before you make the drive.
The road to Muir Woods is pretty winding, so make sure you drive safely, especially if you’re not familiar with the Bay Area geography.
Muir Woods Parking Tips
You’ll want to make sure to make a parking reservation in advance. Parking is less than $10, and is sold based on entry time, meaning you reserve a time window to get to the park. Make sure you get there during your allotted time frame!
Remember there’s no cell service! I recommend you print your parking reservation, and driving directions. Alternatively, you can also save an offline map of the area to your phone.
Other Ways to Get to Muir Woods
If you don’t want to drive to the park, I strongly recommend you take a shuttle to Muir Woods. You have to reserve seats in the shuttle in advance, and they charge around $3 per person (round trip) for the shuttle.
Note that not all shuttle stops have parking available, so plan accordingly. You can find the shuttle reservation page here.
Also, keep in mind that there is no BART to Muir Woods, and getting to one of the shuttle stops via public transit isn’t the easiest.
I absolutely DO NOT recommend you taken an uber to or from Muir Woods.
While getting to Muir Woods via uber won’t be an issue (apart from how expensive it is), getting back is the problem. Remember that there’s NO cell service in the park, so it’s not possible to call an uber back.
If you must uber, take an uber to and from one of the shuttle stops and use the shuttle to get to the park.
How Much Time Should I Spend At Muir Woods?
It may seem surprising, but Muir Woods isn’t very big! You can get to the edge of the park pretty easily within an hour or so, but don’t let that discourage you from visiting Muir Woods from San Francisco!
Where Muir Woods ends is where the California State Parks begin, and there’s plenty of hikes to do in and around the area.
I think it’s best to plan to spend half a day in Muir Woods, depending on how long of a hike you decide to do.
Muir Woods: Best Time to Visit
I think the best time to go to Muir Woods is early in the morning. This will allow you to beat the crowds and enjoy the tranquility of the park without a ton of people around. If you can go during the week, so much the better.
As for time of year to visit, you can visit Muir Woods year-round. The weather in the Bay Area is pretty mild, which is perfect for being outside most of the year.
Muir Woods Things To Do
While the park isn’t very big, you’ll have plenty of things to do in Muir Woods. You can spend anywhere from an hour or two to a full day in the park.
Hiking in Muir Woods
The most obvious thing to do in the park is to go for a hike. Some of the best things to see in Muir Woods are all the old growth redwood forests that tower above you.
The best way to see the redwoods is to go for a hike! I’m the first to admit that I’m not the finest person around, but even I found some easy hikes to add to my list of what to do in Muir Woods!
Best Hikes in Muir Woods
The easiest hikes in the park are the main trail to the bridges and back. Depending on how much time you have, you can take the trail to Bridge 2, Bridge 3, or Bridge 4 and back.
In order, these will take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, give or take! There are several benches along the way for you to sit in and take in the beauty of the forest.
If you’re looking to see Cathedral Grove in Muir Woods, this is where you want to start!
If you have more time to spend in Muir Woods like we did, you can take one of the trails off the main trail and head deeper into the forest. The hike below took us about 2.5 hours, with elevation gain.
Right around Bridge 3 we wandered off the Main trail and upwards on Fern Creek trail.
It was a pretty easy initial segment alongside a creek until we got to the footbridge for the Lost trail.
We did NOT take this footbridge. Instead, we continued following Fern Creek trail upwards into the forest (this is where the elevation gain happens!)
From there we took the Ocean View trail back towards the Visitor Center. It took us a total of around 2.5 hours to do the whole thing!
Hiking in Muir Woods is amazing, and there’s a trail for everyone! The National Parks Website has a handy list of hikes you can do and approximately how long it’ll take you to do them. Make sure you check it out!
What to Wear to Muir Woods
If you’re a newbie to the Bay Area and trying to figure out what to pack for Muir Woods, I’ve got you covered! The thing you want to remember is to DRESS IN LAYERS.
The weather in the Bay Area is subject to change anytime: you might wake up to a chilly foggy morning that turns into a sunny hot day by 11 a.m.
Here are my recommended items to wear to Muir Woods and to pack for Muir Woods as well.
Food in Muir Woods
There’s a cafe inside Muir Woods that serves basic soups, sandwiches and pastries. It’s the only food in the park, so come prepared with snacks if you plan to stay a while.
There are no picnic areas anywhere in Muir Woods apart from the cafe seating, so if you want to have a picnic, head on over to Muir Beach and have your picnic there. It’s easier than trying to google lunch near Muir Woods!
Some Other Tips for Visiting Muir Woods from San Francisco
- Having significant elevation gain adds to the difficulty of a hike, so make sure you bring plenty of water and rest as needed.
- Make sure you wear sunscreen! This is important regardless of it being cloudy outside!
- Make sure you make Muir Beach or Stinson Beach part of your adventure. You can hike to both beaches from Muir Woods or you can just drive there after you’ve explored the forest. I love dipping my feet into the chilly Pacific after a hike!
Visiting Muir Woods is a fun and easy way to experience some time away from the hustle and bustle of San Fransciso. Plus, it’s a relatively affordable way to do some traveling.
Related reading: how to travel anywhere without breaking the bank!
If you live in the Bay Area or are just visiting, make some time in your schedule to visit Muir Woods, because it’s absolutely worth it!
Do you have a favorite hike in Muir Woods? What’s the best hike you’ve ever done? Let us know in the comments!