Muir Woods was designated a federally-protected national monument by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. The Muir Woods National Monument located just 11 miles north of San Francisco is one of the most popular attractions near Mill Valley. It’s also a must-see site for nature lovers from around the world.
Groves of ancient coastal redwoods, aged anywhere from 400 to 800 years stand as high as 250 feet. A sense of wonder and awe descends on visitors as they walk along the trails. The park has flat, easy trails that take you close to the amazing trees. Many of the trails are boardwalks or paved for wheelchair access across the length of the canyon floor. Muir Woods itself covers only one square mile but offers a scenic immersion to Redwood Creek, home to the endangered coho salmon that swim upstream from the Pacific Ocean. Cathedral Grove, another must-see, is an enchanting grove of redwoods, among the tallest in the park, about six-tenths of a mile along the main trail. Visitors are asked to remain respectfully quiet here, as in any cathedral, and the sense of awe is inspiring.
The park offers a number of special seasonal events. During winter nature-lovers are invited to visit the park at night for special “full moon” walks mid-week. These walks present a different perspective of the Muir Woods experience as you stroll among the silent giants lit by the moonlight that filters through the ancient forest. There are also Earth Day activities and other annual events.
At the entrance to Muir Woods you’ll find a visitor’s center offering maps, exhibits and a wide source of information about the natural ecology of the park. One of the displays that always draws a crowd is a slice of a giant redwood that fell naturally in the 1930s when it was 1,021 years old. Marked on the visible tree rings are a chronicle of the most important dates in the history of civilization, all of which occurred during the big tree’s lifespan. A cafe and gift shop are also located near the visitor’s center.
A day trip to the Muir Woods National Monument from Mill Valley is a favorite excursion for tourists all year round. The park can be very crowded in the summer, so if your schedule allows try to visit the park on a weekday during the fall and spring. At any time of the year, the two parking lots fill quickly in the morning and roadside parking some distance from the park may be necessary. The Manzanita Park and Ride lot with bus service from Mill Valley to Muir Woods National Monument is also available where U.S. Highway 101 and California State Highway 1 fork.