Nestled in the lush hillside just minutes from Mill Valley, CA, Muir Woods National Monument is a must-do for families visiting San Francisco’s Bay Area. Only minutes outside of the city, it makes for a perfect pit stop en route to San Francisco or a nice day trip to escape city crowds.
Called a ‘tree lover’s monument’, Muir Woods is a very accessible park of walking trails and visitor information on California redwoods. Visually breathtaking, the paths take families through groves of redwoods, past creeks, and among ferns. Because multiple loops are available, families with kids of all ages and abilities can enjoy Muir Woods. On our visit, our seven-year-old was only up for the 1/2 hour loop, while my older boys wanted to go farther, so we easily split up with one adult on each trail, meeting up at the visitor’s center later. The longest route only took us approximately 45 minutes (the map calls it 1 hour), and takes visitors on a trail above the forest floor for a different perspective. Families who want even more hiking have many additional trails to choose from just outside Muir Woods proper.
Whatever route you take, it’s well worth the effort to make it as far as the Cathedral Grove, where the towering trees replicate the sanctity of a cathedral dome. (Quiet is requested as you walk through this area, and the effect is very peaceful, even with a gang of kids in tow.) The rangers stationed at the various information stations are very helpful and during our visit, engaged the kids with birding books and tree charts. There is a gift center with lots of tempting souvenirs, and a small cafe. Families can also picnic. Tip: This park gets crowded. On days when the parking lot is full, be prepared to walk some distance from street-side parking spaces, or take the shuttle, running from Mill Valley.
Distance from the Interstate:
Just off Highway 101.
The monument is only $7 per adult and free for kids under 15 (yes, 15!). A national park annual pass will also get you in.
Hours of operation:
Park hours vary by season, but generally, is open at 9 am and closes at sunset.
A cafe is on-site, as well as picnic areas. Families can’t bring food (other than water) onto the Muir Woods trails, but food is permitted on the additional trails outside the park.
Muir Woods is 11 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Take Highway 101 to the Highway 1/Stinson Beach exit. Follow signs to Muir Woods. Warning: the road is very windy! RVs are not permitted. The shuttle, running during the busy summer season, is a great way to go, to avoid parking hassles. Pick up the shuttle from Mill Valley (operated by Marin Transit).