Muir Woods National MonumentJohn Muir once referred to his namesake woods as “the best tree-lovers monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world.” And although visitors may sometimes debate this top ranking, nobody disputes the majesty of the 1,000-year old redwood forest that now comprises Muir Woods National Monument (www.nps.gov/muwo/index.htm). Located just 12 miles north of San Francisco in an isolated canyon in Mill Valley, Muir Woods is a world away from the trappings of city life. And although great care has been taken to maintain the rustic beauty of this natural area, wheelchair-accessible trails and facilities have been added, so everyone can enjoy this magnificent redwood grove.
Parking Reservations and Shuttle Information
Muir Woods is open from 8 a.m. to sunset 365 days a year, but because of the popularity of the site, some advance planning is necessary. Due to a limited number of parking spaces, reservations are now required in order to visit Muir Woods. All visitors — including those with placards and national park passes — must make advance parking reservations at gomuirwoods.com. Parking is priced at $8 per car, and reservations can be made in half-hour increments throughout the day. So for example, if you purchase a 9 a.m. parking reservation, you need to arrive between 9:00 and 9:30.
Parking reservation receipts must be printed out at home or downloaded to a phone, as parking attendants need to scan the bar code upon arrival, and there’s no cell service at Muir Woods. Visitors who arrive outside their time slots will be admitted on a space-available basis; however that’s more likely to happen in the mornings during the week, than during the afternoons and peak traffic times. And although it’s best to make reservations as far in advance as possible, there’s a turnout along the Panoramic Highway that has a cell signal, so visitors can pull over to make last minute reservations there. It should be noted that this isn’t a viable option during peak visitation times; however if you do choose to make a last minute reservation, remember to download the reservation receipt to your phone before you leave the turnout.
Shuttle Service is also available from Marin and Sausalito to Muir Woods. Shuttles run seven days a week from mid-June to early August, and on weekends and holidays the rest of the year. Shuttle tickets are priced at $3 per person and are available at gomuirwoods.com. All shuttle busses are wheelchair-accessible, and all shuttle bus stops have accessible parking.
A Walk in the Woods
Accessible parking is available in the first lot — just show the attendant your placard for admission. Accessible restrooms and the visitor center are located nearby, and a loaner wheelchair is available at the visitor center.
The accessible Redwood Creek Trail starts out as a wide level boardwalk that winds around the 200-foot tall redwood trees that skirt Redwood Creek. There’s also a small café, gift shop and another set of accessible restrooms located near Bridge 1 at the beginning of the trail; and although steps lead up to the main entrance there’s level access on the left side.
The trail, which is lined with ferns and sorrel, continues on through the grove which is dotted with the occasional oak and maple tree. Keep an eye out an errant blue jay or crow, as the trail continues on through Founders Grove and past the Pinchot Tree. At this point you can cross Bridge 2 and loop back to the beginning for an easy half-mile jaunt.
If you’d like a longer hike, continue along the trail as it transitions to asphalt. Although there a few undulations it’s mostly doable; however manual wheelchair-users may need some assistance over a few weathered patches. When you reach Bridge 3, cross the river and continue back to the visitor center for a pleasant one-mile hike.
The accessible trail continues along past Bridge 3, past a water refill station and through Cathedral Grove before it ends at Bridge 4. It’s a one-mile hike from the the visitor center to Bridge 4, at which point you can backtrack to Bridge 3, cross the river and complete the loop. All in all it’s a pleasant two-mile walk through the forest, and a great way to escape the heat on a hot summer day.