These Muir Woods Photos and Tips are from our recent summer 2021 visit to the national park, during the pandemic. Visiting the San Francisco Bay Area? See all our posts tagged San Francisco.
Muir Woods Location, Tickets and Parking
Muir Woods is located in Mill Valley, to the north of San Francisco. You'll cross the Golden Gate Bridge during your 35-55 minute drive there, depending on where you're coming from in SF. The roads are windy leading up to Muir Woods, so those who get motion sick will want to keep their eyes on the road and potentially use acupressure bands to mitigate against potential nausea.
At time of writing, you need to pre-purchase parking reservations from Go Muir Woods if wanting to park right at Muir Woods, near the Visitor Center. Regular parking spots are $8.50 per vehicle, while electric vehicle parking is $11.50 per vehicle. Based on our experience, we don't recommend purchasing an electric vehicle spot unless you book one of the early arrival times, such as 8-8:30am. That's because there are only two electric vehicle spots, and when we arrived for our appointed time, at 11:30am, both were already taken, so we had to park in standard parking anyway.
The parking time of your reservation indicates the time you need to arrive, but there's no set time by which you have to leave, so it often happens that those parking in the two electric vehicle spots are still around.
While booking parking, you can also pre-purchase entrance tickets. Adults 16 and older are $15 per person, while kids 15 and younger are free of charge. Alternatively, if you plan several trips to Muir Woods during the year, a Muir Woods Annual Pass is $45, while the America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass is $80 and permits entry into over 2000 parks and recreation areas. A Senior Citizen Annual Pass is just $20, a Lifetime Senior Pass is $80, and active U.S. Military enjoy a free Annual Pass for themselves and their dependents.
Be sure to either save your passes to your phone photos or print them out, because there's NO cell phone signal or public WiFi at Muir Woods. This also means you don't want to visit Muir Woods if you're expecting an important phone call or need WiFi access.
The free days at Muir Woods are the following, although we'd recommend NOT visiting on these days given how crowded they can be:
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
National Park Week (April)
August 4: One year anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act
August 25: National Park Service Birthday
September 25: National Public Lands Day
Muir Woods Tips
Note that the following are NOT allowed in Muir Woods:
That said, we made use of one of the benches outside the entrance to Muir Woods to have some lunch we brought with us. We also saw some other visitors who were eating food in benches inside the park, although that's in violation of the clear rules against picnics. The Muir Woods Trading Company Cafe offers food and drinks for purchases, including hot sandwiches from 11am onwards.
If you've already pre-purchased your Muir Woods entry tickets, you'll show them at the Visitor Center and be waved in. When we entered, around 12 noon, there was no line. Once inside, the trails, sometimes dirt and other times wooden, are very clear, and signs remind you to stay on them. Giant Sequoias, despite their towering height, have fairly shallow root systems that are generally 13 feet
There are several loop trails that take half an hour, an hour, or an hour and a half, as well as trails that lead into Mount Tamalpais State Park. We spent about two hours in Muir Woods, which was sufficient for the larger loop and breaks along the way.
Soon after you enter you'll see a cross-section of a tree born in 909 AD, so over 1000 years old:
One of our favorite parts was Cathedral Grove, which is designated as a quiet area. During our visit most visitors were good about respecting this, although unfortunately a few continued talking loudly.
This set of several large benches was a welcome spot for quiet contemplation:
If you've never seen the giant redwoods, some of them over 350 feet high, taller than a 30 story building, don't miss Muir Woods. A weekday visit is usually less crowded, but even if you can only make it there on the weekend, it's well worth planning ahead to reserve your tickets and the short drive north of San Francisco.
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