If your little one doesn’t exactly exhibit reverence for things older and taller than them (especially around bedtime), take ‘em to Muir Woods National Monument. It’s one of the last old-growth redwood forests on the planet and one of the only native salmon runs in California. Plus, there’s more than a few opportunities for your tiny treehugger to duck into a massive tree hollow and ham it up for your Instagram feed.
Why It’s So Special
Muir Woods sports a variety of tree types but everyone’s here to see the Sequoia Sempervirens. These coast redwoods are the tallest—and one of the oldest—living things on earth. Why coastal? Because they like the summer fog probably more than you do; it supplies them with nearly half of their water intake. The tallest tree in Muir Woods is over 250 feet and most trees are between 600 to 800 years old. The oldest tree is thought to be 1,200 years young which is merely middle-age for redwoods.
William Kent noted how special these trees were when he and his wife purchased the land in 1905. Two years later, he donated it to the federal government and in 1908 it was proclaimed a National Monument
Muir Woods sports a number of trails but most visitors are content with the Main Trail Loop. And rightly so: It’s an easy, level stroll that passes through the park’s most notable features including the hushed, awesomeness of Cathedral Grove. You can tailor the path’s length (½ hour, hour or 1 ½ hours) by choosing one of four bridges to cross to head back. Godsend for Gracos: the Main Trail is a stroller-friendly mix of boardwalk and paved road.
Salmon Rush In
Redwood Creek begins on Mount Tam, winds through Muir Woods and flows out into the Pacific at nearby Muir Beach. In Winter, Coho Salmon and Steelhead Salmon (the fish formerly known as Steelhead Trout) return from the ocean to swim back upstream and spawn. You can catch them after heavy rains in December and throughout March. Watch for their offspring in summer months, darting in the deep pools that collect along the river.
Earn a Badge
One of the most enjoyable aspects of visiting Muir Woods with young kids is their ability to become a Junior Ranger. Just pick up a free activity book from the Visitor Center and complete a series of hands-on exercises that guide you through the park. Upon completion, your child will be awarded a cool, wooden badge and get sworn in as an official Junior Ranger.
There’s no Coke or Cheetos in the redwoods (this is Marin after all). Instead, you’ll find a cafe offering line-caught tuna and organic peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as well and the Marin Melt, a toasty sandwich that’s made with local cheeses and was featured on the Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate.
Nope, it’s not a typo: the gift shops within the park are plural. Muir Woods Trading Company has all the trappings of a tourist stop (think bear statuary carved from wood) while the Visitor Center bookstore stocks a smartly-curated selection of books and toys.
The Parking Situation
On a scale of one to ten, the parking at Muir Woods is a North Beach on a Saturday night. In fact, tip #2 on a list of park ranger’s tips recommends you go somewhere else! We recommend you park at the Pohono St. Park and Ride and catch the shuttle, which, starting June 20 of 2015 runs every day through October 25, 2015. Check out the schedule here.
Good to Know
- Entrance fees are $7.00/adults ages 16 and up and free for children ages 15 and under. Check the site for free days throughout the year.
- The redwoods host a wide array of life and they all like the thermostat turned down low. Even when it’s warm in the parking lot, it’s cold and moist in the groves so don’t leave jackets in the car.
- There are two full-service restrooms at Muir Woods: one in the parking lot and another adjacent to Muir Woods Trading Company in the park.
Muir Woods National Monument
1 Muir Woods Road
Mill Valley, Ca
Have you visited Muir Woods yet? Let us know in the Comments!
All images courtesy of the author