Corbitt's National Parks
     Muir Woods
               National Monument


1908: National Monument

Size: 554 acres

2008 visitors: 838,292

Stamp: yes

Rating (1-5):

About the Site

Not far from San Francisco, some 30 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge, lies a stand of old-growth coastal redwood trees. Walk through this forest and you'll get an idea of what it was like to live 300 years ago, when forests covered the continent. Now, only 150,000 acres of old-growth redwoods remain, and here is where you'll find wonderful examples of the world's tallest trees. This is an ancient stand of trees, surrounded by ferns and moss and lichens; steelhead and salmon swim the Redwood Creek.

Muir Woods was a gift to the U.S. Government by William Kent. He and his wife bought the woods in 1905 for $45,000 and planned to make it a tourist destination. After a time, however, they decided to keep the land and the trees as a preserve. Finally they donated it to the government, and President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed it a National Monument. Kent insisted the area be named after conservationist John Muir.

What You're Going to See

Prepare to be awed. These trees are huge - thick and tall and simply wonderful. There's a cathedral-like feeling in these woods; you feel Nature in all Her glory here. It's quiet, so very quiet, one naturally speaks in a hushed voice. Whether that's due to the shade that prevents flowers, and insects and birds, or whether one feels reverence for such a beautiful spot, only you can decide. But take your time here, walk the paths slowly, read the literature from the rustic visitors center and learn about the fish, about the narrow redwood root system, learn how these magnificent trees can only survive here where they're fed 40 inches of rainfall in the winter, and nourished with coastal fog in the summer.

The trees are huge, solemn, imposing. Some trees have been hollowed out by lightning; others have come crashing down, sometimes taking other redwoods with them. It's shady and quiet and raising one's voice seems nearly a sacrilege. It makes it hard to take good pictures; the redwoods are so tall they don't fit in the lens of a camera. They block most of the light. And they're tall, tall, tall.

Personal Observations

We felt almost ashamed to let our kids run and shout along the paths. No one gave us dirty looks, there were no signs saying "Keep Children in Check", but the woods just have that effect. The visitors center is wonderful, lots of things to learn, there's a grill too for hungry travelers. The road to Muir Woods is twisting, so don't drive a long vehicle. The parking lots fill up quickly, so getting there early in the morning makes sense.

Getting There

From San Francisco, drive north on Highway 101 over the Golden Gate Bridge. At Tamalpais Valley, turn left on Highway 1. After two or three miles, turn right on the Muir Woods Road, and follow the signs to the Monument.

Nearby Attractions

What a wonderful area of the country. Within a few miles of Muir Woods, you'll find: Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial, John Muir National Historic Site, Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park, Fort Point National Historic Site, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, Eugene O'Neill National Historic Park, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and Point Reyes National Seashore. Don't forget California Coastal National Monument.

Visited July 2003.