Muir Woods Main Loop Trail, Muir Woods National Monument - Entrance Station, San Francisco: Marin Headlands - Mt Tamalpais - Point Reyes, California
Muir Woods Main Loop Trail - 2.5 miles
Muir Woods National Monument - Entrance Station
|Round-Trip Length:||2.5 miles (distance may vary slightly depending on route)|
|Start-End Elevation:||150 ' - 150 ' (290' max elevation at Bridge #4 or 365' max elevation on Hillside Trail)|
|Elevation Change:||0' net elevation change (+250' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Muir Woods Main Loop Trail - 2.5 Miles Round-Trip
Muir Woods is a remnant of ancient coast redwood forests that blanketed Northern California coastal valleys before the 1800s. William and Elizabeth Kent recognized the importance of preserving these forests and purchased much of the Muir Woods area in 1905.
To ensure permanent protection, they donated 295 acres to the federal government; in 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt designated the area a National Monument.
At the request of William Kent the park was named for John Muir, an ardent conservationist, philosopher, scientist and author.
"This is the best tree-lover's monument that could be possibly found in all the forests of the world. You have done me great honor, and I am proud of it." - John Muir to William Kent.
California coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) are the world's tallest living organisms, and there are few better showcases than Muir Woods National Monument. The Main Loop Trail is a short and easy excursion for anyone, a wide, flat wood-plank trail lined by old growth redwoods.
The trail begins its interpretive portion section from the second bridge on the Main Loop. Be sure to purchase the interpretive brochure at the entrance station prior to embarking. Follow the numbered markers as each have their own story to tell about the ecology of Muir Woods.
Primitive plants line the trail, creating a lush green forest floor and include horsetail, ferns, moss and lichens. Redwood Creek, which follows the trail and flows through Muir Woods, provides a perennial water source for plants, animals, and a protected habitat for spawning Coho and Steelhead Salmon.
At .45 miles you'll reach the Hillside Trail junction. The Hillside Trail runs parallel to the Main Loop Trail but at a slightly higher elevation, providing an 'aerial' view of Muir Woods. Should you choose this spur, the Hillside Trail eventually returns you to Bridge #4 at the top of the Main Loop Trail.
Should you not take the Hillside Trail, continue along the Main Loop Trail and at .6 miles, you reach Cathedral Grove, a 'quiet area' where visitors are asked to remain silent. The coastal redwoods in Cathedral Grove are some of the biggest in Muir Woods and the trail remains easy through this section for the next .5 miles.
At the end of Cathedral Grove, you can either turn back and complete the loop via the Main Loop Trail, or you can cross bridge #4 and take the Hillside Trail (mentioned above) back to the main trail. Please note that the Hillside trail cannot accommodate wheelchairs.
Over 150 million years ago Redwood and Redwood-like trees covered most of the Northern Hemisphere. As the climate changed, redwoods thinned out and today there are only two species of redwoods in California: the coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), seen here in Muir Woods, and the Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) found in Yosemite and Sequoia / Kings Canyon National Park.
While the giant sequoia grows in greater bulk, the coast redwood grows taller, reaching recorded heights of up to 379' (tree located in Redwood National Park). This makes them the tallest living organisms in the world.
The tallest coastal redwoods in Muir Woods are in the Bohemian and Cathedral Groves; the tallest tree in the park stands over 252' high with a maximum width of over 14'.
Redwoods can live to be 2000 years old. The average age of the coast redwoods in Muir Woods is between 600 and 800 years, with the oldest tree over coming in at over 1200 years. Redwoods grow best in moderate temperatures and need significant moisture to thrive. Part of the reason why redwoods thrive along the California coast is due to year round fog.
This perennial fog condenses on the leaves and needles of the trees, drips to the ground and provides redwoods with annual moisture, even during the dry season.
Redwoods are best known for their thick, spongy red bark. The bark itself can be from from 6 to 12 inches thick and insulates mature redwoods against fire damage. Redwoods get their color and name from the reddish-brown, bitter chemical tannin. Tannin makes the bark and wood resistant to fire and attack by fungi and insects.
- The park is cool, shaded, and moist year round. Daytime temperatures at Muir Woods average between 40 and 70 degrees Farenheit. Be prepared for rain if visiting the park between November and April.
- Remain on established trails. Poison oak and stinging nettles are common and are a painful reminder to stay on designated paths. Muir Woods is accessible to those with limited mobility. The main loop is wheelchair accessible.
- $5.00 -- Adult (16 years of age and older); children under 15 are free
- $20.00 -- Muir Woods Annual Pass
- Annual Passes are good for 12 months. It admits the pass holder and all accompanying passengers in a private vehicle to Muir Woods National Monument in Mill Valley, CA and John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez, CA.
- Day-Use entry fees are also valid for same-day use at John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez, CA.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Camping is not permitted in Muir Woods, however there are numerous campgrounds in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Marin Headlands, Mt. Tamalpais State Park and Point Reyes National Seashore.
While fishing is not permitted in Muir Woods National Monument, it's an excellent place to see two different species: The Coho or Silver Salmon and Steelhead Trout. Adults fish appear in the winter as they make their way to Redwood Creek to spawn. Coho can be seen first in the creek from December - January, then Steelhead from January - March.
The Coho will both begin and end their lives in Redwood Creek. The Steelhead, however, will race back out to sea after spawning in hopes of returning the next year.
Rules and Regulations
- Smoking is strictly prohibited within the park. Smoking is permitted in the parking area and entrance plaza.
- Picnics and Biking are not permitted within the monument.
- Take only memories and leave only footprints. Muir Woods National Monument is nationally protected. Taking rocks, sticks or anything from the monument is strictly prohibited and a violation of federal law.
Directions to Trailhead
Directions to Muir Woods National Monument
Muir Woods is located 11 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Take Highway 101 to the Highway 1/ Stinson Beach Exit. Follow the signs to Muir Woods. Roads to the park are steep and winding with beautiful but distracting views. Please pay attention to oncoming traffic. Vehicles over 35 feet long are prohibited. Parking space is very limited and fills quickly on most days. There are no RV parking facilities.
Muir Woods National Monument
Mill Valley, CA 94941-2696
Visitor Information Recorded Message: (415) 388-2595
Headquarters: (415) 388-2596
Information For Hearing Impaired (TTY): (415) 556-2766
By Fax: (415) 389-6957
The park is open from 8 am to sunset, including holidays.
Approximate closing times for the year:
- Sunday, January 25 -- 6 pm
- Sunday, March 8 -- 8 pm
- Sunday, September 20 --7 pm
- Sunday, October 11 -- 6 pm
- Sunday, November 1 -- 5 pm
Currently the Visitor Center closes at 7:30 pm. The Cafe/ Gift Shop close at 5:00 pm. The Park closes at 8:00 pm.