A grove of thousand-year-old skyscrapers stands 12 miles north of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. These coast redwoods, Sequoia sempervirens, which loom more than 260 feet, are the main attraction at Muir Woods National Monument.
The 560-acre park was created in 1908 after local Congressman William Kent and his wife, Elizabeth, realized that the land around Redwood Creek held the last uncut old-growth redwoods in the area. They bought the land and gave it to the U.S. government, and President Theodore Roosevelt declared it a national monument. In the early 1900s, visitors came to picnic or just to stand in awe of the giant trees. Although picnicking is no longer permitted, residents and visitors alike still flock to the monument to gape at the trees and hike the six miles of trails (including 1.5 miles that are wheelchair accessible) that now marble the park.
Muir Woods is open year-round, and each season has its own allure. Autumn is the warmest and the forest is aflutter with monarch butterflies and golden maple leaves. In winter the creek is alive with spawning steelhead and salmon, and in spring you can spot nesting birds and blooming wildflowers like leopard lilies and fairybells. Although summer fills the woods with fog, flowering azaleas and aralias are still vibrant below the tremendous treetops.
If you get hungry trekking the trails, head to the Muir Woods Cafe for a deli sandwich or a hot dog. If you're looking for fancier fare, try the nearby Mountain Home Inn where you can sit on a deck that overlooks the forest and feast on pan-roasted Petaluma chicken breast with polenta, mushrooms, tomatoes, wild watercress, and Point Reyes Blue Cheese.
Photography courtesy USFS
This article was first published in November 2005. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.
The park is open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset. To avoid the summer parking crush, take Golden Gate Transit bus #63 to the Mountain Home Inn and hike 1 mile to the park. Otherwise, take Highway 101 to the Highway 1/ Muir Woods Exit and follow the signs to Muir Woods.
Admission for adults is $3 and free for those 16 and under. (415) 388-2595, www.nps.gov/muwo.