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Writer and photographer Garrick Ramirez, photo

How to Beat the Crowds at Muir Woods

Posted by Garrick Ramirez on January 04, 2018
a trail through Muir Woods, picture
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Photo: MNStudio/Shutterstock
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This January, Muir Woods National Monument celebrates 110 years and implements a new reservation system to reduce crowds.

On January 9, 2018, Muir Woods National Monument marks 110 years of delighting awestruck visitors with its forest of magnificent old-growth redwoods. To ensure the continued enjoyment of future guests, the famously touristed park is introducing a reservation system for parking and shuttles. Here's what you need to know about the new system, plus tips on how to enjoy the big trees minus the large crowds.

Reserve a Parking Space

Beginning January 16, 2018, all parking spaces at Muir Woods must be reserved in advance. Reservations are $8 per car and can be made up to 90 days in advance at gomuirwoods.com. While the new system is expected to level out visitation peaks and valleys, mornings and late afternoons have historically been the quietest times to visit. The first reservation at 8 a.m. is a good option for day hikers, while late afternoon visitors are rewarded with golden light and frequent wildlife sightings including gray foxes and black-tailed deer.

Take the Muir Woods Shuttle

Given the park’s limited parking, the Muir Woods Shuttle—which picks up at the Sausalito Ferry Landing and Pohono Street Park & Ride—is a convenient alternative to driving. Starting January 16, the shuttle will run year-round and be available via advance reservation only. Round trip fare is $3 per person (16 years and older) and can be reserved at gomuirwoods.com.

Hike In

For those who want to add a little adventure to their journey, the Marin Stagecoach offers a shuttle-and-hike option to Muir Woods. The daily Route 61 shuttle, which picks up at various locations between Marin City and Bolinas, will zip you up to Mountain Home Inn where you can follow the adjacent Panoramic Trail to the Canopy View Trail (formerly Ocean View Trail) as it descends roughly 1.75 miles through evergreen forests and into the park’s dense redwood canyon. Check the Marin Transit site for route info and times. Or skip the shuttle and make the trek entirely on foot. From the quaint village of Mill Valley at Cascade Drive and Molino Avenue, you can hike directly to the park via the Dipsea Trail, a tough but classic route. Alternatively, you can hike down to Muir Woods via the steep Bootjack Trail from the Pantoll Ranger Station at Mt. Tam.

Visit During the Winter Off-Season

November through February are not only Muir Woods’ quietest months, but also park rangers’ favorite season, when rain brings the forest to life with vibrant hues and fragrances. Winter also marks the start of salmon migration when adult cohos wiggle their way up Redwood Creek, usually from December to February. During this time, you might also spy the elusive spotted owl, an endangered species that nests in the forest.

Get Off the Beaten Path

Most visitors to Muir Woods are content to stroll the Main Trail that leads to the park’s notable features such as the serene Cathedral Grove. Yet, branch off along one of the many spur trails, and it’ll feel like you have the park to yourself. For a diverse sampling of Northern California landscapes, try the 4.5-mile loop that begins with the Ben Johnson Trail as it leads through a dark forest before emerging to inspiring coastal views along the ridgetop Dipsea Trail and descends through an oak and bay laurel forest back to the park’s entrance.

Read More: Hit the Road for a Marin County Day Trip