Growing up in Northern California, I’ve been lucky enough to take a few trips to Muir Woods. I remember the way the air smells when you step out of the car and are surrounded by these towering giants. Muir Woods is great because it’s quite accessible, even for people with disabilities or children in small strollers. Many of the paths are shorter and consist of raised wooden walkways. If you’re coming from Sacramento, it’s not a tough drive until the last part where it gets a little windy and takes about only 2 hours.
But if you’re like me and haven’t been in a while, here are a few tips you should know before visiting.
1. You have to reserve parking
I know it sounds crazy, especially because it wasn’t like this until recently. Plus, it’s a bit ridiculous to have to make a reservation to visit a national park, but I guess this is their way of managing the flow of people and making sure the park doesn’t get overcrowded. So the days of spontaneously hopping in the car and making the trip out will have to be a little bit more planned out. Anyway, we learned the hard way, even if you go quite early, parking may be sold out for the day, so be on the safe side and make a reservation here. Or you can make a reservation for one of the shuttles that can take you from off site parking to Muir Woods, either way, you’re gonna need some pre-planning.
2. It’s crowded
If you’re looking for the Muir Woods of your childhood where you could get the quiet grove of redwoods to yourself, think again, especially on the weekend. Now, it reminds me a little bit of the Disneyland of national parks. Sometimes, you may be walking in a line of people through the groves. Because it’s so accessible and there’s a push for people to get out and enjoy the outdoors, this park has skyrocketed in its popularity. If you’re lucky enough to work a more flexible schedule, try going on a weekday or head there early. When we went, by an hour after the park’s opening, the parking was completely full, all shuttles were taken until 6pm, and there were people everywhere.
3. There is NO cellphone reception
This usually isn’t a problem for enjoying nature, but it is a problem if you’re trying to reserve parking or a shuttle on the day of…see above point about reserving in advance. Also, do not think that you can call an uber anywhere in this area…we tried, it was a no go.
4. It is possible to hike into the park
There is a trail that runs from Muir Beach area to Muir Woods. It’s about 3 miles long, and goes through scenic hills and meadows. Part of the trail is under renovations, but once it’s open, this is another option and there’s free and plentiful (if you arrive early) parking at the Muir Beach site.
5. There’s a Cafe
And from what I’ve heard, they make a damn good grilled cheese sandwich. So no worries if you forgot to pack a picnic and are feeling hangry.
6. Don’t forget to look up
Especially in the Cathedral Grove, walk through these trees and look up to see the latticework of branches above you. Breathe in the clean, crisp air.