I am not much of a “back to nature” kind of guy. It has been close to 20 years since I have gone camping, and I am cool with Bear Mountain being the extent of my hiking experience. But Muir Woods National Monument is a totally different experience.
|William Kent - By unknown; image from Collection of U.S. House of Representatives [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons|
Only 12 miles north of San Francisco, Muir Woods is an old growth Redwood forest. The land was purchased by William Kent in 1905 to prevent it from being turned into a reservoir. It was designated as a National Monument in 1908 by Teddy Roosevelt, and it was Mr. Kent who introduced legislation to form the National Park Service in in 1916. The Woods were named after John Muir, who is known as America’s first environmentalist. He founded the Sierra Club and advocated for the protection of natural lands in the late 1800’s.
The valley of trees
Old giants tower above
Walk below in awe
If you have never actually seen redwood trees, I can tell you that my pictures don’t really do them justice. They can grow to over 300 feet tall and more than 20 feet in circumference. Here they envelope the valley alongside the Redwood Creek, giving almost constant shade and quiet to the paths below. I walked up to the northern end of the main trail, just past the Cathedral Grove and sat on bench. Surrounded by these giants, and the sound of the creek and the breeze passing through the leaves, it was peaceful, except for the voices of people passing by. It is not hard to imagine what it must have been like to walk along the valley before it was developed.
People walk and talk
Not thinking about others
Or the giants here
Sitting in the quiet, it is also interesting to observe how other people react to the woods. Some come through and fill up the valley with jarring noise. It is as if they are here only because this is another Bay Area sight to check off of their list. Take some pictures, buy a souvenir and spend an hour walking and talking about where you are going next. Others come through respectful of the place and people around them. If not actually whispering, they speak in soft tones, look at their surroundings and move slowly and thoughtfully. Me, I sit here writing down my thoughts and enjoying the place that is the Muir Woods. I get stares from some people and smiles from others.
|The wood really is red|
Redwood trees grow here
For a thousand years they live
We pass in seconds
|Can you see the bear that got caught in the tree?|
|How about this bear?|
Notes on the Hike: The main path goes north for almost a mile from the visitor’s center. It is wither paved or a wooden boardwalk for that entire length. This makes it an easy hike for everyone – about a two mile round trip. If you want more adventurous experiences, there are many hiking trails off of the main trail that will take you through and over the mountain.
Getting There: Take California 101 north from San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge. Take Exit 445B to CA-1 north. After 3.5 miles (uphill) turn right onto Panoramic Highway. Travel 0.8 miles and turn left onto Muir Woods Road. The entrance will be on the right after 1.5 miles.
Tours: There are many tours to the Muir Woods available from SF. The advantages are that you don’t have to worry about parking or driving along what to some might be nerve wracking mountain roads. The disadvantage is that they limit your time there.