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Getting to Muir Woods from San Francisco for an epic day trip

Day trip to Muir Woods from San Francisco and wander among the old-growth redwood trees. They are the tallest of all living things and are centuries old.


Muir Woods is among the top sights in the San Francisco Bay Area, and people come from all over the world to see this ancient redwood forest. Take a day trip to Muir Woods from San Francisco and wander through one of the last old-growth coastal redwood forests on the planet.

A visit to Muir Woods is always an uplifting experience. Many of these trees were already hundreds of years old when Columbus sailed to America. They’ve survived fires and floods and droughts.

For more places to visit, check out our San Francisco Itinerary and Visit Alcatraz articles.

Here’s what’s in this article:

Family walking through the entrance to Muir Woods National Monument.
Entrance to Muir Woods National Monument.

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Where is Muir Woods?

The woods are located 12 miles (19.3 km) north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. The 560-acre park is in a canyon on the slope of Mount Tamalpais in Marin County. The trip (or ride) to the woods is really nice because it includes going over the Golden Gate Bridge (or taking a ferry to Sausalito) and travels on part of the winding, scenic Panoramic Highway.

Muir Woods National Monument is open from 8am until sunset all year long, even on major holidays.

Visitors on the Redwood Creek Trail, pass within arms-length of giant old growth redwoods.
Visitors pass within arms-length of giant old-growth redwoods along the Redwood Creek Trail

San Francisco to Muir Woods Map

Click the map image below to go to the expandable, interactive Google Map with the San Francisco to Muir Woods route plotted and locations pinned. The pins have brief descriptions.

Map showing the route between San Francisco and Muir Woods National Monument. Pins mark points of interest.
Click the map to open in Google Maps.

Getting to Muir Woods from San Francisco

Here are three ways to get to Muir Woods from San Francisco. Details for each of the three are covered in subsequent sections.

  1. Drive to Muir Woods
  2. Drive or take a ferry to a Muir Woods shuttle stop and take the shuttle
  3. Take one of the commercial tours offered in San Francisco

The following sections provide details about reservations and tickets and about the three ways to get to Muir Woods.

Boardwalk on the trail through Muir Woods. It protects the forest floor and tree roots.
The trail’s boardwalk provides and easy and accessible trail and also protects the forest floor and tree roots.

Muir Woods Reservations and Tickets

If you drive or take the shuttle you need to make and pay for reservations in advance. You must reserve and pay for parking if you drive, and you must reserve and pay for a shuttle ticket if you take the shuttle.

You can also purchase your park entry ticket(s) online at the same time you purchase/reserve parking or the shuttle. The entry tickets are $15 p/p for ages 16 and older.

Tip: Download or print your reservations and tickets. There is no cell service or WiFi at or around Muir Woods. Your reservations and tickets won’t work if they are only stored in the cloud.

A sign in Cathedral Grove in Muir Woods suggests walking quietly and listening to the sounds of nature.
An example the many signs along the trail. This sign is in Cathedral Grove.

Driving to Muir Woods and Parking Reservations

Reserve and pay for parking at gomuirwoods. The reservation is for a specific date and time. The parking fee is $8.50 per car. You can also purchase your entry ticket(s) to the park at the same time, or buy them at the entrance.

The time it takes to drive from San Francisco to Muir Woods depends on traffic and current conditions, but allow at least 45-minutes or, better yet, check with Google maps.

The shuttle to Muir Woods is fast, easy, and cheap and really helps reduce traffic on the Panorama Highway.
The shuttle to Muir Woods is fast, easy, and cheap, and it helps reduce traffic on the Panorama Highway.

Shuttle to Muir Woods

Big Change: Effective June 4, 2022, the Muir Woods shuttle pickup location at Sausalito’s Pohono Park and Ride has moved to Larkspur Landing (Larkspur’s Ferry Terminal).

Taking the shuttle to Muir Woods is a great option. It’s fast, inexpensive and helps relieve traffic congestion in the communities along the route. It takes about 35-40 minutes and travels through some really scenic areas in Mount Tamalpais State Park.

On a recent visit with my adult granddaughter, we drove to Larkspur Landing and took the shuttle up the narrow, windy road to Muir Woods. Later she said: “The shuttle was super convenient, and I truly would not want to drive there.”

There are now two shuttle locations operating. You can catch a shuttle in either Sausalito or Larkspur. The shuttles are currently available on weekends and holidays, but weekday shuttle service is scheduled to resume from June 20 until August 30, 2022.

The round-trip shuttle tickets are $3.50 per person; children 15 and younger ride free. The shuttle ticket is for a specific date and time. Purchase your shuttle ticket(s) in advance at gomuirwoods. You can also purchase your park entry ticket(s) at the same time, or buy them at the park entrance.

Shuttle Pickup Locations

  • In Sausalito: The shuttle picks up near the ferry terminal on Bay Street between Humboldt and Bridgeway (there are parking lots nearby, although they are not free). The shuttle ride from Sausalito takes about 35 minutes.
  • In Larkspur: The shuttle picks up in the Larkspur Landing parking lot (parking is free on weekends). The shuttle ride from Larkspur takes about 42 minutes.
Section of the trail in Muir Woods with an interpretive sign in the lower right corner.
Interpretive signs like the one in the lower right corner are placed throughout the park.

San Francisco to Muir Woods by Ferry and Shuttle

You can definitely get to Muir Woods from San Francisco without a car, and it adds a 30-minute ferry ride to the day’s adventure. Take a ferry from San Francisco to Sausalito. Once in Sausalito, walk two blocks to the bus stop on Bay Street (between Humboldt and Bridgeway) to take the Muir Woods Shuttle. The Sausalito Ferry Terminal and the shuttle bus stop are both pinned on our google map.

Ferries between San Francisco and Sausalito

Two ferry lines operate between San Francisco and Sausalito. Take whichever has the most convenient location and schedule for you.

  1. Take a Blue and Gold Fleet Ferry from Pier 41
  2. Take a Golden Gate Ferry from Gate B at the Ferry Building

You can take a ferry from San Francisco to Larkspur, but it’s not as easy. The ferry takes about an hour (each way) and the weekend schedule is limited.

Take a Muir Woods Tour from San Francisco

There are several great tours you can take to Muir woods, from half day to whole day. Here are some that we can recommend:

A comfortable bench along the winding boardwalk in Muir Woods.
There are comfortable wooden benches all along the trail.

Maps of Muir Woods

Download the official Muir Woods National Monument map and/or view the official NPS Muir Woods Trail map.

Muir Woods Trails

Everyone who visits Muir Woods likely takes the Redwood Creek Trail, but it’s not the only trail in the park. There are 6-miles of trails including Canopy View, Fern Creek, and Hillside.

Redwood Creek in Muir Woods.
Redwood Creek view from Bridge 2 in Muir Woods.

Redwood Creek Trail

The main trail follows along Redwood Creek and passes amazingly close to the trees. It’s a gorgeous, peaceful walk. There are interpretive signs along the trail with details about the park’s history and special areas like Bohemian Grove, and Cathedral Grove.

The Redwood Creek Trail is a level, easy walk. A lot of it is on a wooden boardwalk designed to protect the trees and forest floor; the rest of it is paved. For much of the trail’s 1-mile length there are trails on both sides of the creek, so you can switch sides at the bridges and/or loop back for a shorter walk.

Redwood Creek Trail
Bridge 2 loop0.5 mile (0.8 km)
Bridge 3 loop1.0 mile (1.6 km)
Bridge 4 loop2.0 miles (3.2 km)
DifficultyEasy
AccessibleYes
KidsOf course
DogsService dogs only
BikesNo

More Muir Woods Trails

Muir Woods trails signs with maps and descriptions for the Fern Creek and Canopy View trails.
Signs at the starting points for the Fern Creek and Canopy View trails with maps and descriptions.

Because a picture is worth a thousand words, I took the photos above on my recent visit to Muir Woods. These signs provide great information about the Canopy View and Fern Creek trails.

Visitors standing inside a huge hollowed-out redwood.
Photo op.

Sizing up the Redwood Trees

The coastal redwoods are Sequoia sempervirens and are the tallest living things on the planet. Some in Muir Woods are about 250 feet (76 m) high; the biggest tree is 12 feet wide (3.7 m). According to the National Park Service, many of the trees are 500 to 800 years-old and some are as much as 1000-years-old.

Cross-section of a giant redwood tree with rings marking important historical events between 909 A.D. and 1930.
Cross-section of a giant redwood tree with rings dating back to 909 A.D. Zoom in to read the dates.

Tree Rings

On the trail near the first bridge, checkout the redwood tree cross-section on display. It’s from a tree that fell in 1930. Its rings begin in 909 A.D., so the tree was 1021 years old when it fell. It’s rings are marked with significant events.

A cluster of old-growth redwood trees. They tend to grow in clusters called family circles.
A family circle of old-growth redwoods.

Family Circles

When a redwood dies, it’s massive root system often survives and sprouts new trees. The new trees grow in a circle around the old and are called family circles.

The forest floor is blanketed with redwood sorrel, a ground cover with small pink flowers and leaves similar to clover.
The forest floor is blanketed with redwood sorrel.

Is Muir Woods Great for Kids?

Yes! It’s especially fun for kids participating in the National Park System’s Junior Ranger Program. On a recent visit, my 9-year-old granddaughter said: “I wasn’t really interested in going until I learned they had a Jr. Ranger Program and once there, I really liked it a lot, and I’m glad we came.”

Sources for More Information:

  • There are 15-minute Tree-Talks scheduled throughout the day, when staffing permits. The schedule is posted at the Visitor Center. The Tree Talks are held in the Founders Grove on the main trail just beyond the Visitor Center.
  • Purchase a self-guided program at the Visitor Center for $1.
  • Inquire about Ranger-Led 1-hour tours. They seem to be on hold right now.
  • Read the really nice Interpretive signs along the main trail with details about the trees, the wildlife, and historical events.
  • Visit the NPS Muir Woods website.
Redwood sorrel on the forest floor. It’s a ground cover with small pink flowers and leaves similar to clover.
Redwood sorrel.

Is Muir Woods a National Park?

Muir Woods is a National Monument managed by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The GGNRA is part of the National Park System and operates 37 park sites around the Bay Area, including Alcatraz, Lands End, and the Presidio of San Francisco.

Looking up at the forest canopy at Muir Woods National Monument.
Sunlight filtering through the forest canopy.

Muir Woods Weather

Muir Woods is open from 8am until sunset every day of the year (including major holidays), and people visit throughout the year. Fall is generally the best weather (less fog, not much rain), but there are many gorgeous days throughout the year.

The temperature range in Muir Woods is 40°–70° F (4°–21° C). Fog is heaviest in summer. Our rainy season should be from October to April, but lately (unfortunately) we haven’t had much of a rainy season.

The National Park Service recommends visiting on a rainy day. They claim the trees provide great cover and are beautiful in the rain. If rain is in the forecast, bring a waterproof jacket and/or umbrella.

If it’s foggy, put on those extra layers and remember, fog is fantastic for the trees. They drink fog. Without fog there would be no coastal redwoods.

A couple of day-trippers on a beautiful and peaceful walk in Muir Woods.
A couple of day-trippers on a beautiful and peaceful walk through the woods.

When is the Best time of Day to Visit Muir Woods?

Early morning is best if you prefer smaller crowds. Midday is best if you prefer a warmer day and sunny skies. It can be overcast and chilly in the morning and again in late afternoon.

Is there Food at Muir Woods?

Muir Woods Café has a selection of snacks and hot and cold drinks and sandwiches. It has tables and seating outside. The Café is inside the Muir Woods Trading Company (gift shop), which is near the park entrance inside the park.

Good Things to Know

  1. There is no cell phone service or WiFi at or around Muir Woods. Your parking reservation or shuttle tickets won’t work if they are only stored in the cloud.
  2. Bring extra layers. Fog is fantastic for the trees, but for us visitors, it gets chilly when the fog rolls in.
  3. Watch out for poison oak. Check out the National Parks Poison Oak Guide if you’re not sure what it looks like.
Moss and ferns growing on the tree limbs in Muir Woods National Monument.
Moss and ferns growing on the tree limbs in Muir Woods National Monument.

The Connection to John Muir

John Muir loved nature and wanted to preserve and protect America’s wild and beautiful places. He was a naturalist and conservationist and worked tirelessly to get the Federal Government to create the National Park System.

Muir is known as the father of our National Parks because he fought to get places like Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Mt. Rainier set aside as National Parks. He is also the cofounder of the Sierra Club.

In 1905, businessman William Kent and his wife Elizabeth purchased the redwood filled canyon that is now Muir Woods. They did so to save the area from being flooded by a proposed dam project. They donated the land to the Federal Government with a request that it become a protected monument.

William Kent also specifically asked to have the monument named after John Muir to acknowledge and honor Muir’s work and influence toward getting our National Park System created. Muir Woods became a national monument in 1909. The National Park System was signed into law in 1916.

Conclusion

When he learned that the park had been named after him, John Muir said, “This is the best tree-lover’s monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world.” I hope you find Muir Woods as wonderful as John Muir did, and as I do. It really is a one-of-a kind place and the National Park Service has created a trail system through the trees that makes it assessable to almost everyone.

If you like trails with great views, you might like Best Urban Hikes in San Francisco and if you’re looking for more things to do in San Francisco, check out San Francisco Attractions.

About the Author

Ginny Vail is a travel writer, whose goal is to help you pack your travels with more adventure and less stress. Her posts, photos, and videos will help you discover places to visit, sights to see, sight locations, ways to get to them, and when to go. She is a native Californian, and, although she’s visited all 50 states and traveled around the world, her main focus is the San Francisco Bay Area, where she lives.