Can you believe I have lived in California for 20 years and I had not been to Muir Woods National Monument? Just don’t ask! I don’t have a good excuse other than sometimes the things that are closest to you are not always on your radar.
Well, needless to say, I was so happy that we put it on our itinerary and I can already say that I will definitely be back with Jon*.
We had breakfast on the hotel’s outdoor patio at 8:30 am and then headed out for our day trip. It was a 40-min drive to Muir Wood National Monument. I had reserved parking in advance (this is currently mandatory if you don’t arrive with a shuttle bus) and we had to be there between 11-11:30 am.
The parking lot was big and quite busy, but we luckily got parking spaces close to each other. At the entrance, I bought two Annual National Park passes (which we were going to use at other National Parks on our trip). With the “Annual Pass” you can visit all National Parks in the USA for the whole year and when you consider that admission (per car) to each park often costs between $20-30 and we were planning to visit at least 5 parks, the Annual Pass for $80 is a very good deal! Bonus point: I can use it for more trips for the next
12 9 months!
The park is pretty amazing. It’s like stepping into an oasis of calm. Muir Woods preserves one of the last remaining old-growth coastal redwood forests. The canopy is huge, and the climate feels moist and cool, almost like a “rain forest”, due to the forest being regularly shrouded in a coastal marine layer fog, contributing to a wet environment that encourages vigorous plant growth. The fog is also vital for the growth of the redwoods as they use moisture from the fog during drier seasons. It was also surprisingly quiet to walk among these huge trees and quite awe-inspiring.
We then hiked part of the Redwood Creek Trail, which goes through the redwood forest at ground level over planks along Redwood Creek. Redwood Creek has several small bridges and at Bridge 4 you can switch onto the Hillside Trail where you can climb up the hillside and then hike back to the Visitor Center on a dirt trail. It was super fun and gave you a slightly different perspective on the redwoods.
I definitely recommend a visit if you’re ever in Northern California!
We stopped for a late lunch break at the Muir Woods Trading Company Gift Shop. We brought our lunch and some snacks, which this little fellow – a chipmunk – was also interested in. But we didn’t feed him – that’s forbidden in the park.
Then I suggested driving over to the Muir Beach Overlook. I was there years ago and remembered the iconic path/stairs leading out onto the cliff edge with great views of the Northern Californian Coast and Muir Beach below. I didn’t want to deprive my family of these lovely views.
Muir Beach Overlook is one of the several base-station overlooks along this stretch of highway 1. These were used as lookouts to spot incoming ships, and many housed artillery units to protect San Francisco in case of attack. These spots became increasingly crucial after Pearl Harbor to watch for future attacks near San Francisco. After the technology improved, the sites eventually became obsolete, but are still important reminders of Northern California’s history.
It was cool and quite windy, but the views were well worth it.
Of course, we also drove down to Muir Beach, a small, quiet cove tucked away in the redwood trees of Muir Woods National Monument. It’s just a short walk from the parking lot down to the water. The kids were quite excited as they were eager to get down to the ocean. Just looking at it from above is stupid for obvious reasons: you can’t put your feet in the water.
At this point, I’d like to ask again: who are these two (almost) teenagers and where did my little niece and nephew go? They were just here a minute ago….
When my family visited in 2015, we took a “hand-in-hand” photo of the two at the beach in Carmel and they thought it would be fun to take a similar picture again. You can hardly see a difference, or can you?
2015 – Carmel by the Sea
2022 – Muir Beach
We hung out and enjoyed the view of the ocean for a little while longer, but then really had to head back to the hotel. We were in a bit of a rush as we still had to find a restaurant for dinner that wasn’t too far from where we were staying. Luckily, we found an Italian restaurant, Aurora Ristorante Italiano, close by and it turned out to be a very good choice. The restaurant was on a quiet side street and had a cozy flair, and the food was authentic and delicious. What a great end to a wonderful day!
Next up… San Francisco!
*In case you noticed that Jon is missing from these pictures, it’s because he did not travel with us. There were a couple of reasons, one being the fact that traveling in a large group like this is not for everyone. While he adores my family and loves being around them (and we all did have a few wonderful days together in Sacramento), spending three weeks non-stop together on a road trip would have probably been too much for most people. I can respect that.
I am recapping the wonderful time that I had with my family here in the States this summer. See all related posts under the category: summer tales. (I’ve done these recap posts the last few times when I had family visit, and if you want to see how fast kids grow up, check out one of the previous posts from 2015.)