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.)
11 thoughts on “Summer Tales 2022 Day 3 | Muir Woods National Monument + Muir Beach”
What a beautiful spot and how lucky you are that you’re close enough to visit it again! I love seeing all the photos.
You are so lucky to live driving distance from so many incredible places! I can see how you haven’t been here before since there is soooo much to do around you!
I can’t get over how old your niece and nephew are either!! They look so grown up!
It sounds like the trip went so well. It takes a special family to do a 3-week road trip. I could not do that with mine to be completely honest… I’d only want to do a long road trip with Phil! And eventually with my children but not until they are heartier travelers! I adore my parents and love to go on short vacations with them but 3 weeks would be too long for everyone I think!
Gorgeous! I haven’t been to CA in so long and your pictures make me want to go there ASAP.
idk what is with these kids growing up. I used to live with two small boys and now I live with two very charming and responsible young men.
These photos are SO beautiful. I love being in the forest and this is just at a whole other level of beauty and scale.
Long roadtrips are…exhausting. I did one myself this summer and it had lots of ups and downs. I can 100% appreciate it is a lot to juggle, especially if you’re traveling with a broader family unit. Sounds like a great time was had by all.
And yes, it is CRAZY how quickly time seems to go by when you look at comparison photos of children. How sweet they wanted to recreate the shot – it makes for an extra special memory to have a “before” and “after” where they go from kids to teens.
Beautiful photos! I agree, sometimes the closest spots are just not on the radar!
Awe, just love the pic of you and your niece and nephew …. it’s just crazy how quickly time flies.
So so happy you had a great time with your family this summer.
Your opening line about having lived in California for 20 years and never having been to Muir Woods made me laugh- because I have been very few places in California, but I HAVE been to Muir Woods!! Haha! My husband’s cousin and family lived in Modesto (now they moved….somewhere else a little further south- can’t remember where, but still in CA). Anyway, we’ve been out there twice, and on our first trip we spent a few days in San Fran and visited Muir Woods when the boys were quite young. I LOVED it!!! I have spectacular photos, as you clearly do, too. I think I hugged that same tree. (hahaha- just kidding, there are a lot of trees, so that would be unlikely, lol.) We also went down to Muir Beach and I remember the tide was way out when we were there. We didn’t have swimsuits along, and the water was freezing, but I remember the boys gleefully running way out to the water’s edge and stripping down to their underwear to go in! (They were little, so this was still acceptable, lol!). Anyway, what a gorgeous place. What an amazing place to take your visitors! I’d love to go back again sometime. I think that totally makes sense about your husband! It is a long time and I also agree that road tripping with a big group, while charming in so many ways, also presents some challenges. :)
I remember walking through the redwoods many decades ago and it was such a great experience. Muir Woods National Monument sounds like a park I would immensely enjoy. Thank you for putting it on my radar. If I ever make it to CA I’ll try to put in a stop there.
And all those family pictures are treasure.
Wow- these pictures are stunning. I love the one looking up into the redwoods. I can see why you’ve never been to this park- there are so many gorgeous areas in Northern California, it’s probably hard to get to them all. It’s great having people visit because you end up sightseeing in your own area. I LOVE the two photos of the kids holding hands!!!
These pictures are stunning! Adding it to a place I *must* visit whenever I make it to California. One of these days!
A 3-week road trip that involves a lot of physical hikes and family time is not for the faint of heart, and I think it’s great that you understand that it’s not something that works for Jon!
Ohhh, Muir Woods. <3 I visited there one of the first weekends I lived in northern CA, decades ago! I still remember some of those views. So, so glad you got there AND got to share it with your family.
Another thing I love? How you and Jon get each other, support each other, and understand that what is great for you might not be great for the other person. It seems like a wonderful partnership. <3
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