Tag Archives: Muir Woods

Three ways to beat the crowds at Muir Woods

One of the Bay Areas top visitor spots is Muir Woods. It was beautiful when I was there yesterday. I’ll never tire of the walk to Cathedral Grove along the banks of Redwood Creek. But it can get a little crowded. In fact this year, visitation is up 10 per cent  — or about 1 million people a year. I was surprised to learn that the days after Christmas can be as busy as any summer weekend!  Unfortunately the shuttle bus service is suspended due to the slide on Highway 1 and that the County is blocking parking along the county road. It had me thinking, if you want to visit the redwoods but want to avoid the Muir Woods crush, where should you go?

I have three suggestions for other spots to try.  They are all close by and have the added advantage of being kid friendly!

Live in the South Bay? Head down the coast and turn inland at Pescadero to find Butano Redwoods State Park. Much like Muir Woods, the highlight is a beautiful trail that follows Little Butano Creek with redwoods cloaking both sides.  Head up to the campground to see some of the largest trees in the park. And on your way out, stop at Bean Hollow State Beach and watch the breakers roll in.  It’s a grand day out!

Headed North across the Golden Gate Bridge? Instead of getting off at Muir Woods, head out on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard as it winds out to West Marin and stop at Samuel P. Taylor State Park. You could start our at the picnic area and admire the classic CCC hearths — you could even throw on a log and heat up your tea. Kids, young and old alike, will enjoy playing on the old stumps.  Then take a walk over the bridge to the Cross Marin Trail. It’s a great place to ride your bike, or just enjoy a walk along the creek.  Then hike up Wildcat Canyon to see some of the tallest trees in the Bay Area. If you’re feeling ambitious, follow the Pioneer trail up the the hill to an unusual grove at the top.

Want to stay in the East Bay?   It may lack the grandeur of the ancient forest, but my kids love to go to Roberts Regional Recreation Area.  It’s got a great playground and a beautiful redwood grove where they can play to their hearts content.  You can follow the short trail and see the site of the “landmark trees” — redwood beacons used by the early sailors on the bay.

Do you have other places to recommend? Let me know!

Questing at Muir Woods

Day two of spring break — and we moved the adventure from Cal Academy and Golden Gate Park to Muir Woods. A place I have spent many hours and never tire of. Each time I go I discover something new. It constantly amazes me that a place essentially surrounded by the hubbub of the Bay Area can feel so quiet and peaceful — even with tour buses disgorging countless visitors each hour.

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Muir Woods — a sanctuary by the bay
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Questing underway!

What you may not know is that Save the Redwoods League worked with staff at Muir Woods to create a fun Quest that guides you around the woods — essentially a poetic treasure hunt that has you counting posts, looking for different plants, exploring goose pens and even skipping through the woods all while learning about the redwoods that tower above you.  It was a perfect way to distract two boisterous boys — with the promise of treasure hidden at the end of the trail!

We paused by the creek right by the parking lot — a place few people visit and where even fewer stay — while we hunted for life in the creek. It was wonderful to see the tiny fish dart around us. And for once the kids went beyond just picking up rocks and throwing them in the water, to examining each rock for aquatic bugs before they threw them in the water!  They found countless creepy crawlies and were only disappointed that the water skater remained aloof and refused to be caught and placed in our bucket.   Next time we’ll bring a dipping net — so watch out bugs!

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Don’t hit your brother!
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Bug skeletons
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Lunch pails double as dipping pails
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Perhaps a dragon fly nymph?