Muir Woods National Park is a scenic national park, home to coastal redwoods, which are the largest tree species in the world. There is a vast, lively ecosystem within the confines of this park, providing visitors with an opportunity to view a range of unique plant and animal species up close and personal. Located just 11 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge, Muir Woods National Park was declared a national monument in 1908.
It is home to an array of birds, plants and other forms of wildlife. Muir Woods National Park often hosts large groups of visitors and schoolchildren, all eager to learn about the various aspects of nature in a scenic environment. Moreover, this park offers unlimited opportunities to become educated about nature and the environment and the importance of conservation. The forest as a whole is somewhat dark and dense, making it easy for wildlife to be somewhat unseen. However, this is a bustling forest, full of creatures large and small, many of which are nocturnal.
Visitors can enjoy spending time in the Muir Woods National Park year-round, taking advantage of the mild northern California climate. Those wanting to get more involved in the inner working of maintaining the forest can explore the numerous volunteer opportunities, with a range of positions from working with educational groups to assisting with conservation efforts. Muir Woods National Park is one of the oldest and most breathtaking parks in the country and well worth a visit anytime you are in the San Francisco area.
Some areas of San Francisco can get downright uncomfortable in the Summer. Depending on the topography and time of day, much of the city experiences direct sunlight or intense winds. Muir Woods National Park is the perfect escape from the ups and down of San Francisco weather. Since Muir Woods sits on land running up the coast, the air is generally mild and moist. The redwoods trap the cool air between their canopies and the ground, giving the park remarkably consistent conditions. It is generally temperate along the paths at Muir Woods, and not a lot of sunlight breaches the canopy.
Runners and hikers have it especially good in the park. As mentioned above, Muir Woods keeps conditions ideal for a good workout without the threat of sunburn or overheating. There are a couple of good loops and trails that cater to novice and experienced hikers alike. It can be tough to get into the park during peak hours of the busy season, but people don’t generally congregate in one place inside the gates. Muir Woods is very well maintained and the staff is always helpful, so if exercising there’s no feeling of vulnerability or danger. Some of the parks in San Francisco can be a little threatening, particularly the lush ones with shrouded corners and enclaves.
Muir Woods National Monument is one of America’s finest parks and a testament to environmental awareness. The programs run by Muir Woods staff are aimed to educate and inform visitors of the park’s environmental and historical significance. One way that visitors can go beyond the trails and towering trees is to volunteer. There are programs run year round for Muir Woods volunteers, ranging from clean-up to research. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area has one of the largest and most diverse volunteer teams within the National Parks System. It takes an army of volunteers to keep the park at its healthiest, monitoring human activity as well as changes in the animal population.
The jobs for volunteers at Muir Woods often take place deep within the park, off the designated trail. Staff will lead groups to remove plants that are not native to the park, collect data on species of plants or animals and refurbish some of the region’s historical landmarks. Volunteers often become educators within the park, responsible for providing information to the visiting public. Since the park offers educational opportunities through volunteering, Muir Woods draws a number of volunteers with a background in teaching or science. Volunteering at the park is an excellent way to use skills from the workforce as a form of community service. Volunteer opportunities change regularly and can be researched through the Volunteer Coordinator or the Volunteer Hotline. Contact information for each of these parties is available through the website or the National Park Service.
Muir Woods National Monument doesn’t permit camping, and there are no accommodations within the boundaries of the park for overnight stays. One of the best qualities of Muir Woods is its proximity to San Francisco. For visitors who do not care to travel to and from the city while seeing Muir Woods on an overnight trip, there are plenty of hotels and lodging outside of San Francisco but within the Marin County lines. Most of the hotels within a 15 minute proximity to Muir Woods are between $200 and $250 a night, though there are lower cost options available. Straying farther from the park to stay a night doesn’t always result in a lower cost, as San Francisco is a major attraction in its own right and demands higher rates for accommodations.
Campers hoping to stay in the park can travel outside of Muir Woods’ borders for campsites and lodging. Muir Woods is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, a group of parks linked together by trails and roads. Camping is permitted in both the Marin Headlands and Mount Tamalpais State Park. Aside from service dogs, no pets are allowed in Muir Woods, so visitors intent on staying should leave their animals boarded or at home. Pets on a leash are allowed on trails in the Marin Headlands and through some other portions of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, but must refrain from crossing the border into Muir Woods National Monument.
Muir Woods National Park is one of the few places left where visitors can admire the coastal redwood trees that once dominated northwestern landscapes. The park is strictly regulated due to the sensitivity of its most iconic citizens and the commitment its staff holds to the trees’ preservation. When visiting Muir Woods, it’s essential to be extremely sensitive to the environment and human behaviors’ impacts on the the park. The trails that run through Muir Woods provide enough access to afford views of thousands of the redwoods. Straying from the tracks is prohibited and detrimental to the park’s ecosystem. Any individuals interested in additional access should look for volunteering opportunities that take them off the designated trail.
The trails running through Muir Woods are designed to represent half-hour, hour and hour-and-a-half loops. Some longer trails are integrated into this sytem that extend into other parks. Within the gates of Muir Woods, however, and on the trails exclusive to the park, there are absolutely no vehicles permitted. Additionally, there is no tolerance for picnicking, smoking or camping. Some of Muir Woods’ six miles of trail are occasionally closed for maintenance. The staff usually targets off-season months to undertake such repairs, though it’s a good practice to call or reference the website before a visit to ensure all loops are open and operational.
Muir Woods is an excellent place for the teacher or parent looking to provide some education on an outing. Unlike a lot of parks that focus on outdoor activities or landmarks, Muir Woods also has a political significance that can be used as a lesson or passed down from parent to child as useful knowledge. The United Nations Charter was organized in San Francisco following the ambitions of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. President Roosevelt actually passed away just before the signing of the United Nations Charter, and delegates met in Muir Woods to commemorate him. When going to the park, reference the park map for the location of Cathedral Grove. This was the site of a dedication in Roosevelt’s name.
The story behind the park’s establishment is equally intriguing, if not as relevant to America’s political history. Muir Woods was set up on land donated by a former United States Congressman (William Kent) and his wife. Mr. and Mrs. Kent chose to name the park after John Muir, who was an enthusiastic champion of conservation and environmental research. Lessons can be built around the park’s establishment as it relates to the Antiquities Act of 1906, as well. Muir Woods is the first national park established on donated private land. There are a number of resources available on-line and at the visitor’s center that layout the timeline of the park’s history and points of interest. Tours are available for groups, as well.
William Kent and his wife, Elizabeth Thacher Kent, purchased 611 acres of land around Redwood Creek and the bay area in 1905 for $45,000. A Congressman and philanthropist, Kent’s intentions when purchasing this land were to preserve some of the Coastal Redwood forest contained within. Old growth forests had been dwindling at an alarming rate due to logging, but the land around Redwood Creek had been spared mostly due to its isolated location. Kent donated 295 acres of this land to the federal government, at which point it was declared as a national monument by President Theodore Roosevelt. In 1908, Muir Woods National Park was established in the name of wilderness advocacy trailblazer John Muir.
President Roosevelt wanted to name the national monument on Kent’s land in honor of the Congressman and his wife, but Kent deferred. As a tribute to conservationism and wilderness advocacy, Kent wanted the park named in honor of John Muir. Muir was a true naturalist who spent the majority of his life reflecting on man’s relationship with nature and his surroundings. The concepts of conservationism and environmental awareness have evolved in large part from the teachings and writings of John Muir. Muir was largely responsible for convincing President Roosevelt to set aside lands at Yosemite, the Grand Canyon and Mt. Rainier as national parks.
Muir Woods National Monument is an extemely popular park. Sitting only 12 miles from San Francisco and the bay area, many thousands of people have easy access to Muir Woods National Monument year round. When traveling to the park, there are a number of things that will contribute to a successful, enjoyable trip. Rules that have been established for Muir Woods National Monument are implemented in the best interest of the park’s natural resources and safety of those within its boundaries. Restrictions and rules within the park can change throughout the year, and it is always beneficial to the visitor to call with any questions not answered through the website or literature on the park.
The most important rule to be followed while enjoying Muir Woods National Monument is to stay on the established trails at all times within the park. Unless under the supervision of a ranger, or participating in a volunteer project that takes place deeper into the forest, it is imperative for safety to stay on the trails. Muir Woods National Monument is a well-supervised park, but poison oak and stinging nettles are natural dangers that cannot be altogether eliminated from the forest’s ecosystem. The park opens every day at 8:00 AM. Visitors arriving at that time will want to dress for cooler temperatures, and should leave their pets at home. Muir Woods National Monument does not permit pets, aside from service dogs.
Muir Woods National Park is an excellent source of recreational activity for the tree enthusiast or hiker. The park contains roughly 6 miles of trails. The loops of trails at Muir Woods are broken into half-hour segments. There is a half-hour loop, a one hour loop, and a one and a half hour loop for hikers to enjoy. In addition to the trails specific to Muir Woods National Parks, there is access to trails that branch off into other parks and nature areas. Each of Muir Woods’ trails provides access to views of thousands of Coastal Redwood trees. As the trails sit well below the canopy, hikers should dress for mild to cool temperatures with moisture in the air.
Muir Woods National Park offers, in addition to hiking trails, a number o recreational activities related to upkeep of the park itself. Volunteering in a National Park is one way to promote the maintenance and virility of such protected lands. Muir Woods National Park and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area offer a variety of programs for volunteers that involve activities in and around the park. Removal of non-native species of plants from the park, collecting data on any of the bird species or endangered animals, upkeep of historical landmarks in Muir Woods and simple clean-up of debris from storms are all ways that one can contribute as a volunteer while enjoying the park’s natural beauty.
The majestic Coastal Redwood tree, once prevalent throughout most of the northwest United States, now grows naturally along only a narrow strip of coastal land running from northern California to southern oregon. Coastal Redwood trees prefer a mountainous landscape close to large bodies of water, where moisture sits thick in the air and temperatures are mild. Coastal Redwood trees can live for more than a thousand years, and often exceed 200 feet in height. The talledst Coastal Redwood trees in Muir Woods National Monument are found in the valleys and gulleys where water gathers and sits in the air and on the ground.
Muir Woods National Monument is a prime example of how old growth redwood forests support a wide variety of plant and animal life. The towering canopy of the living trees in an old growth forest provide cover for many species of bird and vermin, along with containing moisture and nutrients between the canopy and the soil below. Nutrient rich soil in old growth forests helps to purify and enrich polling water so that species of fish can thrive. The Muir Woods National Monument is home to one of the last native freshwater salmon populations in California, and supports a significant population of Steelhead Trout. When the giant Coastal Redwoods of an old growth forest fall, they provide shelter for animal on the ground and create pools of water from streams.