Posted in Blogging Marin on Monday, April 14, 2014 by MCVB Staff
Spring has arrived in one of Marin's most majestic nature spots: Muir Woods. Described by conservationist John Muir as "the best tree-lovers monument that could be possibly found in all the forests of the world," this collection of old growth coast redwood trees, the tallest living things in the world, attracts nearly a million domestic and international tourists each year.
Because the 560-acre park is so popular, the natural wonder of Muir Woods can be hard to enjoy. Parking is very limited and crowds can be thick and distracting, especially in the afternoon. But, if you’re an early riser, it's possible to see Muir Woods much as it was thousands of years ago: quiet, misty and remarkably magical. It is an unforgettable trip back into time.
The parking lots are gated until 8am but you can park on the road just past the entrance and start a dawn walk in the woods in complete solitude, especially for those who arrive at the break of dawn. Hiking the monument's six miles of trails and paths brings you deep into the ancient groves, many older than 600 years. It’s a fleeting opportunity (the crowds come quickly) but the further you hike into the woods, the more powerful and majestic the trees become and the distractions fewer.
The park’s trails follow meandering Redwood Creek, whose waters originate high on the slopes of Mount Tamalpais, and along hillside terrain where the trees rise improbably high into the sky, their canopies soaking in the fog, rain and mist that sustain the forest. These trees are true survivors of the ages, having been subjected to fire, drought, earthquakes, climate change, and nearly two centuries of intensive logging in the coast region.
But Muir Woods carries on and, in the early hours, it comes alive with Steller’s jays, Sonoma chipmunks, Western gray squirrels and the occasional black-tailed deer, who graze a shady forest undergrowth dominated by blankets of redwood sorrel and thickets of sword ferns. Delicate wildlflowers like trillium, clintonia, and redwood violet decorate the forest floor in spring.
Muir Woods is located 12 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge and is reached via Highway 101 and California Highway 1. The monument is open every day of the year; between 8AM and sunset, the entrance fee is $7 per person (16 years and older) and ages under 16 are free. For post-visit diversions, Muir Beach is about 3 miles away and Stinson Beach is about 10 miles away.
If you're not an early riser and plan to visit Muir Woods this summer, avoid the hassle of parking by taking the Muir Woods Shuttle. It operates weekends and holidays through October. Visit http://marintransit.org/routes/66.html for details.
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