Muir Woods National Monument in California is a special place, preserving giant Redwood trees that are hundreds of years old. Whereas many of the redwoods in California were harvested for wood, this special grove had been protected by its owners. In 1908 they donated the forest to the public and President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed it a national monument, named in honor of conservationist John Muir.
Over a million people visit Muir Woods each year. In fact, you can’t simply arrive unannounced at Muir Woods. You need to purchase a timed parking pass or take the shuttle. Of course, some months are busier than others, and weekends are busier than weekdays. They do say that early morning and late afternoon is the best. We didn’t know any of that, so we visited over the Christmas holiday. That was perhaps not the best time. The trail was crowded and it was hard to experience the quiet serenity of these giant trees, even in the designated “quiet area” of Cathedral Grove.
The good news is that most visitors stick to the boardwalk and paved trail. If you venture a bit farther, you really can get a better experience. Along with the short 1/2 mile loop, there is a 1 mile loop and a 1 1/2 mile loop. And you can extend your hike into the surrounding Mt Tamalpais State Park to really escape the crowds (Mount Tam to locals!). That’s what we did and it was great.
Very unusual for this area, there had been heavy rains and there were waterfalls everywhere. It was absolutely gorgeous.
Especially interesting was all the fungi… crazy colors and shapes, peeking out of the ground and running up the side of trees.
The trees were every bit as amazing in Mount Tam area as they are in the Redwood Grove of Muir Woods. It was great to walk the paths through old growth trees towering high above the trail.
Given all the rain, the trails were a bit slippery. The wet was also a bit problematic for these trees. Without a deep root system, the rain had destabilized the earth. One huge tree had fallen down into the national monument, taking out a bridge over a popular hiking trail. It turns out that this is an issue with Redwoods, one we weren’t aware of. We had imagined them with deep roots to support their size but in fact, a Redwood’s roots grow only 10 to 13 feet deep and spread 100 feet around its girth.
We are happy to know that the National Park Service is there to help protect these gentle giants.
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