Day trip from San Francisco to Muir Woods for hiking among the redwoods

San Francisco to Muir Woods day trip by a local (2024)

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Looking for the best ways to get from San Francisco to Muir Woods and what to do on a day trip to Muir Woods?

I am a San Francisco local and have visited Muir Woods countless times as it is such a quick day trip from San Francisco. I love the amazing hikes in Muir Woods, and the redwoods are a rejuvenating escape from my daily routine.

Muir Woods is a National Monument just north of San Francisco and is famous for hiking, and serene nature walks in a redwood forest.

The park is named after John Muir, a naturalist and conservationist who played a key role in preserving the park’s old-growth redwood forest.

Muir Woods is home to some of the tallest and oldest redwoods in the world and is a popular day trip from San Francisco for locals and visitors alike. Muir Woods is a must-do in any San Francisco itinerary!

Because Muir Woods is so popular, it gets crowded on weekends, holidays, and summer months. On the other hand, the parking in Muir Woods is minimal.

You can reach Muir Woods from San Francisco in numerous ways, like by car, shuttle, and tours, and in this Muir Woods travel guide, find out about all the options.

Muir Woods is our go-to place to take any family and friends visiting San Francisco Bay Area! The coastal redwood trees are majestic, and the hikes here are just phenomenal!

Muir Woods Day Trip from San Francisco: Overview

Here is a quick overview of the best ways to go from San Francisco to Muir Woods:

  • If you are driving from San Francisco to Muir Woods, make sure you have an advance parking reservation, which can be booked at the NPS website.
  • During peak season from March to October, you can also book a round-trip reservation on the Muir Woods Shuttle at the NPS website, which boards from Larkspur Landing. You can park at Larkspur Landing or take an Uber there. This is what we did.
  • If you are visiting San Francisco, it might be best to take a combo tour to Muir Woods, like this Muir Woods tour with Sausalito or this Muir Woods tour with Wine Country. That way, you do not have to worry about parking logistics and shuttle reservations.

What to do on your Muir Woods Day Trip:

  • Hiking – Muir Woods is popular for hiking and admiring the redwood trees. Start with the easy Muir Main Trail and explore the various views of the forest from the bridges. Then, pick a moderate hike to get away from the crowds. I love the Canopy, Lost, and Fern Creek Loop! This moderate hike gives a great feel of the magnificence of Muir Woods. Details below!

How far is Muir Woods from San Francisco?

Muir Woods is an excellent Bay Area getaway! Muir Woods National Monument is in Marin County, just north of San Francisco, and can be accessed via US-101 and Highway-1.

  • San Fransico to Muir Woods Distance: around 17 miles
  • San Fransico to Muir Woods drive time: around 35 to 40 minutes

Muir Woods is only 17 miles from San Francisco and seems very doable and within reach, judging by just distance alone. But getting there is a whole other story!

Ways to get from San Fransico to Muir Woods

The parking lot at Muir Woods is not enough to accommodate the heavy influx of visitors it receives both locals and tourists, especially during weekends, holidays, and school breaks.

That said, there are several ways to get from San Francisco to Muir Woods besides driving. Read on to find out about the various modes of transportation you can take to get to Muir Woods and choose the one that is best suited for your group.

Cluster of Redwood trees in Muir woods
Cluster of Giant Redwood Trees in Muir Woods

San Francisco to Muir Woods By Car

San Francisco Bay Area locals with a car or visitors with a rental car can drive to Muir Woods. Muir Woods is only 17 miles from San Francisco and can be reached in around 45 minutes by car via US-101 and Highway 1. Remember to allow some extra time for traffic.

If you are planning to drive to Muir Woods, you are required to make an advance online parking reservation on the official National Park Service website.

Parking reservations can be made online up to 90 days in advance. Please remember that without an advance parking reservation, you will not be allowed to park at Muir Woods and will be turned away! You will not be able to buy a parking reservation at Muir Woods.

The parking reservation fee ranges from $9 to $12 for standard vehicles (up to 17 feet in length), electric vehicles, and accessible parking spaces. These reservations have a 30-minute window of arrival time. You can stay in the park till closing time with a standard-sized vehicle reservation.

Redwood Trees in Muir Woods
Redwood Trees in Muir Woods

Limited reservations exist for medium vehicles (17 to 22 feet in length) and oversized vehicles (22 to 35 feet in length). Medium and oversized vehicle reservations have a departure time window as well.

Note: If the parking reservations are sold out for the day you want, you can still drive to Larkspur Landing and take the Muir Woods Shuttle from there, as explained below.

San Francisco to Muir Woods Shuttle

During the peak season of March to October, as parking reservations at Muir Woods can get sold out, the alternative is to use the Muir Woods Shuttle, which operates from two locations – Larskpur Landing and Sausalito.

  • Larkspur Landing address to board the Muir Woods Shuttle – 101 E Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Larkspur, CA 94939. (Operates weekends and holidays)
  • Sausalito address to board the Muir Woods Shuttle – Bay & Bridgeway, Sausalito, CA 94965 (operates only on special times)

You will need to make advance reservations for the Muir Woods Shuttle on the National Park Service website. The shuttle reservations are round trip and for the exact time selected. It takes around 30 minutes for the shuttle to reach Muir Woods.

For e.g. if you select a 9 AM to 9:30 AM shuttle time slot during reservation, then your shuttle will depart from Larkspur Landing at 9 AM, so make sure to reach at least 15 minutes before that to allow time for parking.

You can depart in any shuttle from Muir Woods back to the Larkspur Landing parking lot. Remember that the last shuttle departing Muir Woods at the end of the day can be full, so plan accordingly.

The Larkspur Landing Shuttle operates on weekends and holidays. There is free parking available at Larkspur Landing if you are planning to drive to the shuttle stop. In our recent visit, we opted for this route. We parked at Larkspur landing and took the shuttle to Muir Woods.

You can also reach Larkspur Landing by public transit bus 228 or the Larkspur Ferry.

The Sausalito Muir Woods Shuttle only operates during special times and is usually not available. This shuttle from Sausalito to Muir Woods, when in service, is a better option if you are taking the Ferry to Sausalito and then planning to take the shuttle to Muir Woods. There is no free parking at Sausalito for shuttle guests.

Creek in Muir Woods
Creek in Muir Woods

San Francisco to Muir Woods by Tours

If you are visiting San Francisco, then it might be a great time-saver to take a combo tour to see Muir Woods with some other attractions like the Golden Gate Bridge, city highlights, Alcatraz Island, or even the world-famous wine region Napa Valley.

Below are some of the best tours from San Fransisco to Muir Woods:

San Francisco to Muir Woods and Wine Country combo tour

This is the ultimate tour combo if visiting the wine countries of Napa and Sonoma, along with Muir Woods, is high on your San Francisco bucket list. Experience both attractions in one day! This tour picks up from San Francisco’s downtown hotels.

Start your morning walking among the giant redwoods and then visit three wineries in Sonoma and Napa regions for wine tastings. You can add a gourmet lunch and experience the local flavors with wine pairings.

Check rates and availability for this San Francisco to Muir Woods and Wine Country combo tour

San Francisco, Muir Woods, Sausalito with optional Alcatraz

In this highly-rated, small-group, combo tour that starts at Fisherman’s Wharf, visit Muir Woods and the charming waterfront of Sausalito and also see some San Francisco city landmarks. You can select the option to add a visit to the highly popular Alcatraz Island as well!

Check rates and availability for this San Francisco to Muir Woods with Sausalito, and optional Alcatraz

San Francisco to Muir Woods Shuttle Tour

If you are just looking for a round-trip transit tour from San Francisco to Muir Woods, this tour starts from San Francisco’s Pier 41 and takes you to Muir Woods. You can choose from morning or afternoon tours. You will get around 90 minutes to explore Muir Woods on your own.

Check rates and availability for this San Francisco to Muir Woods Shuttle Tour

San Francisco to Muir Woods By Uber / Rideshare

With Muir Woods being only 17 miles from San Francisco, you might be wondering if you can take a rideshare like Uber or Lyft or a cab from San Francisco. You sure can take a cab to Muir Woods.

However, the problem with this option is that there is no cell reception at Muir Woods, so you will not be able to book a cab for the ride back from Muir Woods to San Francisco. Trust me that you do not want to walk all the way back on that windy, steep road.

Even if you book a return cab in advance, you will have no way to communicate with the driver in case the ride gets canceled.

So, going from San Francisco to Muir Woods by cab/taxi or rideshare is definitely not a good idea, mainly because of the uncertainty of the return ride from Muir Woods to San Francisco.

Muir Woods from San Francisco by Bike and Shuttle

It is an option to travel from San Francisco to Muir Woods by bike, but the logistics are a bit tricky for this. You can rent a bike in Fisherman’s Wharf and bike across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito. From there, you can board the Muir Woods Shuttle.

The tricky part is that the Sausalito Muir Woods Shuttle is seasonal and might not be operating on the day of your choosing. Also, the shuttle may or may not have space for the bike.

Biking all the way to Muir Woods is challenging because of the steep hills, and there is no dedicated bike lane. Hence I would not recommend this option; biking across the Golden Gate Bridge and visit to Muir Woods are two separate activities.

➡ My recommendation is to do a morning tour to Muir Woods and then an afternoon adventure of biking across the Golden Gate Bridge and still do both in a day.

Muir Woods Day Trip: Things to do

Muir Woods National Monument is known for its beautiful and majestic old-growth coastal redwood trees. The park is home to some of the tallest trees in the world, with some reaching heights of over 250 feet (76 meters) and being over 1,000 years old.

The redwoods in Muir Woods are part of a rare ecosystem that supports a diverse array of plant and animal life. Muir Woods is also known for being a designated national monument that is dedicated to the preservation of the redwood forest.

Below are some of the things to do on your day trip to Muir Woods, with hiking being the most common thing to do here.


Hiking is one of the most popular ways to explore Muir Woods. There are several hiking trails in and around the park. The Muir Woods hiking trails range from an easy, gentle stroll through the redwoods to challenging climbs to the canopy of trees with coastal views.

Bridge on a hiking trail in Muir Woods
Bridge on a hiking trail in Muir Woods

Below are some of the most popular hiking trails in Muir Woods:

Muir Main Trail / Redwood Creek Trail (easy hike)

This is the main trail that starts at the Visitor Center. It is easy and flat and a great way to explore Muir Woods if you are short on time.

The trail is scenic through forest paths surrounded by majestic redwoods and a series of bridges. Return from bridge No. 3 if you want it to stay easy. The loop from Bridge No. 4 is from an elevated Hillside trail.

It can be done in an hour and is the most crowded trail in Muir Woods.

Canopy, Lost, and Fern Creek Loop (moderate hike)

This moderate trail is around 3.5 miles with an elevation gain of 836 feet and takes around 2 to 3 hours. This trail starts at the Main trail but then steers away from the crowds up the Canopy View Trail, followed by Lost Trail and then Fern Creek Trail.

This is an incredibly scenic trail loop with a lot of shade but also a lot of steep steps on the Lost Trail section. There are great views of the redwood trees, Redwood Creek and Fern Creek on this trail.

Ben Johnson to Dipsea Trail Loop (moderate to hard hike)

If you are looking for a more challenging hike, you can try the Dipsea Trail loop, which is around 4 miles and 900+ feet in elevation. It will take around 3-4 hours to complete.

To access this trail, cross Bridge 4 on the Main Muir Trail and take the Ben Johnson trail, which is a steep climb up the canyon.

From there, connect to the Dipsea Trail for some amazing scenic viewpoints of meadows and even the Pacific Ocean in the distance. Finally, the loop trail returns back to the Visitor Center.

Muir Woods Visitor Center

The Muir Woods Visitor Center is a great place to start and get some information about the current status of the trails and any other questions you have about your Muir Woods day trip. There are park rangers here ready to help.

Muir Wood Programs

Muir Woods has several programs like Ranger-led hikes and Tree Talks that are great to participate in to learn more about the history of the magnificent redwoods.

The park also has a Junior Ranger program that is popular with families. Collect the Junior Ranger activity booklet and the badge from the Visitor Center.

Explore the surrounding area and trails

If you have time, you can explore the park’s backcountry and experience the beauty of the redwoods up close. Several trails from Muir Woods intersect with Mount Tamalpais State Park trails.

Around three miles west of Muir Woods, you will find the popular Muir Beach and Muir Beach Overlook for some panoramic views of the Pacific coastline. There is a Coastal Trail here to explore the area.

Marin Headlands is around 12 miles south of Muir Woods, just before Golden Gate Bridge, and is popular for its spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge. There are several coastal hikes here to explore the Headlands.

Bird Watching

Muir Woods is an excellent place for bird watching among the old-growth redwood trees. The forest is the nesting place for endangered bird species, such as the Northern Spotted Owl.

Travel tips and FAQs for visiting Muir Woods from San Francisco

The tips and answers to frequently asked questions below will allow you to plan the perfect visit to Muir Woods from San Francisco.

Is Muir Woods worth a visit?

Muir Woods National Monument is a small compact park to see majestic old-growth redwood trees and has some excellent hiking trails that range from easy nature walks to scenic, challenging trails.

If you have more than a couple of days in San Francisco, Muir Woods is definitely worth a visit to see some of the oldest and tallest coastal redwood trees on well-maintained trails and spend some time away from the city in a beautiful forest.

Girl on a bridge in a hiking trail in Muir Woods
Hiking Trail in Muir Woods

When is the best time to visit Muir Woods?

Muir Woods can be visited year-round, though its busiest season is late Spring to Summer. Fall will have relatively fewer crowds. During Winter and early Spring, the trails can be wet and muddy due to rain.

Early morning at park opening time or late afternoon are the best times to have a peaceful walk in Muir Woods with fewer crowds. 10 to 2 PM is when the heaviest influx of visitors are in the park.

Do you need to pay to visit Muir Woods?

You need to pay a per-person entrance fee to visit Muir Woods which is $15 per person (15 years or younger can visit for free). This entrance fee is separate from any other parking or shuttle reservation fees.

‘America the Beautiful pass holders can visit Muir Woods with up to three other adults for free.

How to get to Muir Woods from San Francisco without a car?

The best way to get from San Francisco to Muir Woods without a car is to take a tour to Muir Woods. You can also book a round-trip reservation on the Muir Woods Shuttle on the NPS website and then take an Uber to the Larkspur Landing shuttle stop.

How much time do you need to spend at Muir Woods?

Most visitors spend 1 to 3 hours exploring the redwood forest and the trails in Muir Woods. The Main Muir trail and the bridges can be explored in an hour. You will need more time if you want to do some of the longer hikes up the canyon.

How do I get back to San Francisco from Muir Woods?

There is no cell reception at Muir Woods, so make sure you have a way to get back to the city either with a tour or the round-trip shuttle. Pre-booking a cab is unreliable as they might cancel, and you would have no way to know while at Muir Woods.

Are pets allowed in Muir Woods?

For the safety of wildlife, other visitors, and your pets, please be aware that pets are not allowed in Muir Woods due to the park’s small size and the potential for overcrowding.

However, there are nearby areas, such as the Coastal Trail at Muir Beach and some trails in the Marin Headlands, where pets are permitted. Trained service animals are allowed in the park.

Where to stay for Muir Woods

As Muir Woods can be easily done as a day trip from San Francisco, it is best to stay in San Francisco to visit Muir Woods. There are no accommodation options near Muir Woods as it is in a forested area.

Fisherman’s Wharf area is a great place to stay when visiting San Francisco as it is closer to a lot of tourist attractions, and you will have easy access to Golden Gate Bridge and the various ferries that travel to Sausalito, Alcatraz, and Angel’s Island.

The Hotel Fairmont Heritage Place is a luxurious hotel located right on Ghirardelli Square.

Courtyard by Marriott San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf is a great mid-range hotel that is conveniently located from all tourist attractions.

Final Takeaways: Getting from San Francisco to Muir Woods

Visiting Muir Woods is a must-do for anyone who loves nature, hiking, or needs a break from the city. The beauty and tranquility of the forest will stay with you long after you leave.

Up next, take an unforgettable San Francisco Sunset Bay Cruise after a day of hiking in Muir Woods.

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