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Muir Woods National Monument

by Elizabeth Winters
click images to enlarge

One of Northern California's most noted National Parks, Muir Woods National Monument is located in Marin County. California Redwood trees can be found a mere 12 miles over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.

Muir Woods Tours

Redwood trees in Muir WoodsComprised of 295 acres of Redwood Forest, Muir Woods offers visitors opportunities to walk on paths and trails around the forest observing the old-growth redwoods and learning about the natural history of the forest. The United States's 7th National Monument, Muir Woods was the first created with land donated by an individual.

Muir Woods History

Boardwalk in Muir Woods NMBefore the arrival of Spanish missionaries in the 1770s, the Miwok tribe inhabited the majority of land comprising Marin. Although the Native Americans probably never lived in Muir Woods, it is likely they hunted there.
When California gold was discovered in 1848, demand for timber increased dramatically. Over 200 million acres of the surrounding area was logged with the exception of Sequoia Canyon, and the present day Muir Woods, due to its inaccessibility and steep slopes.
In 1905 William Kent and his wife purchased 611 acres of this land from the Tamalpais Land and Water Company for $45,000. Kent's goal was to protect the Redwoods and the land around them.
William Kent plaque near trailWhen the local water company tried to turn the canyon into a reservoir the Kents donated 295 acres, at the suggestion of naturalist and Sierra Club founder John Muir, to the Federal Government. President Theodore Roosevelt declared Muir Woods a national monument on January 9, 1908 under authority of the 1906 Antiquities Act.
President Roosevelt wanted to name the land after Kent himself, but the Congressman insisted on honoring John Muir.
John Muir, a Scottish immigrant and one of America's earliest modern preservationists, desired to protect nature for spiritual and uplifting values alone. His activism throughout the later half of the 19th century helped preserve such areas as California's Yosemite National Park and he also created the Sierra Club, one of the United State's preeminent environmental protection organizations.
Redwood Trees in Muir Woods hillsideToday visitors flock to Muir Woods primarily to take in the stunning redwoods growing on the steep hillsides, the average being 800 to 900 years old and 275 to 300 feet tall. Coast Redwoods are the tallest living things—one was determined to be almost 368 feet tall. Coastal Redwoods range from Big Sur to the California-Oregon boarder. They are taller than, but not as big around or as long lived as the Giant Sequoias in Yosemite National Park.
Hollow base of an ancient redwood treeFire plays a critical role in the health of a redwood forest, clearing the floor of duff, destroying bacteria and recycling nutrients. Wildfires naturally occurred here every 20 to 50 years.
Thick bark insulates mature redwoods from fire damage though repeated fires do manage to reach the core of some trees.
A number of the older, still living, redwoods in Muir Woods have hollows large enough for several people to stand inside.
Trees in Muir Woods NMThe old-growth coastal redwood forest harbors a variety of plant life including, Douglas Fir, big leaf Maple, Taback oaks and Baylaurel as a result of its proximity to the Pacific ocean and the surrounding fog.
Owls, bats, blacktail deer, raven and pileated woodpeckers can all be occasionally spotted from trails within the Woods.
Redwood CreekRedwood Creek—which begins on Mt. Tamalpais and ends at Muir Beach on the Pacific Ocean—runs year-round but slows to a trickle in late summer. The stream nearly bisects Muir Woods National Monument and hosts fish, salamanders and insects. Several bridges—numbered 1 through 4— along the main trail enable visitors to cross back and forth over Redwood Creek.
Nearing Bridge 1There are over 6 miles of hiking trails located within the woods, the most popular of which are the Main Trail, the Dispea Trail, and the Ocean View Trail.
Muir Woods is operated by the National Park Service and is open from 8am to sunset throughout the year and there is a small entrance fee for those 17 and older. A gift shop at the entrance to to the park features maps, books, souvenirs and snacks.
Bicycles, picnics, dogs and camping are not permitted in the Park. Parking is limited and lots fill up quickly on weekends year-round and every day during the summer. There is no public transportation to Muir Woods National Monument.
Slideshow—all photos on this page

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Website and all photos copyright © 2001–2015 Lee W. Nelson