Muir Woods National Monument – Mill Valley, CA

Banana slug

Muir Woods is located in Mill Valley, CA and can be reached by taking US-101 and following signs for it. Hiking is the only activity allowed as dogs and bicycles are prohibited. At the visitor center, we paid a $14 entrance fee. Parking is very limited and fills up quickly. We arrived at 10:50am on the Tuesday after Memorial Day and parked on the side of Muir Woods Road a half mile from the park’s entrance. By 11am, the parking along the side of the road was full as far as we could see. Thus, I recommend arriving as early as you can. The park includes several restrooms, water fountains, and a cafe. Our cell phone service was not available.

From our car, we hiked a total of five miles over five hours and within a range of elevation of 400 feet. The elevation chart below represents our first 3.5 miles because my battery died before we finished.

muir-wood-elevation-chart Notably, there was a trail near the road so we didn’t have to walk in the street.

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From the visitor center, we hiked a counter-clockwise loop. The Main trail loop was wide, flat, and comprised of a mix of wood platform and pavement.

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In addition, it features interpretive signs and several stream crossings.

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Despite the large number of people who were there, the main trail didn’t feel crowded. My guess is that the limited parking staggers the flow of people. Also, we saw few people on the side trails.

Redwoods
Redwoods

About half way around the main trail, we were feeling good and decided to turn right onto the Fern Creek trail. This decision resulted in us doubling our total distance from two-plus miles to five miles. Our kids ages, 7 and 3, did surprising well, which I attribute to the shade, cool temperature, and our slow pace. The Fern Creek trail was a narrower dirt path with rocks and tree roots.

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We had fun crossing a narrow bridge.

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We followed signs for Camp Alice Eastwood and gradually made our way up a ridge.

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We spied two banana slugs, the second of which is pictured below. They require a moist environment and soak in water through their skin. We’ve also seen them at Purisima Creek Redwoods.

Banana slug
Banana slug

Hiking along the ridge gave us an additional perspective that allowed us to peer down through the redwood canopy.

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At Camp Alice Eastwood, we used the restrooms and rested at the picnics tables. It had a shelter, trash cans, and grills.

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From there, we took the Camp Eastwood trail, a fire road which led us back down to the main trail. IMG_1475Next, we walked a short distance on the Bootjack Spur trail.

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Our kids were in awe of the large redwoods and also had fun inspecting the rings on fallen ones.

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Our last mile was on the Hillside trail.

IMG_1500An easily identifiable plant in the park was Redwood sorrel.

Redwood sorrel
Redwood sorrel

This video provides another point of view.

We finished our adventure by having a late lunch at the cafe near the visitor center. In sum, we had a blast and our kids lasted a lot longer than we anticipated. I recommend arriving early and exploring the side trails. Lastly, I’ve documented fun activities in Monterey for kids.

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