Imagine a place where you can experience the golden glow of the Golden Coast filtering through crisp, stained-glass green leaves and towering trees.
A hikers dream, the mystical atmosphere of Muir Woods National Monument is filled with these rare old-growth coastal redwoods.
Beyond these beautiful redwood groves, the protected lands of Muir Woods stretch over golden valleys and even the Pacific Ocean, offering a myriad of views and vibes.
If you are craving a refreshing, serene space to clear your mind, stimulate your imagination, and transform your perspective through nature, you will find that solace in the other-worldly nature of Muir Woods.
Whether you’re looking for a refreshing couple of hours of wandering through solitude, or you wish to take a full day to experience all the beauty of the California coast, there is a hike to fit your goals.
Get ready to enjoy one of the most grounded, earthy forests you’ve ever seen in this serene National Monument!
The Best Hikes in Muir Woods
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Distance: 0.5 miles
Elevation Gain: None
Accessibility: Wheelchair accessible
The entrance of Muir Woods is an experience of its own, a magical portal of sorts transporting the hiker to all different kinds of views and spaces.
If you’re apprehensive about embracing your inner woodsy spirit, this is the perfect hike to just get a taste of the magic and see if it’s for you.
Marked by the retro “Muir Woods National Monument” sign, you’re immediately invited into another era where life was simpler and adventure was a priority.
It draws you into a place so far removed from the bustle of San Francisco, yet so close in proximity!
Start off at the Muir Woods’ visitor center, a cozy spot of its own, tucked into the cedarwood at the end of a long, steep, winding road.
Once you get your park pass ($15) from the ranger, wander left towards the crowds of tourists photographing the iconic sign. Take your own picture to prove you entered this mystical forest, then enter under the gateway deep into the trees.
Follow the creaking plank path that winds around massive redwoods for as long as you’d like, taking plenty of magical pictures along the way.
Once you hit Bridge 2 or Bridge 3, feel free to turn around at your own leisure. The beauty of this little hike is you can take as long or as little time as you like while still soaking in the peaceful atmosphere.
This trail is short enough that you can get over to other sights in the Marin area (such as the Golden Gate Bridge) quickly while still seeing some stunning redwoods, or you can choose to wander and meditate on the magic of it all for a while.
The choice is yours, but either way you’ll have a beautiful time!
Distance: .7 miles (2 miles including the Main Trail there)
Elevation Gain: 90 ft
If you’re willing to wander more through the woods, check out the Hillside Trail. Lined with redwoods that sweep the sky and mossy veils, it takes you into a mystical part of the forest.
Once you’ve made it past the grand entrance and Main Trail, stroll past Cathedral Grove until you reach Bridge 4.
Wander across the bridge, then turn left onto the Hillside Trail. This will lead you to a whole other side of the forest.
Immediately, you’ll find yourself even deeper in the golden and sage leaves, filled with a sense of wonder at the transformative vibes of nature.
Breath in the scent of redwood and moss as you wander through, grounding yourself in the serenity of the thick forest.
Eventually, this hidden gem will lead you back around to Bridge 2, dropping you off on the Main Trail once more.
This is a great option if you’ve seen the beauty of the Main Trail and feel so enchanted by the forest that you wish to see more.
The Canopy Trail to the Lost Trail
Distance: 3 miles
Elevation Gain: 530 ft
As the sage mist filters through the trees, the canopy trail provides a hike with otherworldly vibes. Old trees stretch over the hilly path, literally creating a canopy as you hike.
Rows and rows of trees stand to welcome you to the wilderness. Even if it’s only a 30-minute drive from San Francisco, you’ll find peaceful solitude among the coastal layers of coastal redwoods.
Start down the Main Trail once more, absorbing the beginnings of beauty. You’ll find the Canopy View Trailhead right after you’ve walked past Founder’s Grove.
Follow the mossy carpet into this mystical haven. You’ll find yourself in an even more peaceful setting than before, a true hiker’s paradise.
After wandering among the solitude for a while, you’ll find the Lost Trail turnoff on your left.
Follow the winding path deep down into the coastal redwoods and fir trees, enjoying the fresh scent of the forest.
Once you’ve reached the end of the trail, continue your journey among the Fern Creek Trail, savoring the serene atmosphere.
This will lead you back to the Main Trail, where you can start a new journey or return to your car.
Ben Johnson Trail
Distance: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: 925 ft
If you’re searching for a Muir Woods hike that takes you deep into the woods, has a stunning view of the sea, and allows you to soak in the beauty of the city all at once, this is your spot!
The Ben Johnson Trail takes you through a tree-shaded canyon filled with majestic redwoods and eventually opens up to immaculate views of San Francisco, the sparkling sea, and the mountains, all while staying in the beauty of Muir Woods. It is truly an unforgettable hike.
Start once again on the Main Trail until you reach Bridge 4. Once you cross over this bridge, you’ll continue your ascent into the aromatic redwoods on the Ben Johnson Trail.
As you climb, search for wildflowers and moss nestled in among the golden-streaked trees. Like the views, the forest has so much multifaceted beauty to offer.
When you hit the first junction, follow the signs for Muir Woods to the left, then continue left on the Dipsea Trail.
This will lead you to some of the most spectacular views in the Bay Area, allowing you to experience a taste of all the Golden Coast’s beauty. Be sure to sit and savor the refreshing atmosphere in the golden glow of the woods and sea.
You’ll finish this marvelous journey with the Redwood Creek Footbridge. If you wish to extend your stay with the beauty of Muir Woods’ myriad of natural wonders, you may want to check out the full Dipsea Trail, as described below.
Distance: 10 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,240 ft
If you’re ready to fully immerse yourself in cozy coastal vibes for an entire day, this is your sign to take this hike.
Between the sage-hued trees, crunching leaves, and glassy sea, this trail allows you to experience the full NorCal atmosphere.
Start on your journey when the sun begins streaming its light through the forest in the early morning. Be sure to bring food, water, a map, a hat, and anything else you may need for an all-day trek.
You’ll want to stay hydrated, fed, and prepared for any challenging weather that may come up in the woods, valleys, or seaside.
Although this hike in Muir Woods is long and takes preparation, its showstopping views are very worth it.
Find your way to the second parking lot and descend the staircase to Redwood Creek. From there, you’ll follow the path up through the forest for a couple of miles, soaking in the lush, green atmosphere.
Savor the woodsy vibes before the redwoods and pine part to reveal golden and sage fields sprinkled with trees and wildflowers in spring.
Be sure to absorb this refreshing, wild atmosphere, where you’ll find a different fragment of beauty around every turn!
From here on out, you’ll want to follow the trail signs marking your way to Stinson Beach along this otherworldly path.
Eventually, the wild woods will melt away as the fresh, salty sea air draws you into the Pacific views.
Pause to savor this kaleidoscopic atmosphere, complete with crystal waves with fir and redwoods as a backdrop. Breath in the fresh aroma of the wild coast and allow it to draw you towards peace.
As you head back along the same path, allow the scents and sights of the woods to awaken your senses once more. Enjoy the grounding space of the rare old-growth coastal redwoods before leaving with a fresh perspective of the Bay Area.
Kalyn is a writer, editor, and travel addict. She gets her inspiration from venturing deep into the grandeur of the California wilderness. When not working on her latest piece, she can be found chasing sunrise at a national park, practicing yoga, or learning about spiritual formation.