Muir Woods is the last remaining grove of Giant Red Wood trees in the bay area and it is located right outside of the city of San Francisco. In 1908 it was declared a national monument and named after the naturist John Muir in recognition of his conservation efforts.
It is a must-see spot for nature lovers and hikers. This also was the filming location for the 2011 movie “Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)”.
You can take a shuttle from the ferry terminal in Sausalito to Muir Woods and stay car-free. Or you can drive up to the woods. For shuttle service information go here.
Tip: On busy days you may not find a parking spot at the monument. It is strongly suggested to use public transit.
Once you get there you have a choice of several easy trails or longer trails into the surrounding Mount Tamalpais State Park.
The monument trails are boardwalk loops of various lengths (from .5 to 2 miles) and very easy with no elevation gain. The main trail, which is about 2 miles long, runs along a stream with mid-sized redwoods on either side. Three bridges cross the stream. You can loop back at any of those bridges or just cross over for better views.
For a more challenging hike, head to the upper trails in the state park. You can take the “Tourist Club Loop” which is about 4.5 miles long and offers views that most visitors will miss.
The park has a good snack and gift shop closer to the entrance. The snack shop offers deli-style sandwiches. Clean restrooms next door.
Another way to experience this natural wonder is with a bus tour. I recently went with “Best Bay Area Tours” on their Muir Woods and Wine Tasting Tour.
During the first part of the trip, we went up the hills on Pacific Coast Highway to the monument. Along the way, we learned about the history of the park and various plants and trees. We spent about 2 hours hiking the trails and stopping for amazing photo opportunities.
After a stop at the snack bar for coffee and a restroom break, we headed out to Sonoma. Mike continued to educate us about the different types of wine and the 2 Sonoma valleys.
Our first wine stop was at the “Cline Cellars”. The building looked like an old plantation house surrounded by vineyards. A big fish pond on the side offers entertainment to non-wine drinkers. There is also a museum on the premises. You get to sample 5 non-preserve wines for free. You can get a flight of preserve wine for $5. The wines offered were not especially good - just average.
The next stop was at the “Larson Family Winery”. This winery looks like an old converted barn, with 2 friendly Lab dogs greeting visitors. The dogs are a hit with the kids. Kids also can play some games in the backyard while adults are sampling the wines. The wines were above average with a few that were very good. I especially liked the Merlot offering.
For lunch, we stopped in the city of Sonoma. Sonoma is a nice quiet old town with a historic downtown plaza. AT the center of the plaza you will find the beautiful colonial city hall building. On three sides of the plaza, you will find a large selection of shops and restaurants. I enjoyed a declivous salad at the “The Girl & The Fig”.
After lunch, we met Mike at the cheese factory where you can taste their cheese and fudge selection. I also enjoyed a tasty dessert of Gelato ice cream.
Our last stop was at the “Jacuzzi Family Vineyards”, which is right across the street from the first stop “Cline Cellars”. We also learned that both wineries are owned by the same parent company - but a difference between the two.
The jacuzzi is more upscale and situated in a very nice building. They offer free wine tasting and free olive oil tasting. The tasting host is very knowledgeable about the wines and about the Jacuzzi family history. Did you know that the Roy Jacuzzi invented the water pump and designed a very light propeller? The history lessons were a great bonus, but the wines were a hit. I liked several of their offerings and the prices were reasonable. Don’t forget to visit the tour with commanding views of the valley and the hills.
On the way back we drove through the beautiful town of Sausalito and up to the Marin Headlands. I always pass under the headlands when going over the Golden Gate Bridge. It never occurred to me to go up there. Now I know what I was missing. The view of the bridge and the city from above is breathtaking.
As a whole, I really enjoyed my trip with Best Bay Area Tours. I only have one small critique: The time allotted for each stop is too long. We get done quickly with wine tasting and exploring then we have to wait for the Van to pick us up.
Best Bay Area Tours offers other wine tasting tours as well as city tours and Yosemite day tours.