If you’ve never seen a towering redwood tree in person, it’s an absolute must-do. These gentle giants have been growing, here in California, for millennia. It’s almost like they’ve been waiting for your visit!
If you’re looking for a redwood forest near San Francisco, you don’t have to travel far. The best place to see redwoods near San Francisco is John Muir Forest, also known as Muir Woods National Monument.
In this post, we’ll tell you how to score the ultimate Muir Woods tour. There are other places near San Francisco to see giant redwoods. We’ll give you all the details.
The biggest—and oldest—life forms on Earth
These aren’t just tall trees. They are the largest living things on Earth. The tallest Coastal Redwoods would tower over San Francisco’s famous Coit Tower. If relocated, they would provide shade to top of the U.S. Capitol dome!
And they’re the oldest living things around. They’ve been growing for up to 2,000 years! Naturalists estimate that the “Grizzly Giant” tree in Yosemite was a sprout during the reign of Julius Caesar!
See them. Feel them. Experience them.
California’s redwood groves are inspiring. The feeling is hard to describe, although many have tried. After spending time among these giants, my guests have called them “majestic,” “tranquil,” “magical,” or just plain “awesome.”
These trees inspired naturalist John Muir and photographer Ansel Adams. They impressed U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt so much, that after a night camping beneath a canopy of Yosemite redwoods, he said: “It was like lying in a great solemn cathedral, far vaster and more beautiful than any built by the hand of man.”
The “groves” or communities of trees that populate Northern California thrive on the local climate, mild temperature, moist air, and heavy precipitation. No matter which grove you visit, you will see mist among the treetops, feel leaves and twigs crunching beneath your feet and smell woodsy fresh air. There’s nothing else like it!
The Best San Francisco Redwoods
Okay, ready to go see some redwoods? Here are our favorite groves within 4-5 hours of the city.
Muir Woods. Muir Woods is located in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, just a 40-minute trip from San Francisco. So, if you’re short on time and prefer to stay local, Muir Woods is a great choice. It’s the perfect San Francisco redwoods tour.
Muir Woods is home to some of the most beautiful California Coastal Redwood trees. Don’t miss the Cathedral (U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was memorialized here) and Bohemian groves that are easily accessible on the park’s trails. The park is open 365 days a year. It can rain a lot in the winter and mornings can be chilly, so dress appropriately, and bring sturdy shoes for the trails.
You don’t want to go there without some planning. To enter the park in your personal vehicle, you’ll need an advance parking reservation. Get one at: https://gomuirwoods.com/ You may not do this on arrival since there is no cell-phone or wi-fi service in Muir Woods National Park.
Other things to know: In order to protect the wildlife, dogs and other pets are not allowed to enter Muir Woods. Food and beverages are available for purchase at the café but the rangers strictly prohibit picnicking in park’s boundaries (fyi, Muir Beach and the Marin Headlands have great picnic areas!).
Note that the park entry fee has changed to $15.00 per person over the age of 16. If you have an annual or lifetime pass to U.S. national parks, that will also gain you entry.
Jack Armstrong Park is a great way to go if you’d also like to visit Napa or Sonoma Valley. Jack Armstrong is just north of the eclectic town of Guerneville.
Like their famous cousins in Muir Woods and Yosemite, the Jack Armstrong trees are ancient and can stretch to 250 feet tall.
Yosemite’s Tuolumne and Mariposa groves, about a four-hour drive from San Francisco, have some of the most famous giant redwoods. Here you’ll find trees you’ve seen photos of, like this one you can walk through!
Look for other impressive trees in Yosemite…just ask for them by name: President, Hyperion, and Icarus.
If you’re wondering how to get to Muir Woods without a car, consider taking a bus or public transportation. For one thing, a bus takes the place of dozens of cars. The Park Service—and the trees—will thank you for it.
Traffic congestion at Muir Woods National Monument and Yosemite Valley is another good reason to leave the car at home. These parks have become so beloved that access roads are packed and parking a private vehicle anywhere near the trees is a daily challenge.
We don’t advise taking a shared car service such as Uber or Lift to the park. They can drop you within walking distance of Muir Woods but since there is no cell service in the park, you will not be able to arrange a ride back to San Francisco. Bummer!
Another option is Marin Transit, who operates a park shuttle from Mill Valley or Sausalito to Muir Woods on weekends and holidays during the winter and every day during the summer. The cost is $3 per person. Be sure to check the schedule at: https://marintransit.org/routes/66#dates.
Even if you’re just planning a one- or two-day visit to San Francisco, you can experience California’s Coastal Redwoods and Giant Sequoias. The easiest and more assured way is to book a Muir Woods tour with a local operating company so you can sit back and let a “local insider” guide take you there. Your group will arrive relaxed and more informed about the places you’re visiting.
We’ll meet you at the trees!