“Muir Woods National Monument is the best tree-lovers monument that could possibly be found in the forests of the world,” said the famous naturalist John Muir, about the 500-odd acres of land in California that has been named after him.
Situated a few miles north of San Francisco, Muir Woods is one of the addresses of the tallest trees in the world. Botanists call them Sequoia Sempervirans and we who are quite familiar with the tree know it by the name ‘Coastal Redwoods.’ This variety of Sequoia along with the Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) is also what California calls its State-Tree.
We’ll talk about (and see pictures of) Giant Sequoias later. Now let me tell you how special the Coast Redwoods (or Coastal Redwoods) are to the Golden State. They are found only in California, I am told. The park ranger whose talk we got to attend at Muir Woods told us that the Coast Redwoods are found only in California, that too only from that corner of California that borders Oregon to the Monterey area on California’s Central Coast. That’s just about a 100-miles along the state’s coast. What’s more: These Redwoods do not grow in places beyond 30 miles of the Pacific Coast. Now, that explains why the Coastal Redwoods are so dear to California.
The state’s botanical history talks of a time when there were plenty of the Sequoia Sempervirans in what is California today. But then in the 1850s large-scale logging began to take place, and what is left of the coastal redwoods now is very little in comparison. And that, makes it even more precious to the state of California.
Considering Muir Woods is not very far from that big city called San Francisco, this would be a good place to see the Coastal Redwood, especially if you are from out-of-state and don’t have much time to explore California. Considering San Francisco is sure to be on your itinerary, Muir Woods National Monument would be less than 20 miles north of the city. (If you are in California for a few days and would like to see more of the state tree, especially the Coast variety — at the end of this post — I’ll put up a list of other places where we have been able to catch sight of the Sequoia Sempervirens. And better news is that the other places don’t receive as much traffic as Muir Woods, gets.)
But now let me do the job at hand and show you Muir Woods. This area north of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Strait has always been very rich in flora, so a couple by the name of William and Elizabeth Kent purchased some 600 acres of land with the sole idea of preserving the natural richness of the land. Later most of it was handed over Federal Government and given National Monument status by president Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. The Kents even thought the place should be named after John Muir (and not them who were the first ones to donate land for a National monument.)
When we visited Muir Woods, we decided to do one of the smaller hikes so that the walk wouldn’t tire our 3-year old hiker’s little legs. And what did we see on the hike: the coast redwoods and lots of other plants and trees native to California, some lichen, and a creek.
Some tips for the trip:
If you have plans to visit Muir Woods, make sure you get to the park as early as possible if you need to find parking. The park opens at 8 in the morning and the few parking lots near ‘the woods’ seem to fill up in an hour and a half or so. If you are not able to go very early, you might want to try your luck in the late afternoon when the morning-visitors leave.
Another option you might want to consider is making a booking on a tour from SF or Sausalito that have Muir Woods included in the itinerary. Tour buses seem to have some reserved parking here so that’s one way to avoid the parking woes of Muir Woods.
If it’s in the summer, there are shuttles to take you to Muir Woods. (You can find info on that here)
Other places where we got to see the Coast Redwoods:
And then there’s Redwood State and National Park which we are yet to visit.
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