With this photo story, I am inviting you to relax and follow me on a virtual walk through the majestic California Coastal Redwoods at one of the most beautiful and magical locations just ten minutes from the Golden Gate bridge: Muir Woods National Monument. Located on the western slope of mystical Mount Tamalpais, Muir Woods has long been of my favorite places in the world. I will go ahead to set the pace… which will be slooooow.
I arrived there one early spring morning in an attempt to avoid the incredible crowds that always gather at this popular forest. You will see the light changing as the morning progresses. Despite the crowds – more than eight hundred thousand (yes 800,000) people from all over the world visit here each year – Muir Woods maintains a strong spirit of place, and these old growth Coastal Redwoods are treasures to behold.
Yes, you do spend a lot of time looking up, trying to find the tips of these powerful old friends. The tallest recorded Redwood to date is 379.1 feet tall (115.5 meters).
I love all trees and forests, but the California Coastal Redwoods have a special place in my heart. When I walk into a Redwood forest, I truly feel like I am going home, that I am visiting old friends. Some of these trees have been here for centuries. Tourists like to pose by a large cross section of Redwood trunk set up near the entrance and on which historical events are marked starting from the center all the way to the outer bark.
I have been to Muir Woods at times when it was almost impossible to walk by how crowded it was. But on this early morning, only a few visitors were walking around with me, and the forest remained generally quiet and soothing, at least for the hour I was there.
Entering this type of forest is such a change of pace that you are instantly transported to a place of inner quiet and reverence. The desire to go and cuddle up with one of the trees is always strong, though I resist the urge here as visitors are required to stay on the path for the health of the natural environment. I would not want to set a bad example to 800,000 people.
Take a deep breath in… hold… then exhale. That wonderful deep forest fragrance we love so much… those are the phytoncydes, which are organic compounds given off by trees – especially Redwoods and conifers – that are not only pleasant to our nose, but also strengthen our immune system by supporting our NK (natural killer) cells.
Before the logging industry arrived in California, an estimated two million acres (8,000 km2) of old growth forest grew in a narrow strip along the coastal belt from Monterey up to southern Oregon. Now, Muir Woods is one of the few remaining protected old Redwood groves in California.
Because of its proximity to San Francisco, it is also one of the best known and most accessible of these forests, thus the high number of visitors.
I hope you have enjoyed this quiet walk through beautiful Muir Woods, and that maybe one day you will join me for a Shinrin-Yoku (forest bathing) walk through one of the lesser known old Redwood forests further north along the coast.
1 Muir Woods Road – Mill Valley, Ca 94941 | website | ph. 415-388-2595
open daily 8:00 am – 7:00 pm (in summer) | entry fee | wheelchair accessible
restrooms, gift shop & coffee shop facilities on site
parking is not easy, especially on weekends and in the summer, use of the shuttle is suggested
find more information on the park’s website
Update of July 10, 2015: I just found out that, due to its extreme popularity, Muir Woods will soon start requiring reservations. You can read about it in this article by SF Gate.
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