Monday we woke up early and packed up to head to Muir Woods on the suggestion that it was a place best visited early before the crowds. Even with the unexpectedly long drive, winding through a lot of hilly roads, we were there just before 8. We happened to find a ranger who informed us that the park would open at 8:00 but we were free to park and walk in. This was convenient because it avoided the need to buy a pass or pay any form of entry fee, as well as because it got us there before the crowds. Also, an interesting note for anyone visiting and not wanting to pay – if you park in the further lot and want to do a hike, the hiking trail has no gate, leaves the parking lot and deposits you smack in the middle of the woods when done. It does have about 800 ft of elevation change though.
If you just wanted to do the base loop in Muir Woods, it would be a two mile or so walk with relatively little elevation change. We did a couple side hikes up out of the valley which involved more elevation change. Unfortunately I left my Fitbit at home or it would have given me some excellent stair-count days. We did walk through the valley, through Cathedral Grove, which was one of the more specifically impressive areas on the walk. We then hikes up out of the valley (along the red dotted trail) to the Panoramic Highway. We didn’t really mean to, which was my fault for bad map-reading skills, but since hiking was kind of the goal, I didn’t feel too bad. We had to backtrack a portion of the trail back down into the valley. Our next loop was along the path dotted in yellow (which is also the ‘back way’ into the park as noted above). This trail again went up and out of the valley. It was interesting seeing the transition from the huge redwoods in the valley to the relatively generic pines and other trees as we climbed out. We hiked around the green area some also, I think, but this map is not quite detailed enough to figure out exactly where we went.
Map poached from here: http://www.nps.gov/goga/planyourvisit/upload/map-muwo-2.pdf
Day two, was about the doing, but also about the seeing, so there are a few more pictures. It was a bit hazy in the early morning and of course, it’s hard to really get pictures to capture the gigantic scale of the area.