The Tallest of Them All ~ Muir Woods National Monument

Advice from a Tree:  Stand tall and proud/Sink your roots deep into the earth/Be content with your natural beauty/Go out on a limb/Drink plenty of water/Remember your roots/Enjoy the view!  ~  (c) Ilan Shamir*

The tallest of them all is the Coast Redwood, reaching as high as 380 feet up into the heavens.  We had already seen her bulkier relative, the Giant Sequoia, so we were looking forward to our visit to Muir Woods National Monument.

During peak season it is a must to arrive by 9 am to get a parking space.  We did just that and within an hour the tour buses and cars streamed in.  Our reward for arriving early was no crowds and a lovely, peaceful walk among these giants.  This forest has a mystical, fairy-tale feel, somewhat eerie at times, with tendrils of fog snaking among the trees.  Other times it was so peaceful and quiet (in the Cathedral Grove) that we felt as if we were on hallowed ground – really lovely.

These ancient Coast Redwoods covered many northern California valleys before the 1800’s, then logging took its toll.  In 1905 U.S. Congressman William Kent and wife Elizabeth Thacher Kent purchased land here to protect one of the last stands of these giants.  They donated 295 acres to the federal government to ensure lifetime protection.  In 1908 President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Muir Woods a National Monument and at Mr. Kent’s request it was named for renown conservationist John Muir.

Muir Woods can’t boast the tallest redwood on record but does have some reaching upwards of 250 feet, which is amazing given its start comes from a seed no bigger than what you would find in a tomato.  Most redwoods in this stand are 500-800 years old, with the oldest in the forest topping out at 1200 years.  Marine layer fog provides needed moisture for these redwoods, even in the dry season.

Another giant who calls this forest home is the banana slug, the second largest species of slug in the world, growing as long as 9.8 inches.  They move at a speedy 6.5 inches per minute.  Just follow the trail of slime and you are certain to spy one of these unusual mollusks.

Once we had finished wandering the trails and seen the hordes arriving, we decided to hop onto the Dipsea Trail, right off the parking lot.  This is a 9.5 miler round-trip if you go all the way to Stinson Beach but we cut it short at 6.5 miles, stopping at the bluffs overlooking San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge and Point Reyes.  It is considered a moderate hike through a beautiful redwood and fir forest.

A trail marker near the top of the bluff peeked our curiosity.

It marks a point on the trail for the annual Dipsea Race, the oldest trail race in America, first run in 1905.  Open to the first 500 entrants, it is run the second Sunday in June and is described as a “grueling and treacherous” 7.4 mile trek from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach.  Sounds suicidal to me!

If you are in these parts and want to see the tallest of them all, Muir Woods National Monument is the perfect place to spend a few hours.  Who knows, you might even get lucky like we did and catch a glimpse of the slippery banana slug.

*NOTE:  To view the poem Advice from a Tree, by Ilan Shamir, in its entirety, see this website or to listen to Mr. Shamir recite his poem to the beat of his cottonwood drum, go here.

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9 thoughts on “The Tallest of Them All ~ Muir Woods National Monument

  • Really enjoyed Mt.Tamalpais. I was stationed at the top of Mt. Tam at the 666th ACW Radar Air Force Station in the 50s. Lived in Stinson Beach for awhile and then Mill Valley. You hiked in the same area that I drove every day. For awhile I had a second job as a waiter at a neat little Bavarian restaurant about half way up Mt. Tamalpais. Had to wear Lederhosens (sp) on the job. Kinda funny at the time. R&G

  • I can’t wait to get to CA to see all the majestic trees/Redwoods. Top of the bucket list. With all the wildfires around here, I certainly hope the NP in CA don’t succumb to a similar fate anytime soon. It’s been difficult to witness. Your earlier posts i.e. Kings Canyon, etc. had me wanting to pack up and go. Ah, those darn responsibilities 😦 Will continue to drool over your photos until I can get out there….lol

    • The NP’s in CA are really pretty amazing. Even though we have had some cooler weather while in CA (nearer the coast) it is very dry here so their fire season could be traumatic as well. Hopefully things will improve in Colorado very soon.

  • Weee!!! High Five for Muir Woods National Monument. I wish I had more time and space than you had. We could’ve done a lot more, but we were with my grandma. I don’t blame it, per se, I actually love to take her there as she kept exclaiming the needed fresh air. MWNM certainly provides that ecosystem cycle for the visitors to embrace.
    That slug is creepily interesting. It looks like a very slimy snake. Do they bite? Hehe

    • I so admire you for sharing some of this beauty with your grandma. She is blessed to have you as a grandson. Not sure about the slug but know that I wouldn’t want him crawling on me!

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