Imagine the delight of wandering around a 1,000 year old redwood forest, just a mere 17 kilometres (11 miles) from the heart of San Francisco. Muir Woods National Monument is so close to the city but couldn’t be more removed from the hectic pace of urban life. It’s a place to rejuvenate, meditate and contemplate, and should absolutely be on your must-do list of wheelchair accessible attractions when visiting San Francisco.
On my recent trip to San Francisco I enjoyed a morning tour to Muir Woods. It was my third visit to the National Park. My first visit was leading a garden group from Australia and the second was to show the family a place I’d fallen in love with years before. The impact of this natural wonderland was not diluted after repeated trips.
Muir Woods is a lovely example of accessibility being incorporated within nature without impact, with a wheelchair accessible route which weaves between the giant redwoods.
Muir Woods was originally purchased by William and Elizabeth Kent to preserve its natural beauty and in 1908 was protected by President Theodore Roosevelt. Named after John Muir who referred to the National Park as “the best tree-lovers monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world.”
Today, Muir Woods is home to several tree species, more than 50 species of birds and is a critical spawning and rearing habitat for several threatened species of salmon.
Walking among the redwoods I felt dwarfed by their size and it’s not surprising given a Coastal Redwood is around 115 metres tall (379 feet). Compare this to the Statue of Liberty at 93 metres (305 feet) and a T-Rex at around 12 metres (40ft) and you may appreciate their size. They are majestic giants which are thankfully protected in Muir Woods for us all to enjoy.
When I found a little corner without others around I could appreciate the bird song, the stillness and beauty of my surroundings. I even found a little squirrel friend. Quite a novelty given we don’t have squirrels in Australia
A gift or two was purchased in the lovely gift shop and I appreciated the environmental efforts in the cafe with no paper or plastic cups and recycling in full force.
MUIR WOODS ACCESSIBILITY
Although much care has been taken to maintain the natural environment at Muir Woods, accessibility is still front of mind with an accessible route and facilities provided for guests with disability.
Visiting as a family we were travelling with BJ’s manual wheelchair. We had no trouble navigating the wheelchair accessible route and had a wonderful day exploring the park. On my recent trip I met a father and son visiting Muir Woods from the UK. I’m always keen to chat to others about accessibility to get a feel for how others in different circumstances find it. The lovely father and son said they’d had no problem getting around but did comment an extra bit of muscle was needed for this small hill on the path. There are some areas where the tree roots have lifted the pathway but most people should be able to manage the small bumps along the way.
Accessible facilities include ramp access to the gift shop and cafe.
A unisex stand-alone accessible bathroom is located near the gift store and cafe.
VISION & HEARING IMPAIRED SERVICES
Muir Woods offers an audio described brochure to download, braille brochure and trail map and large print brochure.
GETTING TO MUIR WOODS
I visited Muir Woods thanks to a tour I booked with Big Bus San Francisco. Big Bus offers accessible bus tours if booked in advance. Some of the buses have a wheelchair lift for access and have dedicated accessible spaces with tie downs. I really enjoyed the tour as our driver doubled as a guide with the drive information-filled. Even though I’ve visited San Francisco many times, the driver’s commentary was informative and entertaining.
On the return journey I chose to leave the tour in Sausalito and I made my own way back on the ferry to Fisherman’s Wharf. It was a lovely way to spend a half day.
DRIVING TO MUIR WOODS
When we visited Muir Woods as a family, we travelled there in our hire car and parked in the accessible parking. At the time reservations weren’t required. Since we last visited, reservations are essential for visitors driving to Muir Woods. This has been implemented for public safety. The National Park has found increased visitors and limited parking was resulting in unsafe illegal parking and people and cars sharing narrow roads making it dangerous for all. The new parking and shuttle reservation system is designed to better manage visitation levels and reduce overcrowding. Not only does it ensure visitors have a more pleasant experience, but it also enhances the protection and preservation of the surrounding natural resources.
Reservations are also required for accessible car spaces (ADA). Reservations for all parking can be made online.
The Muir Woods Shuttle, which also offers wheelchair accessibility, provides seasonal services to the Muir Woods National Monument from Sausalito, Marin City, and the Pohono Park & Ride lot. This service can also be booked online.
While I love all the attractions of the city, if you’re visiting San Francisco I highly recommend taking a walk in nature at Muir Woods. You can read more about accessibility on the Muir Woods Monument Park website.
I was a guest of Big Bus San Francisco for the tour but the fact I’ve visited Muir Woods three times should indicate that my enthusiasm is genuine.