How To Get to Muir Woods from San Francisco

Jessica Nemire

How To Get to Muir Woods from San Francisco

San Francisco is an amazing city. We know we're biased, but hear us out! Not only does San Francisco have countless great things to do right here in the city - walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, take a hike through Land's End, relax in Dolores Park, see a view of the whole city at Twin Peaks at sunset - but we're also located two hours or less from many other phenomenal places. You can drive an hour and a half to go relax on the beach in Santa Cruz, hop on BART to catch a show in Oakland, or go take a hike amongst the tallest trees in the world at Muir Woods.

Here's the thing: many events and activities here in San Francisco are highly accessible by public transportation, while many of the wonderful attractions and cities we're located close to are hard to get to without a car. It's actually better NOT to have a car in San Francisco. At 7 miles by 7 miles, we are a very compact city, and parking can be close to impossible. For starters, there are 750,000 vehicles registered in San Francisco, but only 550,000 legal parking spaces! Therefore it's VERY easy to get slapped with a very expensive parking ticket. The average price of a parking ticket in San Francisco is $97, and that's one of the last things you want to deal with while on holiday!

Although not having a car here makes you less likely to get a parking ticket, it also makes it a little more difficult to get to the awesome places near us. But never fear! We're here to make it easier!

Muir Woods is located in Mill Valley, which is about 16.3 miles or 26 kilometers away from the Financial District/our hostel. Established in 1908, Muir Woods was created to protect old growth coast redwood trees, which are the tallest trees on the planet. In the 1800s, these trees used to cover more than 2 million acres of the state of California. Now, there are only about 120,000 acres of these trees left in California. This is only 5 percent of how many we used to have. 240 acres of our remaining redwoods are protected at Muir Woods National Monument. And we're going to tell you how you can go see them!

                                                                                                                                                                                       Picture credit: Caleb Jones/Unsplash

But first, we're going to answer some questions we think you might have. Like...

How much does it cost? 

Muir Woods costs $15 to visit, plus the reservation fee (unless you bike) and the cost of getting there. That means that Muir Woods probably isn't something to add to your itinerary if you're doing the "live off of ramen and save money by walking around all day instead of taking the metro" kind of traveling. We've all been there. Pacific Tradewinds Hostel provides its guests with free ramen and PB&J sandwiches 24/7, by the way.

However! If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area on the following five days, Muir Woods is FREE to enter:

  • January 21 - Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • April 20 - National Park Week
  • August 25 - National Park Service birthday
  • September 28 - National Public Lands Day
  • November 11 - Veterans Day

Muir Woods is also free to enter if you have a National Parks Pass ($80/year), or if you are 15 years old or younger, which we are assuming you are not if you're reading this. If you are, we should mention our hostel is 18+ up unless you're with your parent or guardian. 

When is it open?

You can go to Muir Woods every day of the week, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.

What's this about a reservation fee?

If you look at the Muir Woods website, it prompts you make a reservation. That means that on top of the $15 you have to pay to enter, you also have to pay a reservation fee. You might be thinking, "WHAT?! Reservations to go to a National Park?! That's crazy!" 

Muir Woods started requiring reservations in January 2018 because of the high volume of visitors they were getting, and the limited amount of parking spots they have. Without reservations, they had no way of knowing how many people were planning on coming and trying to park that day, and it was becoming a safety issue.

So now, if you want to go to Muir Woods, you have to make a reservation 90 days ahead of time. That's three months. So, if you're reading this in July and planning on visting San Francisco in October or November, you'd better get on it! UNLESS, you're planning on biking to Muir Woods or going with a private tour group, and then there's no reservation required. But, we'll get to that.

Alright! Without further ado, here's how to get to Muir Woods!

By car:

A parking reservation at Muir Woods costs $8. Want to drive to Muir Woods but won't be coming to San Francisco with a car? NO PROBLEM! If you decide to drive to Muir Woods, you can rent a car for the day with the car rental services Getaround or Turo, which let you rent other peoples' cars to drive around in, so the fees are less than a normal car rental service.

Once you have your car sorted out, make sure to leave as early as you can, because traffic can be brutal. It should only take roughly 30 minutes to get there, but can take as long as an hour during rush hour or on sunny days, weekends, and free admission days. You have to cross the Golden Gate Bridge to get there, and bridge traffic is no joke. There is also a toll to cross the Golden Gate Bridge by car, which is $8.20 to cross the bridge. You are only charged the bridge toll when you come back over the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco, so you will only have to pay it when leaving Muir Woods.

So, if you drive, the total cost of your Muir Woods trip will be $31.20. (Entry fee + reservation + Golden Gate Bridge toll.) This price obviously does NOT include the price of a rental car, if you get one.) Muir Woods also has charging stations for electric cars, but please note that if you come in an electric car, they will tack an extra $3 onto your reservation to pay for the electricity, making your total trip cost $34.20.

By ferry and shuttle:

Don't have a car and don't want to rent one? No problem! You can also take the 66 bus, otherwise known as the Muir Woods Shuttle. Whereas a car reservation costs $8, taking the 66 shuttle bus only costs $3 a reservation. However! Getting to the shuttle is a little complicated. But! We're going to break it down for ya.

The 66 shuttle does not leave directly from San Francisco. Instead, it leaves from Sausalito, so you will have to get to Sausalito to catch the shuttle. The easiest way to get to Sausalito is by taking the Golden Gate Ferry. Check the ferry schedule so you can plan your trip. The ferry costs $13 each way, so it will cost $26 total to go there and back. If you have a Clipper Card, the ferry will cost $7 each away, so it will cost $14 total to go there and back.

If you take the ferry to the shuttle bus with a Clipper Card, the total cost of your Muir Woods trip will come out to $32. If you take the ferry to the shuttle bus without a Clipper Card, the total trip cost will come out to $44.

Pacific Tradewinds Hostel is a 13 minute walk from the Ferry Building, which is where you can catch the ferry to Sausalito to get the ferry. The ferry will take you to Bay and Bridgeway (where you have to go to catch the shuttle). From there, you can get on the shuttle, which takes you straight to Muir Woods. If the whole ferry thing sounds intimidating, don't worry - thousands of people who live in Sausalito and work in San Francisco use this ferry to get them to or from work every day.

Plus, you'll go past the Golden Gate Bridge on the ferry, so you'll have some dope bridge views on your boat ride to the forest!

                                                                                                                                                                                     Picture credit: Clyde Valdez/Unsplash

By bus and shuttle:

Not feeling the ferry? Ferr enough! (Sorry. That was dumb.)

You can also take buses to the 66 shuttle stop at Bay and Bridgeway. From Pacific Tradewinds Hostel, the easiest way would be to take the 4 bus to the 17 bus. This takes a little over an hour. The 17 bus drops you off right at Bay and Bridgeway. The 4 bus is a Golden Gate Transit bus. If you have a Clipper Card, the 4 bus will cost $5.60 one way. Without a Clipper Card, the 4 bus will cost $7.00 each way.

The 17 bus is a Marin Transit bus. It costs $1.80 each way with a Clipper Card. Without a Clipper Card, it costs $2 each way.

If you take the bus to the shuttle with a Clipper Card, the total cost of your Muir Woods trip, with the shuttle reservation and the Muir Woods entry fee, will come out to $25.40. If you take the bus to the shuttle without a Clipper Card, the total cost of your Muir Woods trip will come out to $27.

Please note: these are not MUNI buses. Transportation to Muir Woods costs more because all buses have to go over the Golden Gate Bridge, and like we said before, there is a fee to cross the bridge.

By bike:

Guess what! There's one way you can go to Muir Woods without a reservation, and that's to go by bike! This way, you don't have to make your reservation three months in advance. You can just hop on your bike and go! You can rent a bike from Blazing Saddles for $28.80 for a whole 24 hour period. That's more than enough time to take a lovely scenic ride across the Golden Gate Bridge, spend a few hours in the forest, and bike back. (Entry fee is still $15.)

The total bike trip takes around two hours. This method of getting to Muir Woods is best for the experienced biker. Think this is you? Check out this amazing article in the SF Chronicle with detailed instructions on how to get to Muir Woods by bike.

By private tour group:

If you're shaking your head and thinking this all sounds too complicated, WAIT! There is another way! Dylan's Tours offers a tour that goes directly from Fisherman's Wharf to Muir Woods and back to Fisherman's Wharf. No ferry, shuttle or bike required! The total tour time is four hours, and it costs $55 total per tour. You still have to pay the $15 entry fee to Muir Woods, so your trip total will come out to $70, but it saves you the trouble of having to worry about reservations or ferry times or anything except for just relaxing on the car ride across the Golden Gate Bridge and enjoying a stroll in the forest.

Ughhh, can I just Uber there?

Actually, no, you can't. There is no cell service at Muir Woods, so you won't be able to call one back. You could technically take a taxi there, but this would be widlly expensive, and there aren't taxis hanging out at Muir Woods waiting to take people back, so getting back would still be an issue. 

Okay, but really...is Muir Woods worth it?

We think 100 percent YES. Muir Woods is one of the only places where you can see so many old growth coast redwood trees in one place. If you're visiting San Francisco, you're a short 16 miles away, so why not go on the adventure to go see them?

Where else near San Francisco do you want to know how to get to? Leave us a comment and let us know! We'll write a blog post about it!

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