Muir Woods National Monument Off Hwy. 1, on Panoramic Hwy., 12 mi. N of San Francisco, in Muir Beach, (415) 388-2595. Daily 8-sunset. $10, under 16 free. No pets.
Located just off Highway 1 and enveloping 560 acres, this magnificent, fragrant old-growth redwood forest has 6 miles of level paved or boardwalk walking trails. The easy paved Main Trail loop has interpretive exhibits, and seven more-challenging unpaved trails lead away from the crowds. Naturalist John Muir, for whom the forest was named, said of it, "This is the best tree lover's monument that could be found in all the forests of the world." The largest tree here measures 240 feet high by 16 feet wide. Because nearly 1 million people come here each year, only a visit early or late in the day (before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.) provides the hope of some solitude; rainy days are also quiet. And no matter what time of year it is, visitors are advised to bring along warm wraps. The dense forest lets in very little sunlight, and the weather is usually damp, foggy, and cold. Children ages 6 through 12 can sign up for a free Junior Ranger program at the Visitors Center when they arrive and receive a sticker badge and workbook that helps them explore nature (download a booklet ahead of time). Picnicking is not permitted, but a simple cafe dispenses sustainable local foods.
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