Welcome to Muir Woods National Monument in California. This narration runs approximately 25 minutes. It describes the Muir Woods park brochure produced by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. The brochure is a single, 2-sided glossy sheet with 3 folds that create 4 panels. It includes photographs of people, wildlife, trees and plants, segments on the natural history, ecology and geography of the redwood forest, and a small walking map with important visitor information. It also provides an in-depth look at the fascinating species that dominates Muir Woods, the coast redwoods.
Muir Woods National Monument is part of California’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and lies just north of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge. Muir Woods has been federally protected as a National Monument since 1908 and lies in the heart of the redwood's latitudinal range which spans from California's northern border to Big Sur in the south. Muir Woods invites you to walk among old-growth coast redwoods cooling their roots in the fresh water of Redwood Creek and lifting their crowns to reach the sun and fog. While more than a million visitors each year are drawn to the towering redwoods, the understory also beckons visitors to pay closer attention to the rich diversity of flora and fauna nestled beneath the canopy.
The front of the brochure is divided into three sections. The top section includes text regarding the natural history of redwood trees and the lives that depend on them, and incorporates two pictures: a large picture that showcases the colossal height of redwood trees, and a smaller picture depicting a group of visitors with a park ranger. The middle section, titled “People of the Redwoods,” traces the history of the people who have lived in Muir Woods and have contributed to its status as a National Monument today, and includes a photo of John Muir. The bottom third section is titled “Exploring Your Park” and includes important information for visitors as well as a walking map.
On side one, the first panel is a photograph of Muir Woods, credit line National Park Service. The photograph shows four people on the main path, standing amidst the tall redwoods with their horizontally grooved bark and reddish trunks. The path is in deep shade from the trees, but the trunks are dappled with light that frames the crisscross of the redwood boughs. Small fractures of blue sky are able to penetrate through the light green redwood needles. Smaller trees and lush green ferns are growing at the base of the redwoods. Here and there, piles of dried fallen redwood needles create patches of brilliant golden orange on the ground.
The image is accompanied by the following caption: “For nearly 200 million years, redwoods and their ancestors have nurtured a diverse community of life that survives here.”
Welcome to this rare ancient forest where coast redwoods reign, many over 600 years old. They have survived fires and floods, and avoided intense logging that took so many other redwoods. These old trees have provided shelter and nutrients for younger trees, other plants, and many animals. People have been coming here for thousands of years, finding plenty of food, shelter, and wonders to celebrate in their cultures. As you walk among the redwoods, breathe in deeply and reflect on this forest’s history and future.
A photograph to the right of this block of text depicts a group of 10 visitors and a park ranger, credit line National Park Service. The park ranger is pointing to the left and slightly upwards, over a small wooden fence and dense undergrowth composed of sorrel, ferns, and fallen redwoods. The visitors’ eyes are following the park ranger’s finger, and some of them are pointing as well. A large boulder extends onto the dirt pathway, where the group is standing.
The Coast Miwok are the original people of this land. They lived throughout this area for thousands of years, managing the land and its natural resources. They set fires to enrich the forest and grasslands as natural fires did, shaping the forest now known as Muir Woods.
As Europeans arrived in the 1700s, they displaced native people from their lands and moved them into Spanish missions. Even here on the isolated Marin peninsula, Coast Miwok lost homeland, were enslaved, and died of mistreatment and European diseases. Ninety percent of the Coast Miwok had died by the time of California’s gold rush in the mid-1800s.
New settlers found a different gold in these hills — the redwoods. Lumber was needed for forts, houses, and other structures. By the early 1900s, people had cut most of California’s redwoods. This canyon, though, was never logged because its owners had protected it.
In 1908, William and Elizabeth Kent donated this small old-growth redwood forest to the public. President Theodore Roosevelt used the new Antiquities Act to proclaim the area a national monument. The park was named for John Muir, who wrote often about the beauty and value of ancient forests.
Today over one million people visit this rare, uncut redwood forest each year.
The National Park Service works with many partners here. Descendants of the Coast Miwok, now members of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, help with the park’s care and management. The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy supports volunteer activities, trail projects, education initiatives, and stewardship programs at Muir Woods.
A photograph of John Muir lies to the right of this text, credit line Library of Congress. The photo lacks color and depicts John Muir from the chest up, gazing somberly to somewhere to the side of the camera. He is dressed in the style of 1912, when the photo was taken, with a white-collared shirt, a bowtie, a vest with a pocket watch, a jacket, and a homburg hat. He is bearded, and gray hair tufts out from under the brim of his hat.
The photograph is accompanied by a caption that reads: When he found out the name of the new park, John Muir said, “This is the best treelover’s monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world.”
Shuttle riders and people using personal vehicles must have reservations before arriving at the park. Details at www.gomuirwoods.com.
Enjoy a walk on the paved Redwood Creek Trail (also called Main Trail). Choose short, medium, or long loops. Other trails go deep into Muir Woods and Mount Tamalpais State Park.
Join a ranger led program and dig into the forest’s many stories. Young adventurers can earn their Junior Ranger badge.
Muir Woods is part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which includes Marin Headlands, Alcatraz, the Presidio, and Ocean Beach. Download the app at www.nps.gov/goga.
Wi-Fi and cell service are not available. • Watch for stinging nettle, poison oak, and falling branches. • Do not feed or disturb animals. • Fishing is prohibited in Redwood Creek. • Do not mark or remove trees, flowers, or other natural features. • Go to the park website for more safety tips and regulations, including firearms.
We strive to make facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. For information go to the visitor center, ask a ranger, call, or check our website.
Muir Woods National Monument
Mill Valley, CA 94941-2696
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To learn more about national parks, visit www.nps.gov.
This untitled map is a way finding map, and details many of the trails and amenities that can be found within the park. The 560-acre park has six miles of trails. Most main trails along the canyon floor are paved and level. Unpaved trails out of the canyon connect with Mt. Tamalpais State Park trails. The map is 3-by-4 inches, with a scale of 0.2 miles per inch, and depicts Muir Woods with Redwood Creek shown in blue, flowing from top to bottom, northwest to southwest, crossed by 4 bridges that make loop walks possible. The map is oriented with north slightly right of the top and horizontally covers 1.5 miles as the crow flies within park boundaries. The parking lot, restrooms, and visitor center are at the southeastern edge of the map. The map indicates a café, gift shop, and additional restrooms just north of the visitor center. It also depicts notable features from south to north, first the Pinchot Tree, then Bohemian Grove, Cathedral Grove, and the Kent Memorial. Large Print or Braille tactile maps are available at the visitor center.
The map’s legend uses a yellow band to indicate a paved trail that runs on either side of Redwood Creek. All paved trails are wheelchair accessible. The three main paved loop trails start at the visitor center and follow some part of the yellow band, with their length dependent upon which bridge (1, 2, 3, or 4) over Redwood Creek you decide to cross for your return. The map’s legend also shows a white dashed line indicating extended, unpaved trail. These trails are not wheelchair accessible.
Roadways and Trails
The primary roadway to Muir Woods connects from Panoramic Highway in Mill Valley and leads directly to the parking lot. If you choose to drive past the parking lot, the road will take you to Muir Beach.
Redwood Creek Trail is the primary trail in Muir Woods. From the visitor center, the shortest option is a half hour, half-mile loop walk, going past Bridge 1 to Bridge 2, crossing Bridge 2, and returning on the other side of Redwood Creek to cross Bridge 1 and arrive back at the visitor center.
The second option goes past Bridge 1 and 2 to Bridge 3. It then goes a little further, makes a small loop around Cathedral Grove, and returns to Bridge 3. After crossing at Bridge 3, the trail returns to Bridge 1 on the other side of Redwood Creek. It crosses Bridge 1 and arrives back at the visitor center. This trail is a mile long and takes about an hour.
The longest option goes all the way to Bridge 4, crosses it, and returns along the Hillside Trail. The Hillside Trail is represented as a white dashed line, is not wheelchair accessible, and is unpaved. The Hillside Trail rejoins the paved Redwood Creek Trail at Bridge 2, then continues back to Bridge 1. The visitor center will be across from Bridge 1. This trail is 2 miles long and takes about an hour and a half.
Aside from these main loops are other unpaved trails. The Dipsea Trail in the south stretches from southeast to northwest. The Canopy View Trail in the northeast runs north from the canyon floor to Panoramic Highway above. The Fern Creek Trail in the northeast runs along Fern Creek, a northern branch of Redwood Creek. The Ben Johnson Trail, Bootjack Trail, and Camp Alice Eastwood Trail are indicated in the north-western corner of the map. A map of these trails in their entirety is available at the visitor center, in a Large Print or Braille with tactile map version.
Map Text by Quadrant
Redwood Creek Trail, including Bridge 2 and Bridge 3
Canopy View Trail
Fern Creek Trail
Founders Grove (Pinchot Tree)
Redwood Creek Trail
Roadway access to Mill Valley or Muir Beach
Visitor center (Pay entrance fee here)
Café and gift shop
Redwood Creek Trail, including Bridge 1
Bohemian Grove Trail
Redwood Creek trail, including Bridge 4
Ben Johnson Trail
Camp Alice Eastwood Trail
Side 2 of the brochure is titled ‘California Redwoods’, and offers an in depth look at California’s ancient and endangered trees. Side 2 is meant to be read from top to bottom as one continuous page broken into themes. The first section details the difference between coast redwoods and giant sequoias. The second section, titled “Earth’s Tallest Living Things,” describes the height of coast redwoods. The third section, titled “Life of the Redwood Forest,” allows for a deeper insight into the natural history of redwood groves. The fourth section, titled “Roles of Fog and Fire,” describes how fog and fire are two essential ingredients for healthy redwoods. The fifth and final section is titled “As a Tree Grows,” and describes how a redwood begins its life. A detailed colored drawing of a giant redwood stretches from bottom to top of the entire page. All photos and illustrations on this side of the brochure are credited to the National Park Service.
Redwood-like trees covered much of the Northern Hemisphere 150 million years ago. Two species of redwood remain in the United States—both in California, both with very limited ranges. A third species, the dawn redwood, is native only to central China.
The coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) grows on the Pacific coast from southern Oregon into California (map). Most ancient coast redwoods have been cut, but some are protected in Redwood national and state parks, in other California and Oregon state parks, and here.
Underneath this text, a small drawing of a redwood is captioned with the following information:
Height to 379 feet
Age to 2,000 years
Diameter to 22 feet at chest height
Bark to 12 inches thick
From the drawing, you can tell that redwoods are tall and slender with branches that start quite high and taper gracefully to the top. The branches sprout thousands of soft, light green needles.
Closely related, the giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) grows larger in bulk but shorter than the coast redwood. It is found only in small groves on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada. Some groves are protected in Yosemite and Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks.
Underneath this text, and directly next to the drawing of the coast redwood, a small drawing of a giant sequoia is captioned with the following information:
Height to 311 feet
Age to 3,200 years
Diameter to 40 feet at chest height
Bark 31 inches thick
The giant sequoia is shorter, sturdier-looking, and broader than the coast redwood. Its deeply grooved branches also begin high up, but they are thicker and not as elongated. Masses of dark green needles clump around the edges of the boughs.
A small map of California is to the right of the paired trees. The map is a bare outline of California, and the trees’ ranges are colored in as gray. Coast redwoods grow on a thin and discontinuous 500-mile strip of pacific coastline from southern Oregon to Big Sur. On the map, this is represented by a gray line that runs along California’s northern coast and only extends 30 miles inland. In contrast, the sequoia’s range is depicted as a smattering of gray dots in eastern central California, near Nevada’s border.
Coast redwoods are the tallest living things on Earth. The tallest reaches 379 feet above the forest floor of Redwood National Park. In Muir Woods, the tallest is over 258 feet – about the height of a 23-story building.
They grow best in the moderate temperatures of the coast as long as they are protected from wind and salt spray. The tallest trees grow along streams, like Redwood Creek, that periodically flood.
A small photo of a Steller’s jay is nestled into the left corner of this section of the brochure, credit line NPS/ Will Elder. The Steller’s jay is perched on a branch and surveys the area below. The top half of the bird is black and its eyes are shiny and small. Its black crest is flattened against its head, but protrudes out over the back of its neck. The black feathers give way into brilliant blue wings that are horizontally striped with slightly curved black lines. This pattern continues to its tail feathers.
A photo depicting a clump of sword ferns is placed next to the Steller’s jay. The fronds of the ferns fan out from their central point in lively disarray. Each frond has dozens of paired blades that extend outwards in opposite directions. The ferns are bright green and shiny, and laced with orange fronds that are in the process of being replaced by new growth.
The third photo in this panel depicts redwood sorrel, a clover look-a-like that grows low to the ground in thick patches. The credit line is James M. Morley. The bright green trefoil leaves grow in clumps of three, and each individual leaf is shaped like a heart. There is a tiny white flower with five petals and a yellow center amidst the dense carpet of sorrel leaves.
Most of the mature redwoods here are 500 to 800 years old; some may be over 1,000 years old. They grow among rotting logs and thick undergrowth, creating a specialized habitat for many animals and plants. While here, consider ways these species are adapted to the low light and moist conditions of the redwood forest.
Redwood Creek adds to the diversity of life in this ancient forest, providing habitat for aquatic creatures like fish, insects, and salamanders. Winter rainstorms swell the creek enough that it breaks through the sand barrier at Muir Beach. This allows steelhead trout and coho salmon to swim from the ocean into the creek, where they spawn.
Redwoods flourish only in coastal California’s fog belt, where frequent summer fog supplies critical moisture in the dry season. As fog condenses on leaves and needles, the water drips to the forest floor and soaks in, becoming available to tree roots.
Like fog, fire is essential to redwoods. Low-intensity fire clears out duff (decayed plants) so redwood seeds can reach the soil. Fire also destroys bacteria and fungi that kill seeds. Redwoods live through these fires due to their thick, spongy bark. Their bark also contains tannin, which makes them resistant to fire. However, extremely hot fires can burn through bark and expose heartwood to dry rot. Later fires may hollow out rotted portions, leaving blackened cavities you may see.
Natural fires, and low-intensity fires set by the Coast Miwok, burned here every 20 to 50 years until people began fighting them in the 1800s. Now we understand how important fires are to the health of this ancient forest. The National Park Service seeks to balance the benefits of prescribed burning (planned fires) and the safety of surrounding communities.
An illustration shows a redwood stump cut away at different places and to different depths to show the inside of a tree. From the outside to the inside, labels identify layers as Bark, Cambium layer, Sapwood, and Heartwood. Each inner layer is denser than the one preceding it. The bark is spongy and fibrous, and wrinkles as the tree advances in age. A small burl or growth curves out in a dome-like shape from the side of the stump, and a tiny sprout is propagating from it. The sprout stems from the tree’s innermost heartwood.
There is an additional label for the tree’s annual growth rings. Annual rings serve as a climate record and capture a tree’s life history. Light and dark rings together represent one year’s growth. Fire scars and cracks are witness to a tree’s struggle to survive. Multiple layers of annual rings are found within the heartwood and sapwood.
Each year a tree’s growth is recorded in a set of rings—one light, one dark. Wide rings show years of plentiful rainfall; narrow rings show drier years.
Look for tightly grouped redwoods or those fused at their bases. These trees probably began life as burl sprouts. A burl is a mass of dormant buds that grows on redwoods. When a tree is injured or tissue near a burl is affected, the burl may sprout. The sprouting gives redwoods great advantage over other trees that can reproduce only by seeds.
Redwoods are conifers like pines and firs; they have cones and needles. The cone is reddish brown and about the size of an olive. A mature cone drops 50 to 60 tiny seeds in late fall. If a seed germinates, it may grow two to three inches in the first year.
A redwood twig with four cones adorn the header of this section. The paired needles overlap densely at the twig’s base, but then spread out as the twig branches into individual arms. The cones at the tip of the terminal buds are small and round, about the size of grapes.
Coast redwoods come from ancestors that adapted through periods of slow, natural climate change. Today, human-influenced climate change is occurring much faster, and threatens long-term redwood survival. Scientists are already observing less frequent cool, foggy conditions. As you visit Muir Woods, what do you imagine for the future of this ancient forest?
An illustration of a coast redwood tree stretches up the entire height of the page, credit line John Dawson. Appearing tiny, the silhouette of an adult and child stand at the tree’s base and put the redwood’s immense height into perspective. A redwood sapling grows next to the main tree, and even this young tree is about 10 times the height of the human adult. The sapling’s base is connected to the main tree’s root system. Underneath the ground, an intricate layer of redwood roots splay out in a circular shape around the base of the tree. While the roots closest to the base are as thick as the silhouetted people, the majority of these roots are quite slender and shallow. The caption for this image reads, “A redwood’s roots grow 10 to 13 feet deep and spread nearly 100 feet.”