Muir Woods is a fantastic place to visit, near San Francisco. It is, however, rather difficult to reach, partly because it is so popular, and partly because of the long winding road. It takes about 45 minutes from the City. Be sure to check the weather forecast to know what to wear. The parking lot fills up quickly, and in that situation there will be an informational sign on the 101, advising you to take the shuttle bus, from a well marked parking lot in Marin City. Costs $3 round-trip. Once you reach the park, there is an entrance fee of $5. If you are planning on hiking more than a half mile, the guide map is only a buck and is a great item.
Plan on carrying a large water bottle if you plan on hiking one of the big loops. As a rule of thumb, you will need at least a liter for each hour of hiking. If you have only a small bottle, be sure to drink a lot before you leave the base area. There is a single drinking fountain along the “boardwalk” about a quarter mile above the entrance. There is year round water in the stream along Main Trail and Bootjack, but you will need a filter.
With one important difference, we did the loop described here. We did a short side trip to the right, up the Dipsea Trail at the top of the loop, to take in the great ocean/San Francisco view. It’s silly to hike all this way and not see this panoramic view. This is described in “Hiking the San Francisco Bay Area,” by Linda Hamilton: Take the Main/Bootjack/TCC. From the TCC, follow the signs to the Dipsea and turn right on it, up a short hill. Enjoy the view. When you’re ready to head down, just follow the Dipsea back down the way you came up, and go past the place where you had turned up onto the Dipsea. When you reach the broader fire road, follow that downhill until you reach the left turn onto the Ben Johnson trail and follow that back down to the Muir Woods base area.
Hamilton suggests this is a three hour hike. Not really. It’s more like four hours and not an easy hike. Be careful not to stumble on the many exposed roots and rocks.