The Bohemian Grove Trail is the centerpiece of Muir Woods and is what everyone comes to see. Extending along the bottom of a wide, shallow canyon for one mile, the trail is level and mostly either paved or covered with a wooden boardwalk, making it easy and wheelchair-accessible. Along the trail, mid-sized redwoods and Douglas Fir stand among a dense understory of tanoak and other broadleaf trees, a typical mixture for southern redwood forests. The unusually dark redwood trunks give the woods a somber feel. In the deep shade of the redwoods is a lush groundcover of ferns and redwood sorrel, and a creek that, like the canyon, is unusually wide and shallow, flows alongside the trail.
The trail is always busy, and on any reasonably nice weekend, there’s a continuous stream of people near the visitor center. In fact, the Bohemian Grove Trail is by far the most popular redwood trail. It’s also the most expensive; the parking and entrance fees for two or more people cost more than Yosemite’s.
The redwoods of Muir Woods aren’t especially big compared to the giants of the North Coast; the park is mainly popular because it’s the closest redwood park to San Francisco. Even so, this is still quite an attractive and enjoyable hike.
Here’s the trailhead location in Google Maps.
A $9.00/car reservation, made up to 90 days in advance, is required to park at the trailhead. The 232 parking spots always sell out on weekends and summer weekdays. You have to pick a half-hour arrival time slot, and the mid-morning slots sell out first; note that heavy afternoon traffic on summer weekends can add an extra hour to the driving time. If no reservations are available, check again exactly 5 days before your trip, when a few extra spots are released. Once you arrive, you may still have to wait for a spot to open up, but then you can park for as long as you like.
On weekends and holidays, a shuttle bus is also available from the Pohono Street Park and Ride lot in Mill Valley. The shuttle costs $3.50 per person, and a specific departure time has to be reserved in advance. The shuttles sell out most weekends and take about 30 minutes each way.
There’s also a $15/person entrance fee.
From the park entrance, the Bohemian Grove Trail enters the woods on a boardwalk, almost immediately passing by the very popular gift shop and Bridge 1. After passing a few good-sized trees, the trail runs through an area with a dense understory and not a lot of redwoods. Just before Bridge 2, the valley becomes wider, the woods become more open, and the trail enters the first real redwood grove of the hike. The area around Bridge 2 is especially scenic. Just after Bridge 3 the trail divides and enters Cathedral Grove, a fine and relatively pure redwood stand. After this point the redwoods become smaller but more numerous, although the area near the Fern Creek Trail intersection has some large trees.
Several trails branch off from the Bohemian Grove Trail, but except for the Fern Creek Trail, none of them are nearly as scenic. Most soon leave Muir Woods and enter much less-attractive second-growth forest. The only trail that continues through old growth is the Ben Johnson Trail, which climbs through old-growth redwood uplands. However, the redwoods are much smaller than ones on the valley floor that are well-watered year-round by Redwood Creek.
From Bridge Four, you either can return the way you came, or return on the Hillside Trail. Even though the Hillside Trail is only about 50 feet above the valley floor, it’s already is an upland environment where the trees are much smaller. By and large the Hillside Trail is much less scenic than the Bohemian Grove Trail, although it does have some interesting views of the old growth below.
From the end of the Hillside Trail, the Redwood Creek Trail parallels and is very similar to the Bohemian Grove Trail, just on the other side of the creek.
© 2006, 2012, 2016, 2021 David Baselt