point reyes beach

Visiting Muir Woods & Point Reyes in One Day

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If you are visiting the San Francisco area, historic sites such as Muir Woods and Point Reyes are nearby and both can be seen in just one day!

This post will tell you how my friend and I visited both on the same day in a day trip from San Francisco.

Make sure to stay tuned until the end because I will give you important parking information about Muir Woods!

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"how to see both in one day: Muir woods & point reyes in california" written across picture of redwood trees

The History

Twelve miles north of San Francisco, California, is Muir Woods National Monument. Named after John Muir, the “Father of the National Parks”, this plot of land contains a unique type of redwood tree only found in this coastal region.

These are called coastal redwoods and are different than the giant sequoias found in King’s Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. Coastal redwoods are not as wide as the giant sequoias, but they can be much, much taller.

Being such a short distance from San Francisco, this was a must-do during my visit.

And since Muir Woods is on the way to Point Reyes National Seashore, we decided to make it a day trip and visit both! Two National Park Passport Book stamps in one day? Yes, please!

Before we dive into how to see both in one day, let’s get some of your questions answered first!

FAQs About Muir Woods & Point Reyes

What is the entrance fee to Muir Woods?

  • $15/ adult (16 and older)
  • Free for children 15 and younger
  • $45 Muir Woods Annual Pass
  • $80 America The Beautiful Annual Pass (gets you into ALL the sites of the National Park Service for one year!)

Can you drive through Muir Woods?

No. There are no roads inside Muir Woods except the entrance and parking lots. 

Do I need reservations to Muir Woods?

Pertaining to parking, yes. You will need a parking or shuttle reservation. You can no longer just drive to Muir Woods and park on your own. See the end of this post for more details! 

Is there an entrance fee to Point Reyes?


Can you drive to Point Reyes Lighthouse?

For the most part! It’s quite a drive (as you will read in this post), then you have a short walk to the actual lighthouse. See map below. 

Map of Point Reyes National Seashore. Red lines depict roads. Dotted red lines depict hiking trails.
Screenshot of this map taken from nps.gov

How to Visit Muir Woods and Point Reyes in One Day

Muir Woods National Monument

While visiting Muir Woods, we chose to hike the Muir Woods Trail. This loop trail is a little over 2 miles and is very easy to hike. Although it was sunny outside, the tall redwoods made a huge shade canopy over the trail.

Tip: Make sure to wear good hiking boots. The trail was a little muddy & slick in some places!

Redwoods in Muir Woods National Monument, California

The bright sun peeking through the trees and casting harsh shadows made taking pictures with my DSLR very difficult! I ended up using the HDR setting on my iPhone and that helped some. If you know anything about photography, you know taking photos in bright sunlight can be difficult because of the harsh shadows a bright sun makes.

Redwoods along a flowing creek

The tall redwoods, beautiful green foliage and the streams of water made for a very relaxing, peaceful hike. Even though there were lots of visitors and school kids visiting that day, it was still quiet and peaceful.

Creek and redwoods at Muir Woods National Monument, California

We finished our hike then headed back to the car to continue our day trip!

Muir Beach Overlook

Between Muir Woods and Point Reyes, just off Hwy 1, is a pullout for a picnic area and Muir Beach overlook. This was the perfect spot for us to stop, eat the lunch we packed, and enjoy the beautiful ocean. The overlook is about a 5-minute walk from the picnic area and provides amazing views of the coast.

Tip: When photographing, use a polarizing filter to help remove the glare from the water & to make the colors really pop!

teal ocean water and green rocky shoreline
looking through trees at the ocean, shoreline in the distance

Between eating lunch and taking pictures from the lookout, we probably spent about 45 minutes here. Then we continued on to Point Reyes!

While driving down Hwy 1 towards Point Reyes, there’s an overwhelming amount of eucalyptus trees! You will definitely smell these trees whether you want to or not. We could smell them without even rolling down the windows. It reminded me of Vicks VapoRub from my childhood, ha!

Point Reyes Shipwreck

On our way to Point Reyes, we passed through the city of Inverness in Marin County. Behind the Inverness Store at Tomales Bay lies an abandoned boat referred to as the “Point Reyes Shipwreck.” This ship provides many photo opportunities!

old rusty beached ship
shipwrecked ship on a beach

Point Reyes National Seashore

We soon arrived at the Point Reyes National Seashore Visitor Center! After talking with a ranger at the visitor center, we took her recommendation and did two very short hikes: the Elephant Seal Overlook and the hike to Point Reyes Lighthouse.

The drive from the visitor center to these two points was soooo looong. Quite positive I would never do it again. I was so antsy riding in the car seeing nothing but green hills and cows for what seemed like forever. The scenery was very pretty, but I was tired and antsy.

Elephant Seal Overlook at Point Reyes

The Elephant Seal Overlook can be accessed from the Chimney Rock parking lot. This 0.25-mile trail leads down to an overlook area where hundreds of elephants seals can be seen from December through March for mating and birth season.

grassy land along edge of ocean beach, elephant seals laying on beach and rocks

I cannot even begin to explain how incredibly windy Point Reyes was during our visit. I literally thought I was going to get blown over at one point. My friend and I couldn’t even communicate because the wind was so loud in our ears. That aside, the views were incredible.

ocean and peninsula

Point Reyes Lighthouse

After the Elephant Seal Overlook, we drove to the Point Reyes Lighthouse nearby. The paved path to the Lighthouse Visitor Center is an uphill, 0.45-mile hike. Once at the top, we learned that the visitor center is only open Friday through Monday, 10 am to 4:30 pm. The 300+ stairs leading down to the lighthouse are only open during those hours as well. Unfortunately, we were there on Tuesday. Bummer. Even though the wind was insane, the views were amazing. The water and sky were such a pretty blue, and the land was so green.

view of the pacific ocean over a rocky ledgefrom point reyes
Lighthouse on rocky shoreline of the pacific ocean

After viewing the lighthouse, we were done with our trip and headed back to SF to call it a day.

Parking at Muir Woods

As of March 2018, you must now make reservations for parking or seats on the shuttle before your trip to Muir Woods. Shuttle hours vary, so make sure to do your research!

Tickets are NOT sold at Muir Woods/parking locations, so they must be reserved in advance.

There is no cell phone service or WiFi, so make sure you download your reservation/ticket before you arrive. This will also hinder your ability to take an Uber or Lyft to Muir Woods. You can take one there, but you will have no service to request a ride back to the city. 

Note that if you chose to drive and park, you must arrive within 30 minutes of the time on your parking reservation (this does not limit how long you can stay in the park).

For more information and to reserve parking or a shuttle ticket, visit GoMuirWoods.com.

I hope you enjoyed reading and learning how to visit both of these amazing places in just one day!

melissa of dogwoods & driftwood travel blog

Want to visit more National Monuments? Check out how to visit Cabrillo National Monument when in San Diego, California!

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How to Spend a Day Visiting Muir Woods and Point Reyes

visiting muir woods and point reyes

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