If you are considering a trip to San Francisco, a few things spring immediately to mind.
The hustle and bustle of the modern city. The waterfront and the bay.
The culture and nightlife. And of course the Golden Gate Bridge. But just north of the city lies Muir Woods, the home of the iconic Redwood trees.
For the last 100 years, this has been protected land. Spend a day there and it is not hard to see what is so special about it and why so many people flock there.
Muir Woods lies about 16 miles north of the city, head across the bridge and up into Marin County.
Allow 40 minutes to drive there or an hour if you take public transport.
Also allow for traffic congestion in the height of tourist season. It is also work checking the traffic news before you head off in case of road works, accidents or delays which may add to your travel time.
If you like to be a bit adventurous, the combination of bike and bus is the way to go.
Hire a bike in Fisherman's Wharf and you are perfectly positioned to start your adventure with a ride over the Golden Gate Bridge.
A practical way to start your adventure too as you don't have to cycle through the whole city on the way.
Once you reach the other side, head for the Sausalito Ferry Terminal, here you can leave your bike with a valet for only $3 and take the Marin Transit 66F bus to Muir Woods.
Only $5 for a round trip to the woods and back and under 16 year-olds rides free. Check the Marin Transit timetable for availability as the service tend sonly to run May-October and only at weekends.
Driving to Muir Woods might seem like the most direct option, but there is a catch.
Although the journey becomes much easier, parking is often a problem when you arrive.
With thousands of people heading to the Woods every day, the few hundred parking spots around Mount Tamalpais are less than adequate.
You will also need to have reserved a spot in advance and those will sell out quickly.
Plan ahead and you will be fine but if you leave things to the last minute, you may find yourself parked a long way from the park entrance. Also, taking the car is less exciting than a bike ride. It is certainly less relaxing than taking the bus!
Perhaps the most scenic way to travel to Muir Woods is by ferry.
You can catch the Sausalito Ferry from Pier 41 at Fisherman's Wharf or the Ferry Building at the end of Market Street. A seat is only $12.
This meandering way of traveling will take about half an hour and offer majestic views. You will pass close to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.
You will swing by the infamous Alcatraz Island. Along the way, you will be offered views of the city skyline and the rugged northern peninsular.
You will take in the beauty of The Bay and glimpse the majesty of the wide Pacific Ocean.
Once you arrive at Sausalito Ferry Terminal, you need to catch the Marin Transit 66F bus to Muir Woods as before it is only $5 for a round trip to the Woods and back and under 16 year-olds ride free.
Always check the Marin Transit timetable for availability as the service tend sonly to run May-October and only at weekends.
However you arrive at Muir Woods, the best is yet to come.
A day spent here is the most memorable experience.
You can either choose to walk amongst the magical, giant Redwoods at your own pace or you can find an NPS Ranger Guide to travel with.
There are many guided tour options, but these will have to be pre-arranged. Many will offer you full-day packages including transport, snacks and informative tour guides.
Muir Woods has been a protected haven for over a century and so is filled with tranquility that makes you forget how close to the city you are. It is a place of ancient trees, some over 2000 years old, and wonderful plants and animals. Expect to spend a few hours here but the trails are easy going and level. This makes the Woods perfect for walkers of all ages and abilities.
This coastal Redwood forest is cool most times of the year with temperatures ranging from 40-70 degrees F (4-21 degrees C). Expect rain from late October to early May, and slightly warmer and dryer weather between June and August.
September and October are ideal months to visit.
Remember, there is no such thing as bad weather just the wrong clothing! Dress appropriately and wear sturdy shoes or boots and you will have a great time.
Please also bear in mind that pets are not permitted inside the park. This is a wildlife haven after all.
The Muir Woods forest forms part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
This wide area includes nearby outdoor attractions, including Stinson Beach, the park's only lifeguarded beach. Also nearby is the historic Fort Baker, which offers excellent views of the Golden Gate Bridge from Marin County.
As you can see, there are many ways to explore Muir Woods.
Put yourself in a tour companies hands and let their experience guide you. Make your way through the area at a time and in a manner that suits you. Or even spend a few days in the area taking in everything it has to offer.
It doesn't matter how you experience Muir Woods. It is just vital that you do. Thousands of years of natural history right on the city's doorstep. How convenient is that?