• Visitors from all over the world come to explore the tranquility, beauty, and nature sounds of Muir Woods National Monument.

    Muir Woods

    National Monument California

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  • All Trails at Muir Woods are Open. Green Gulch Trail at Muir Beach to Close

    The Green Gulch Trail from Kaasi Road will be closed for restoration construction on the weekdays from 7 AM - 4:30 PM beginning early August through October 2014. Full trail access will be available during evening hours and weekends. Signs will be posted. More »

  • 7 Ranger's Tips on How to Experience Muir Woods Safely This Summer or How to Find Parking

    Summer is the busiest for Muir Woods. Parking is limited. Often visitors find shoulder parking and walk on the narrow road to the Visitor Center. Read the ranger's tips on the Best Times to Visit Muir Woods. On weekends & holidays, take Muir Woods Shuttle More »

  • Ride the Muir Woods Shuttle. Summer is the busiest time for Muir Woods. Parking limited.

    Muir Woods is experiencing high numbers of visitors. Summer traffic and unsafe parking behaviors are adding stress to visitors and residents. Expect delays on Hwy 1 as people drive to and from Muir Woods and local beaches. Read 7 Ranger's Tips on Parking. More »

  • Muir Beach is OPEN but Muir Beach Overlook closed until August 1, 2014.

    Muir Beach is open but the Muir Beach Overlook is closed for construction until August 1, 2014. Muir Beach is open to the public every day, including holidays at 9 AM and closes one hour after sunset.

Nature Notes

A male and female coho salmon were seen spawning in Muir Woods on 2.17.14. After months of drought, a large storm made it possible for the creek to rise and the coho to swim back to their natal creek.

A female and male coho salmon were observed spawning on February 17, 2014 just days after a severe storm caused flooding in Muir Woods. Coho salmon are endangered, and the National Park Service is working to increase their population through the Redwood Creek Restoration at Muir Beach project.

NPS photo by Ranger Lou Salas Sian

Fish Sighted after Big Storm

Visitors to Muir Woods observed coho salmon spawning in Redwood Creek on Feb. 17, 2014. So far, less than 20 have been observed in the creek. After months of drought,coho salmon waiting off the coast to swim up the creek were finally able to do so on February 6-9, 2014, when a storm system brought 10.99" of rain to Muir Woods. Redwood Creek went from a desperately low trickle to a mighty river topping its banks, swamping trails, and rafting logs of fallen redwoods and debris. "This is awesome," said a nine-year old visitor from Missouri on February 9 whose voice could be heard barely over the roar. Low-lying areas flooded. Waves hit the bridges, pounding logs against the span. The creek topped its banks and the trails became part of the creek. Small slides spilled debris on the roads leading to Muir Woods. Redwood Creek turned into a roiling chocolate milkshake. The park closed early due to road closures. But by the next day, Redwood Creek calmed and slipped back into its banks, and the roiling waters became tamer though flowing strong. The National Park Service checked the trails, roads and bridges for storm damage, and gave the all clear the next day. Two days after that incredible storm, on 2/11/14, visitors reported seeing fish in the murky waters. The native coho salmon,Oncorhyncus kisutch, and steelhead trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss, make Redwood Creek their home. Adult coho are up to 2 feet in length and 14 pounds in weight. Coho salmon in Central California are endangered, so commercial and sport fishing are prohibited.

Adult coho, returning to their natal creek in 2014, left as juveniles during the winter of 2010-2011. Though no one knows for sure where salmon go once they leave Redwood Creek, some say they swim as far north as Alaska. They grow fat and oily on the rich nutrients of the cold, deep ocean. Their nutrient-rich bodies feed a multitude of species from humans to animals to the redwood trees. They are Nature's way of bringing the deep ocean nutrients to the inland plants and animals.

During the stormy, rain-soaked winter, the female coho uses her tail and the power of water to create a vortex to move cobbles and dig a nest or redd. When the redd is deep and clean enough, she will lay her eggs. The male coho will fertilize or milt the eggs as she covers and protects her eggs with cobbles. Coho salmon die just days after spawning.

As California enters its drier Spring season, the water in Redwood Creek recedes. The eggs develop and emerge as fry in the Spring when the creek is low and slow. No bottom-feeder, the elegant salmon will spend the next 18 months in the freshwater creek, feeding off of the insects suspended or floating in the cold, clear water of Redwood Creek. In the summer and fall, salmon fingerlings make their way downstream to Muir Beach just three miles away. At Muir Beach, they transform from freshwater fish to salt-water, ocean fish.

The National Park Service and its partner, the Golden Gate Parks Conservancy have been engaged in the multi-year project, the Redwood Creek Restoration at Muir Beach. Among many things, this ecological restoration project will improve habitat at the creek mouth where freshwater fingerlings transform into saltwater smolts before heading out to the deeper ocean. The smolt phase is key in the salmon life cycle for the population's successful return from the ocean. If the estuarine habitat is in good condition, the smolts will bulk up on a rich diet of insects, amphipods, and even the juvenile stages of amphibians and fish, before they enter the sea to find their next meal.

The coho population in Redwood Creek is endangered, and very few (around 25 individuals) come back to spawn. And with the late rains, it's uncertain whether this cohort have perished in the ocean, entered a nearby watershed, or return to spawn. For those of you who are checking in about the salmon run, now's a good time to visit Muir Woods, and welcome them back home.

You are invited to the Muir Beach Grand Re-opening on March 1st, 10 AM - 12 PM. Muir Beach was closed from July 2013 to January 2014 for restoration construction for the salmon and to mitigate flooding. For details, check our website, www.nps.gov/muwo. Follow us on Twitter, @muirwoodsnps for currents events and news, or call our wildlife hotline, (415)388-2595.


 
A black and white with orange spotted anise swallowtail feeds on anise in the maintenance parking lot at Muir Woods. NPS photo by Christopher Weatherby.

A young anise swallowtail caterpiller feeds on anise in the maintenance parking lot at Muir Woods.

NPS photo by Christopher Weatherby

Visitors to Muir Woods Not All Human

May's early warm spell drew many to visit Muir Woods and not all of them were human! Ladybugs (a.k.a. ladybird beetles) wafted in on warm breezes, carried in from the circulating air rising from their Central California breeding grounds and brought to landfall in the coast as the currents cool. Many of us plan a visit to watch them fly, bright sparks of orange in the park's sunny spots and during foggy spells finding each other to form clusters that grow through the summer.

While watching ladybugs, it is easy to get distracted by the aerial acrobatics of nature's most successful predator: the dragonfly! Others will marvel at another insect hovering like a mini-helicopter: the syrphid fly (another predator of even smaller insects). And, then one can easily sit on a bench and watch the park's many beautiful butterflies.

In the plaza, the swallowtails will soon nectar on the extravagant blossoms of the buckeye. The striking echo blue flits near the ground. The tortoiseshells cruise the edges. Veined whites traipsing among the grassy slopes, and the occasional buckeye, mourning cloak and anglewing flutter in forest clearings.

Caring maintenance staff watch out for caterpillars when doing work and nearby neighbors carefully tend the verge leading up to the Muir Beach Overlook so quail, fox and snake still have a home where pedestrians can safely walk, too. Take a walk soon to see these little things among the tall trees!

 
Though only 2 inches across, the brilliant, white trillium flower is framed by three, large green leaves, and held high on a slender stalk above the ground-hugging redwood sorrel. NPS photo by Ranger Lou Sian

Only  two inches across, the trillium flower is framed by three large leaves and held high on a slender stalk surrounded by low-growing redwood sorrel and ferns.

NPS photo by Lou Sian

Three cheers for trillium

Three reasons to check out this early spring wildflower. First, sample the delights of a walk in the March woods, second is a fun way to look more closely at a beautiful plant, and third is the surprise of discovering we have two species to seek!

Trillium blooms in earliest spring, thus its nickname "wake robin". This flower is often out before robins return from winter. Trillium is simply Latin for "parts in three". Look closely at the "tri" flower parts, and also the leaf whorls that open in a group of three. Continue focus on the leaves to see the inter-joined network of veins, atypical for members of the lily family.

Trilliums produce but one flower per plant and our two species are easily identified by them as well as where they grow. Trillium ovatum or wake robin has a white flower raised on a slender stalk above the leaves and opens pure white and fragrant, then slowly fades to a deep rose, a sign to pollinators that the nectar has dried up. Look for this species in the redwood forest. The current display on the Hillside Trail is breathtaking, to match the views downward into the canyon. T. chloropetalum, Pacific giant trillium, has a much larger flower sitting smack in the middle of the leaves. It has quite a range of colors varying from white to maroon-red, often occurring in the same patch of giant trillium. Look for giant trillium in mixed hardwood forests, at the edge of the redwoods in Muir Woods, and the lowest parts of Steep Ravine.

The spring wildflower parade is off to a great start. Others to seek at this time include Hounds-tongue, redwood sorrel, milkmaids and the last of the fetid adders-tongue.

 
A large redwood tree lies on the forest floor after falling in Bohemian Grove during the park's Winter Solstice program. No one was injured.

A large redwood tree lies on the forest floor. Visitors are pictured on the left near the base of the tree. The redwood fell on December 21, 2012, while the park was holding its annual Winter Solstice program. No one was injured.

NPS photo by Ranger Tim Jordan

A tree falls and we were all there to hear it

A large, old redwood tree fell on December 21, 2012 at 1:15 PM during the Muir Woods Winter Solstice. Few people were in the park at the time because of an early morning storm.

The redwood tree, a sibling to the one standing, snapped at the trunk, fell across the Main Trail in Bohemian Grove, busted fences, crashed into nearby trees, felled two trees - splitting one in half - and sank into the debris-strewn forest floor. We're not certain why it fell, but it is fire scarred and so full of rot that it was difficult to age. We believe it was over 500 years old and approximately 115 feet tall when it fell.

Visitors heard the tree falling from a third of a mile away. It sounded like thunder as the massive tree hurtled to the ground. Artist and sound recording expert Dan Dugan - demonstrating nature sounds for the Muir Woods Winter Solstice Program - recorded three successive impacts of trees falling like dominoes. Click to hear Dan Dugan's recording of the tree.

Also in the same area are the umbrella-shaped trees. Coast redwoods standing in the path of falling trees, often adapt to changing light conditions over the course of their long lives by growing branches oriented to the light.

The fallen tree adds logs and snags to the area, thus increasing the complexity of the old growth redwood forest. Snags provide important habitat for nesting birds and bats, shelter from predators and adverse weather, and aerial freshwater catchments for plants and animals.

In time, the log and snag will decompose into a rich surface of soil and decayed bark for moss, ferns, other plants, and fungi - a boon for birds, redwood snails, salamanders, banana slugs, chipmunks, and fox.

This old tree is an elder of the forest. It lived a good life and continues to provide life to others. Please treat it respectfully when in the park.

 

A large redwood tree lies amid its own debris and those of other trees standing in its path. Visitors linger near its base on the left.

NPS photo by Ranger Tim Jordan

If a Tree Falls in a Forest, Can Anyone Hear It? Yes!

A large, old redwood tree fell on December 21, 2012 at 1:15 PM during the Muir Woods Winter Solstice. Few people were in the park at the time because of an early morning storm.

The redwood tree, a sibling to the one standing, snapped at the trunk, fell across the Main Trail in Bohemian Grove, busted fences, crashed into nearby trees, felled two trees, splitting one in half, and sank into the debris-strewn forest floor. We're not certain why it fell, but it is fire scarred and so full of rot that it was difficult to age. We believe it was over 500 years old and approximately 115 feet tall when it fell.

Visitors and staff heard the tree falling from a third of a mile away. It sounded like thunder as the massive tree hurtled to the ground. Artist and sound recording expert Dan Dugan - demonstrating nature sounds for the Muir Woods Winter Solstice Program - recorded three successive impacts of trees falling like dominoes. Click to hear Dan Dugan's recording of the tree.

Also in the same area are the umbrella-shaped trees. Coast redwoods standing in the path of falling trees, often adapt to changing conditions over the course of their long lives by growing branches oriented to the light.

The fallen tree adds logs and snags to the area, thus increasing the complexity of the old growth redwood forest. Snags provide important habitat for nesting birds and bats, shelter from predators and adverse weather, and aerial freshwater catchments for plants and animals.

In time, the log and snag will decompose into a rich surface of soil and decayed bark for moss, ferns, other plants, and fungi - a boon for birds, redwood snails, salamanders, banana slugs, chipmunks, and fox.

This old tree is an elder of the forest. It lived a good life and continues to provide life to others. Please treat it respectfully when in the park.

 
After two years in the ocean, coho salmon return to spawn in their natal creek and then die. Weak from its exertions, and showing signs of decay, this coho is easily picked up by a fish biologist, measured, photographed and released. Coho stop feeding before spawning. Key characteristics of a spawning coho are its dorsal spots and bright pink coloration on its sides and cheek.
Spawning adult coho showing signs of weakness and decay is easily picked up by a fish biologist, measured, photographed and released. After two years of feeding in the cold, nutritious waters of the deep ocean, coho return to their natal creek to spawn and die. Their rotting, ocean-nutrient-rich bodies feed a host of animals, as well as fertilize plants like the coast redwoods.
Point Reyes National Seashore
 
 
Barred owl in Redwood Creek

Adult barred owl bathing in Redwood Creek during the day. Visitors have observed the fledging activities of a barred owl family of four between the entrance arch and Bridge 1 in Muir Woods NM since 6/12/12.

NPS Photo by Ranger Tim Jordan.

Owl Wars

Sometime around June 12, 2012, people began seeing the fledging activities of a barred owl family of four from the Main Trail. Above Redwood Creek between the entrance arch and Bridge 1 in Muir Woods, the adult barred owls were hunting during the daytime for Sonoma chipmunks, mice, and crayfish, and feeding them to their two owlets perched on nearby trees. Two owlets were born last winter and have flown downstream from Camp Alice Eastwood under the watchful eyes of their parents.

The barred owls are not native to Muir Woods, but have pushed west with each successful generation. Indigenous to the northeast United States and Canada, the invasive species have made their way to Washington, Oregon and California. The first barred owl in Muir Woods was documented in 2002. Muir Woods is the southwestern-most location thus far for a pair of nesting barred owls. They are having a detrimental impact on the federally-listed native population of northern spotted owl by competing for food and nesting sites, and their overt behavior of disrupting northern spotted owl nests.

 
A photo of a fawn resting in a bed of redwood sorrel flowers. It has floppy ears and looks like a puppy.

Newborn fawn rests in a bed of redwood sorrel at Muir Woods NM.

NPS Photo by Ranger Lou Sian

Shhh. Baby Sleeping.

Spring is when does have their young in Muir Woods. This fawn born last March rests in a bed of redwood sorrel and waits for its mother to return. The spots on its back and lying still and quiet are its defence against predators. Note its floppy ears. Black-tailed deer often leave their young to forage alone. Do not disturb. Mom will be back though it may take hours.

Did You Know?

Burned out cavities at the base of Coast Redwood trees

Fires over the centuries can hollow out a redwood, burning out a cave in the trunk of the living tree. Though the fire caves on some of the redwoods look fresh, the last forest fire that occurred in Muir Woods was about 160 years ago.