ActivitiesTravel & Day Trips

How to Get to Muir Woods from San Francisco or Fisherman’s Wharf

If you’re visiting San Francisco and staying downtown or at Fisherman’s Wharf, you might wonder how to get to Muir Woods. Muir Woods, one of the most popular attractions in the Bay Area, is definitely worth a visit.

The great news is that you don’t need a car to get to Muir Woods from San Francisco. There are two easy car-free options: taking a ferry and shuttle or booking a tour bus. Taking a tour bus is by the far the easiest and least time-consuming option.

Take a look at our list of the top Muir Woods tours from San Francisco.

If you do have a rental car, you can also drive there, but you’ll need to make a reservation in advance.

I’ve lived in the Bay Area for 10 years and have been to Muir Woods countless times. Here’s my advice on the best way to get to Muir Woods from downtown San Francisco or Fisherman’s Wharf.

A couple strolls in Muir Woods

Muir Woods Basics

Muir Woods is one of the most amazing and powerful destinations in California. It’s not a mere tourist trap—standing among 2,000-year-old redwoods is a remarkable and unique experience that everyone should have when they visit the Bay Area.

Muir Woods is located about 45 minutes drive north of San Francisco, along the Marin coastline. To get there, you’ll have to cross the bay or cross the Golden Gate Bridge from downtown San Francisco.

The drive up to Muir Woods is rugged, and mountainous, and can be treacherous for inexperienced Bay Area drivers. The main road into Muir Woods follows a winding path along cliffs in the Marin Headlands, and it can be a challenging drive for out of towners.

Muir Woods is situated in mountainous, rugged terrain

Parking in Muir Woods can also be a big challenge. That’s why, if you’re going there, I recommend car-free alternatives.

Budget Option: Take the Ferry and the Muir Woods Shuttle

One of the best budget ways to get to Muir Woods from downtown San Francisco is to take a ferry across the bay to Larkspur or Sausalito and then to take the Muir Woods shuttle to the park. Check the ferry schedule before planning a crossing–availability varies by the season and day of the week.

You can get a ferry from the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero. While you’re there, you can get some tasty food or souvenirs at the numerous local shops in the Ferry Building.

The ferry ride across the bay is an experience in and of itself! You’ll be out on the water and get a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, the San Francisco skyline, and Alcatraz.

The ferry ride to the North Bay is an experience itself!

The Golden Gate ferries are not luxurious crafts, but they are still a great way to get a waterfront view of San Francisco. The crossing takes about 30 minutes. You’ll arrive at the ferry landing in Larkspur or in downtown Sausalito.

Shuttle the Rest of the Way

From there, you can then take the Muir Woods shuttle to Muir Woods. This is a bus service operated by the park. You’ll want to make a reservation in advance for your shuttle time. There is standby service, but Muir Woods is very popular, especially on weekends and holidays. You definitely need to make a reservation if you want a guaranteed spot on the shuttle.

The shuttle ride is an easy and inexpensive trip (costing $3.50 for adults) from Larkspur or Sausalito to Muir Woods. Again, check availability since some shuttles only operate on the weekends.

The Muir Woods shuttle

They will drop you off right at the entrance to Muir Woods. You can then ride the shuttle back later in the day and take the ferry back across the bay to San Francisco.

This method is relatively inexpensive, which makes it great for budget travelers or student travelers. The downside is that it takes a long time to get across the bay and then up to Muir Woods.

That said, the ferry crossing is a wonderful experience in and of itself. If you want to spend a full, leisurely day making your way to Muir Woods and back, this is a great option. And it’ll save you some money!

The Best Option: Book a Tour Bus for Direct Service

If you want the absolute simplest experience and a very low-stress way to visit Muir Woods, I recommend taking a tour bus. I’m not always a big fan of group travel, but in this case, taking a tour bus from downtown San Francisco to Muir Woods is an extremely easy way to get directly to your destination without having to deal with a ferry crossing.

Several tours pick up from downtown San Francisco or the hotels along Fisherman’s Wharf. I recommend this tour from Viatour. For under $100 per person, you’ll get round trip service directly to the entrance of Muir Woods from Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s a more direct route, so you’ll spend less time in transit than if you take the ferry.

A tour bus at Muir woods

Many of the tours offer either a guide or a pre-recorded show about Muir Woods on the way, so you can listen in and learn about the area. One of the best things about these tours is that you get both a ride there and a guaranteed return time.

Many tours limit you to spending 1.5 hours in Muir Woods before coming back. You won’t have to walk around with a group or a guide–you still get to explore on your own. That’s plenty of time to do the main walk through the trees and to visit the gift shop and excellent cafĂ©.

Taking a tour bus costs a bit more than riding the ferry, but you’ll get a beautiful drive over the Golden Gate Bridge, guaranteed entry to Muir Woods, and, overall the easiest experience.

If You Have to Drive

May people visit San Francisco without needing to rent a car. If you have to drive to Muir Woods, there’s a right and wrong way to do it. Don’t simply head out from San Francisco on a beautiful weekend morning expecting to drive to Muir Woods, park, and then enjoy the trees.

Before the pandemic, this was always possible. You could decide to go to Muir Woods on a whim, and you could usually get free parking.

That has changed. Parking now requires a reservation, and it fills up quickly. If you’re planning to drive to Muir Woods, make a parking reservation well in advance. Remember to print out your parking reservation in advance, too. There’s no cell service in the woods, so you won’t be able to pull up the reservation on your phone once you get there.

Driving to a Shuttle Stop

Another alternative to parking at Muir Woods is to drive to the Larkspur stop for the Muir Woods shuttle. You can park in a larger, easier parking lot, and then take the shuttle the rest of the way to Muir Woods.

This is often easier and less expensive than parking right at Muir Woods. If you are not used to California cliff-driving, it also saves you the challenge of driving along the narrow road down the cliffs into Muir Woods itself. Let the professionals take care of this part for you!

Although it is possible to drive to Muir Woods, again, my recommendation is to leave the whole thing to a pro and take a tour instead. If you have to drive, though, make your reservation for parking in advance, or split the difference, drive to Larkspur, and take the shuttle the rest of the way.

Can you take an Uber to Muir Woods?

Uber is ubiquitous in San Francisco, so you might be wondering if you could take an Uber, Lyft, or taxi cab to Muir Woods. The answer is that you can often take an Uber, Lyft, or taxi cab to Muir Woods, but you probably won’t be able to take one back!

Muir Woods is in a remote location with no cell service.

Muir Woods is popular, but remote

I’ve heard horror stories of tourists taking an Uber to Muir Woods, enjoying the experience, and then pulling up their phone to get back to San Francisco. When they do that, they discover that there’s no cell service, and they can’t call a ride home!

In short, it’s not a good idea to try to take an Uber or a taxi to Muir Woods unless you pre-arrange a return trip. One alternative is to take an Uber or taxi to the Larkspur or Sausalito pick up point for the Muir Woods shuttle, and then take the shuttle the rest of the way.

That can be a faster alternative to riding the ferry. By the time you pay for the Uber ride and the shuttle, though, you’re probably better off taking an inexpensive tour bus instead.

Conclusion

Despite some of the logistical hurdles, it is absolutely worth going to Muir Woods while you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area. If you never get to see this beautiful national monument, you’ll definitely have missed out on both an iconic experience and one that can be potentially life-changing.

The good news is that there are many easy ways to get to Muir Woods from San Francisco.

  • Again, although I usually don’t love group travel, in this case, taking a tour bus is the best, and often cheapest, way to get to Muir Woods.
  • If you’re on a budget or a ferry ride sounds like a nice add-on to you, taking the ferry to Larkspur and then using the Muir Woods shuttle is a great alternative too.

If you absolutely must drive to Muir Woods, make sure to plan well in advance and reserve your parking. Bring a paper map, because you won’t have cell service to navigate back with your GPS. Make sure your car is in good condition, too, because you’ll be driving along cliffs that often have no guardrails.

If you feel uncomfortable with this kind of driving, again, you’ll likely want to take a bus. Keep in mind, too, that there are no gas stations nearby Muir Woods. Make sure you have a full tank of gas before you leave.

By following these simple steps, you can make your way to Muir Woods safely and easily from downtown San Francisco or Fisherman’s Wharf. You’ll have an amazing time seeing this remarkable monument!

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Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

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