Jurassic Park . . . Almost

Redwoods galore at Muir Woods in California

Once upon a geologic time when dinosaurs roamed the planet, redwoods were part of the dominant flora. As the super-continent Pangaea broke apart to form the continents that we now know, the climate changed and these strikingly tall trees retreated to more temperate climates to survive. Today, remnants from an ancient forest of coast redwoods (Sequoia sempivirens) thrive on a 450-mile strip of the US Pacific coast from southern Oregon down to Monterey, California. On this narrow belt is the 560-acre Muir Woods National Monument, just 12 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Since I'm in San Francisco City, I made sure I'll see it for myself.

When much of San Francisco burned after the 1906 earthquake, the urgent need to rebuild the city meant cutting large swaths of redwood forests. Thankfully, philantrophist William Kent bought one of the last stands of old growth redwoods in a then inaccessible part of Mill Valley which he in turn donated to the US government for protection. President Theodore Roosevelt - himself a great outdoorsman - proclaimed the area a National Monument in 1908. It was named after John Muir, the great conservationist.

Walking along designated paths of the monument is like a walk back in time. For a moment I imagine a long-necked Brachiosaurus reaching for the sequoia leaves. It is widely believed that herbivore dinosaurs enjoyed a diet of conifers like redwoods. My momentary Mesozoic imagination was cut-off by other visitors visibly enthralled by what they see. Visually, the coast redwoods strike onlookers for its sheer height - they are the world's tallest living species on Earth. At Muir Woods, the tallest is 252 feet while holding the current record is a tree at the Redwood National Park at 379 feet.

Besides impressive height, the coast redwoods also win with longevity. Most of the trees at Muir Woods are anywhere from 500-800 years old with some really senior citizens topping at 1,200 years old! Which means all of them already took root by the time Christopher Columbus sailed to find the New World. As I ran my fingers on a tree bark, I found out from a Park Ranger that these trees rely heavily on fog to sustain them especially during the dry summers. What was really interesting was learning that forest fires actually help in the long-term health of a redwood forest - not that I want to be caught in it while I'm there.

Anyone visiting San Francisco should take time to see Muir Woods. It is a very pleasant diversion from the sights of the big city and once there, it feels like a million miles away from anywhere. Who knows what kind of dinosaur awaits your imagination while in solitude at this impressive piece of Eden?

Senior citizen dismembered

Muir Woods National Monument, one of more than 390 parks in the US National Park System, is open all year from 8 AM to sunset. Since roads leading to the park are really steep and winding, no vehicles more than 35 feet is allowed. There is no public transportation. No camping allowed. Tickets and guide maps are available at the Visitor's Center. Entrance fee: $5 (16 years and older), free for children (15 years and below). More info at NPS website.


  1. Totally awesome! The last time I was in San Francisco, I only had time to stroll around for a day (I was attending a conference back then) so all we did was Alcatraz Island and the Waterfront, but this is a good idea to visit if I find myself there again sometime!

  2. The added bonus in this park is when you go at a certain time, you can watch the migration (?) of salmon. It's almost as exciting as walking under the giants.

    I love this place!!!!!

  3. I was there once... when I was a little boy... I was totally in awe.... and now by looking at your pictures...I am still in awe!

  4. you were all dwarfed in there but managed to get a perfect angle shot!

    this ancient forest is yes, great for the nxt jurrasic park movie. the country truly boast of these wonder hah :D

  5. A Twilighter here. Aside from Jurrasic Park, the photos reminded me more of Twilight. =)

  6. Hi Linguist,
    It's close to the city so you should definitely go there next time. There are even van tours from SF.

    Hi Photo Cache,
    I heard about salmon migration from the park ranger. Lucky you, you're close to San Francisco so you can always go back there.

    Hi Sidney,
    For sure, the trees you saw as a kid are still growing except for one or two that fell through natural causes some years ago.

    Hi Josh,
    They did had a movie shoot here but not about dinosaurs. It was Return of the Jedi.

    Hi Witsandnuts,
    Too bad, I didn't see Twilight but I don't see any reason why it wouldn't look just like a perfect setting for the movie.

  7. Wow, those are huge ancient trees, some of the oldest living things on Earth.
    Thanks for touring us to this wonderful place. Pictures are perfect!

  8. these giants are truly one of nature's wonders!

  9. nice nice! im not sure if that's the same park that was featured in national geographic months ago.

  10. Time to revisit the place! The last time I was there was in the early 70's.

  11. Hi Dennis,
    The trees are as old as time as they say. Thanks!

    Hi Lantaw,
    And God's great gift to us!

    Hi Dong,
    National Geographic actually featured the redwoods on its October 2009 issue.

    Hi Bert,
    There's probably not much that has changed but it sure is still worth revisiting.


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