Accessible Outdoors: Muir Woods National Monument

In 2012, a friend of mine told me I should hike the Cinque Terre for my sabbatical. He showed me two pictures and I was sold. I merely mentioned the Italian Riviera to my husband, and the answer was yes.

Then, my husband, Jesús, and I paused: we've never quite really hiked before. It occurred to us that we need a bit of endurance training (at least on my part), and really a reality check if this is something we can do. I asked a couple of outdoorsy friends where we can go around the area, and knowing that I’m a newbie, they told me to start with paved trails, and Muir Woods was the perfect spot.

It truly was. And I think Muir Woods is perfect for the options of trails you can take. It’s a given, the area is of course known for the redwoods. 

And they said that coast redwoods (i.e. these found on the northern California coast just 12 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge) are the tallest living things in the world, growing to a height of 379 feet. Imagine the thrill of super ape Caesar swinging from that height (yes, this is where the Rise of the Planet of the Apes began).

From the visitor center, there is a boardwalk that leads to paved trails connected by bridges. This is also a jumping off point to the unpaved trails. Three years ago, we immediately took that detour and ended up hiking all the way to Mt. Tamalpais.

This time, post my husband’s stroke, we stuck to the paved trails. From the visitor center to the farthest (4th) bridge, we were told it was about a 2 mile loop walk. We haven’t tried a walk that far for Jesús so we decided to walk up to the 3rd bridge, which was about a mile loop walk. It took us a little bit more than an hour to complete.

Some accessible info...


The boardwalk stops at some point but the paved trail was still manageable. You just have to watch out a bit for those giant roots. As one's tendency would be to look up and marvel at the giant redwoods, the roots that do pop up can be a trip hazard.

There are small portions of the paved trails that are sloped, whether to go over a giant root, or around the part that levels up to the boardwalk. For Jesús, he is holding onto his cane so he couldn’t really hold on to the wooden rails. Nonetheless, I would not recommend the rails anyway as some of them are quite loose.

Though they would not fall off, it would still catch someone who decides to put their weight on it quite off guard. We were able to go through them slowly and I made sure I was pulling some of his weight up.

As with everywhere, other people can surely be excited about something and may not be aware of someone with mobility issues around. As this is quite a tourist attraction, and there can be big groups of people, I either asked my husband to move to the side and wait for the groups to pass, or I walked along the side of the people, relentlessly asking to excuse us with every step.

No water under the bridge, and no coho salmon spawning.
No water under the bridge, and no coho salmon spawning.

My husband thoroughly enjoyed it, being out, and of course, reminiscing quite a bit. My reminiscing made me cognizant of what’s evidently different, and that is the water, or lack thereof. The creek used to have flowing water, I even recorded its sound. There’s barely some trickling now, and I read an article that rare coho salmon that used spawn in the area could no longer be sighted.

We ended up at the cafe, which was just behind the visitor center. I had to try the Marin Melt that was featured on Food Network, and yes, it is some really good grilled cheese sandwich and you shouldn’t miss it! Other items on the menu are all fresh and local, which is always a good thing.

Bianca is one of the founders of get there | get lost. She is an avid writer and photographer based in Northern California. Her love for history, literature, architecture and food culminate to her passion for traveling and learning about different cultures. She advocates for accessible travel, and continues to explore with her husband and travel partner, Jesús, despite physical limitations. Follow their adventures on Instagram as @gettheregetlost and @coffeeandtherapy.