Muir Woods National Monument

Center for the State of the Parks: Park Assessments

Published January 2011

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Nestled just 15 miles north of San Francisco, California, Muir Woods National Monument harbors one of the last remaining old-growth coast redwood forests in the world. The park was established in 1908 to save these giant trees from the timber companies’ axes and saws; by the early 20th century logging had already decimated redwood forests along the Pacific Coast. Today the park’s forests, wildlife, creeks, and cultural resources draw more than 750,000 visitors each year to amble through the redwood groves; watch for wildlife, including several federally listed species; and  jog along the oldest cross-country running trail in America; among many other activities. Staff at Muir Woods also preserve and interpret the history of the area and monument, which includes American Indian use, Euro-American settlement, and the development of the American conservation movement.

NPCA’s Center for State of the Parks recently completed a review of Muir Woods National Monument’s cultural and natural resources. This assessment determined that natural resources are in “good” condition overall, while cultural resources are in “fair” condition. Muir Woods National Monument faces several challenges to protecting these resources, including invasive non-native plants, a lack of funds and staff, a need for cultural resource planning documents, climate change and its effects on fog and the survival of redwoods, and sudden oak death, which threatens the park’s oak and tanoak trees.

Park staff are doing all they can to protect Muir Woods’ natural and cultural treasures with the resources available, and they have accomplished some significant projects. For example, the park has made great strides toward restoring coho salmon and steelhead habitat; improving visitor experience by offering a shuttle system that runs between the park and nearby towns; removing inappropriately placed structures (e.g., a restroom within an old-growth redwood grove); and preserving the soundscape to provide visitors with quiet places of respite and contemplation within redwood groves.

Muir Woods National Monument was listed as a historic district in the National Register of Historic Places in 2008. The listing allows staff to apply for additional funding and ensures cultural resource protection is considered during future park improvement projects.


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