Provided the sun returns—and it’s supposed to—this may prove to be an ideal weekend to visit Muir Woods, as the National Park Service is waiving admission fees for Veterans Day Weekend.
Muir Woods National Monument usually costs $7 for an adult to enter for the day but will allow visitors for free through Monday. NPS waives fees a handful of times throughout the year to recognize holidays and this will be the last time in 2012.
Park Ranger Tim Jordan says the NPS has “done a good job” about getting the word out during free weekends, but he added that visitors might also want to think about arriving early.
“We try to encourage people to get here earlier because of the parking,” Jordan said. “Also, they get to have the woods to themselves.”
Muir Woods contains six miles of trails. There is a ½-hour loop, a 1-hour loop, and a 1-1/2-hour loop as well as longer hikes on trails that extend into surrounding Mount Tamalpais State Park. All of these walks afford views of thousands of old-growth coast redwoods, the tallest living things in the world. Pets, bicycles, smoking, horseback riding and camping are not permitted within the park.
The Main Trail between the Cross Cut and Pinchot Tree was upgraded recently. The asphalt and rustic fencing were replaced with a new boardwalk, allowing visitors to walk on a dry, fully accessible path, while protecting the shallow, surface roots of the coast redwood and allowing water to flow to Redwood Creek.
Even with the upgrades, Jordan said visitors should still dress warmly and wear proper shoes, as recent rains have left the area fairly damp.
Also under the care of NPS is Point Reyes National Seashore, but there is no admission fee regularly, so it’s business as usual along the coast. The Marin Headlands, managed by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, also has no admission fees and provides sweeping views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge and the ocean. The Nike Missile Site in the Marin Headlands is not open Veterans’ Day but is open every Wednesday through Friday except federal holidays from 12:30 until 3:30 p.m.
NPS spokesperson Alexandra Picavet said the free admission days are successfully generating awareness. “Sometimes it’s getting people that first experience,” she said. “Muir Woods is popular in and of itself, but maybe it’s more inviting when there are no fees.”
Picavet said it was not easy to tell if the free days drew many more people. “In Marin, a lot of it is weather-driven,” she said.
Picavet also noted that there are annual passes available that provides discounts and free passes to active military, seniors and the disabled and blind. Also, bus Route 76 from San Francisco into the Marin Headlands is expanding to include Saturdays, bringing more folks to a national park.
Not lost in the park fun is the remembrance of the nation’s veterans.
“In honor of veterans, I invite everyone to take advantage of this opportunity to visit the many National Park sites throughout the Bay area—many of which recount the history of the military presence and importance to this country,” Superintendent Frank Dean said in a prepared statement. “The national treasures that are embodied in Muir Woods, Fort Point and the many beaches and military features that are scattered through Golden Gate National Parks are examples of what our veterans have kept safe for us. The National Park Service cares for these special places saved by the American people so that all may experience our heritage.”
There are approximately 80,000 acres of public lands in the GGNRA.
This Veterans Day weekend is the last of the National Park Service entrance fee free days for 2012. More information is available at www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm.