The Sunrise Tour of Muir Woods is one of the most special experiences in the national park system. The serenity of Muir Woods at dawn is a truly unique experience. Plus, you get to meet Nelson Stubbins, who has been leading the tours and imparting his knowledge and philosophy for years.
Muir Woods was closed until late June 2020, and guided walks like the Sunrise Tour were still canceled, so we asked Nelson to lead us on a “virtual” Sunrise Tour. Make sure to click on the header of each item to take that "stop," and please note that not every stop along the tour is immortalized here. To get the full experience, you'll have to sign up for a real Sunrise Tour with Nelson! As of July 2020, tours were still shut down out of safety amid the coronavirus pandemic. But keep checking back to our updates page and our events page to see when tours may start back up again.
Here’s what the tour feels like, in Nelson’s own words:
4:30 AM ON A SUMMER SUNDAY
The shrill sound of an alarm at 4:30 a.m. is not very pleasant. But it’s the price of joining a Sunrise Tour around the summer solstice. In winter, Sunrise Tours begin at a more decent hour. The sun, known for her constancy, getting up each morning and going to bed each evening, can’t seem to quite make her mind up about what time of day to wake up or go to bed. Winter mornings can be pretty cold, which is no doubt the reason for the sun getting up later.
Crawling out of bed in the middle of the night to go traipsing through a redwood forest is not for everyone. Victims of a screeching alarm clock are likely to have second thoughts. Tuesday afternoon when you made your reservations it all sounded a lot more interesting than it does at 4:30 in the morning. But if you are the stout type with a middling sense of adventure, you roll out of bed nonetheless.
If you don’t know the road to Muir Woods, the adventure begins long before you arrive. The road curves so tightly through the hills even high beams fail to see around the corners. Early morning fog rolls off the Pacific Ocean, diffusing the light in a dreamy haze. Hopefully, you’ll be rewarded by spotting a black-tailed deer along the side of the road. If luck is with you, you might glimpse a gray fox dashing across the road. While a deer might take a good, long look at you before deciding whether you might be thinking about venison for breakfast, a fox will vanish like a phantom. For the short-legged fox, haste is the path to a long life.
As the sunlight is just starting to peek over the coastal ridge to the east, we gather at the end of the parking lot. An unseen wild turkey gobbles, welcoming the first light.
After a short introduction, we head towards the Visitor Center, where the main trail begins...