diamond head : Reservations required to visit Hawaii’s famous Diamond Head State Monument

Reservations required to visit Hawaii's famous Diamond Head State Monument

Reservations required to visit Hawaii’s famous Diamond Head State Monument

Out-of-state visitors to the Diamond Head State Monument in Hawaii, locally known as Lē’ahi, are now required to make reservations prior to the visit. Residents have free access to the park but those …

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10 Key Ranger Tips For Visiting Muir Woods National Monument

Named for legendary conservationist John Muir, Muir Woods National Monument preserves one of the last remaining ancient redwood forests in the San Francisco Bay Area. Some of the redwoods are nearly 1,000 years old and more than 250 feet tall!

The best part is that Muir Woods, which is managed by the National Park Service, is only 12 miles north of San Francisco, making it extremely accessible. Its small size — 554 acres — also makes it an ideal location for a day trip.

To help make your trip planning easier, the National Park Service has released its “Top Ten Tips for Visiting Muir Woods,” written by the rangers and staff who work there.

“Are you ready to explore Muir Woods this summer?” the rangers and staff ask. “Be sure to recreate responsibly and have a blast at this ancient redwood forest!”

Let’s get right to it. Here are the rangers’ and staff’s top 10 tips for enjoying a trip to Muir Woods.

1. Plan Ahead

Vehicles are not allowed inside Muir Woods, which helps monument officials better manage visitation levels, allows visitors to plan their trip in advance, and reduces overcrowding.

“Reserve, relax, plan ahead, enjoy the Woods,” rangers note. “Parking reservations are required ahead of time, so be sure to book them in advance.”

You can learn more about making those reservations and also make them here.

Pro Tip: Print a copy of your parking voucher and place it on your vehicle’s dashboard. “Staff from Ace Parking, which manages the Muir Woods parking reservation system, will be practicing safe distancing,” rangers explain. “Please do your part to minimize close contact and conversation.”

2. Be Patient And Flexible

“Hundreds of thousands of people visit Muir Woods each year during the months of June, July, and August,” rangers point out. “The combination of traffic and the narrow, winding roads leading to Muir Woods often make the drive longer than expected.”

3. Cell Service

Rangers emphasize that “There is no cell phone service or WiFi at, or around, Muir Woods National Monument.”

4. Pets Are Not Allowed

“Pets are not permitted in Muir Woods, which is very small and can get very crowded,” rangers explain. “To protect the wildlife, other visitors, and your pet, we suggest that you visit nearby areas such as the Coastal Trail at Muir Beach, and some of the trails in the Marin Headlands where pets are permitted.”

You can learn more about the trails at Marin Headlands here.

You can learn more about the pet policy at Muir Woods and also find nearby locations that do allow pets here.

5. Stop At The Visitor Center First

“The visitor center and Park Ranger Orientation Stations provide orientation, information, and trip-planning advice, so they make a great place to begin your visit,” rangers explain.

You can find the visitor center’s hours of operation here.

6. Buy Park Passes In Advance

“There are entrance fees for everyone at Muir Woods, however park passes may be purchased in advance to save time,” rangers note. “If you’re an ‘America the Beautiful’ pass holder, you enjoy free entry to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites, including Muir Woods National Monument. And remember that parking reservations are required!”

You can learn about entrance fees and various park passes here, and the annual America the Beautiful park pass here.

You can also pay entrance fees when you make your parking reservation here.

7. Download The NPS App

The NPS App provides interactive maps, tours of park places, and on-the-ground accessibility information about more than 400 national parks to make trip planning easier. The free app can be downloaded through the App Store and Google Play.

Rangers suggest downloading the app and all offline content before arriving at Muir Woods. That’s because the app, they explain, is a “digital guide to enhance your experience.” Plus, as they noted above in Tip 3, there is no cell or wifi service in Muir Woods.

8. Choose Your Own Adventure

Muir Woods has 6 miles of trails. They include a 30-minute loop, a 60-minute loop, and a 90-minute loop. There are even longer trails that extend into the neighboring Mount Tamalpais State Park.

“All of these walks offer views of old-growth coast redwoods — the tallest living things in the world,” the rangers explain.

You can see a map of trails in Muir Woods and the surrounding vicinity here.

9. Be A Junior Ranger

If you’ll have kids or grandkids with you, you’ll need to check out the Junior Ranger program.

First, your kids or grandkids can pick up a Junior Ranger Booklet at the visitor center or Orientation Station. Then, after spending time in the forest and filling out the pages in the book, you’ll need to return to the visitor center.

“A ranger will talk to them about their time in the park, what they learned, and what they are still curious about,” rangers explain. “After this conversation, the ranger will have kids take the Junior Ranger Pledge — and then they get their badge!”

You can learn more about the Junior Ranger program here.

10. Explore Beyond Our Borders

“The greater Muir Woods/Golden Gate National Recreation Area includes much more than Muir Woods,” rangers explain. “Plan your trip so you’ll also visit the beautiful public lands, and natural wonders including Muir Beach and Muir Beach Overlook, Marin Headlands, and Mount Tamalpais State Park.”

Located on the Pacific Coast just three miles west of Muir Woods, Muir Beach is a quiet cove, beach, and lagoon accessed by a 450-foot long pedestrian bridge that connects the parking lot to the beach. Marin Headlands, known for its geology and fog-swept coastal prairie ecosystem, offers stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge — and you can even listen to the foghorn. Mount Tamalpais State Park, which is north of the Golden Gate Bridge, is known for its hiking trails and redwood and oak forests.

You can learn more about all of the parks within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area here.

You can find more of our Muir Woods coverage here and our Marin Headlands coverage here. And, of course, you’ll also want to read our San Francisco and California coverage.

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9 Tips For Exploring Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

2. The Great House Rules

Stroll up to the Great House ruins, and the origin of the monument’s name becomes abundantly clear: This house is big. Portions stand three stories high, and the mid-section is four stories. The name is said to date back to the late 1600s, when Spanish missionaries arrived and dubbed the site Casa Grande (“Big House”in English). The native name for the structure is Sivan Vahkih.

Described by the National Parks Service as “a four-story tower of packed earth,” the Great House was constructed of a natural soil cement known as caliche. The building appears to have served as both a tower and a multi-family home, with 11 separate living spaces. For reasons that can only be speculated upon today, the native people left the village by about 1450.

Visitors are allowed to walk right up to the structure but cannot go inside. I suggest taking some time to wander around the Great House, read the informative signs, and gaze through the house’s doorways to see the sunlight streaming through the upper windows.

For decades, the crumbling Great House has been protected by a massive roof covering. The national monument also features a small visitor center and shop that currently allows a limited number of people.

3. Agriculture Is Central To The Story

The Great House gets most of the attention, but it is just one aspect of an intricate prehistoric infrastructure that also included a vast system of canals for irrigating crops. In fact, the entire ruins site serves as a testament to the ingenuity and longevity of the ancestral Sonoran Desert people, made up of cultures like the O’odham, Hopi, and Zuni people.

The monument’s website notes that the ancestral Sonoran Desert people discovered that as their villages grew, farmland along the rivers was becoming scarce. To bring water to land farther away, they created hundreds of miles of canals.

Cotton has been a crop in the area for centuries, and today, the monument is surrounded by modern-day cotton fields. Canals reportedly began fueling the region’s farming 3,500 years ago. “Today, the farm fields near Casa Grande Ruins are still one of the largest cotton-producing areas in the United States,” says a monument sign. “Irrigation still makes desert farming possible.”

Pro Tip: For those interested in seeing modern cotton farming up close, tours are available through Caywood Farms of Casa Grande.

4. Don’t Forget Charming Downtown Casa Grande

Although the names are the same, the Casa Grande Ruins and the town of Casa Grande are actually located about a half-hour drive apart. While the ruins are east of Interstate 10 near the town of Coolidge, the community of Casa Grande is on the west side of the interstate, about 23 miles to the southwest.

After taking in the ruins, Casa Grande is the perfect place to stop for lunch and a bit of sightseeing. Start with a drive down Florence Boulevard, where you will pass by a host of vintage storefronts and a variety of restaurants, many with outdoor patios. Or for a picnic, stop at the pretty Peart Park, where large trees and ramadas provide plenty of shade.

Pro Tip: The renovated Paramount Theatre Casa Grande offers performances and events in a classic setting in downtown Casa Grande.

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