Muir Woods parking causes a drop in visitors

More predictable parking at Muir Woods has the apparent consequence of keeping a lot of visitors away. If people wanted to visit, waiting for a spot was often the best way to get in. But last January, Muir Woods parking policy changed to reservations only or shuttle only. 

Though attendance increased by 18 percent in February compared to a year ago, it declined in March seven percent, down in April 21 percent and down in May 11 percent – some of it possibly weather related. 

“We were overcrowded, the roads we're congested, and we needed to manage this very, very popular site," said National Park Service Ranger Mia Monroe, a spokesperson. 

The National Park System says it calculated that attendance would drop, estimating a decline of 176,000 visitors this year, or about 15 percent.

Here's the problem (five days a week):

During weekdays, there's no shuttle running out of the closest shuttle lot. So, you can 't park here because there is no shuttle running. And that means that if you want to go up to the park to park, you must have reservations which may or may not be available. 

So what are folks doing?

There are several neighborhoods close to and above Muir Woods. Residents have complained that there have been numerous instances where park visitors use neighborhood parking spots and streets, so much so, that some place cones to warn off parkers. 

"That was a big driver behind our reservation system because we were congesting the neighborhood road, people were parking on the road shoulders, et cetera," said Ranger Monroe.

And, even seven months into the new online reservations system, improvements are still very much needed. Since there's no internet in or near the park, the Nelsons, from New Jersey, had to go down slow, winding roads back to Mill Valley where the is internet service. 

"We tried to make reservations two or three days ago and we got here this morning at our time and they didn't have our names. The gentleman was nice enough to tell us to go down and find internet service, sign up for 5 o'clock and he's help us out. However, when we got back, he was gone. But the other gentleman here let us in, so it worked out," said Don Nelson. 

A regular shuttle has recently come available from the Sausalito Ferry and Marin City on weekdays where parking is scarce.