Muir Woods Inn


THE TAVERN OF Tamalpais was completed in early 1897 at the top of Mount Tam to serve the recently completed Mill Valley and Mount Tamalpais Scenic Railroad. The route soon became known as “The Crookedest Railroad in the World” because it traveled through 281 curves as it snaked its way 8.2 miles from downtown Mill Valley to the top of Mount Tamalpais. Then, according to Mount Tamalpais Scenic Railway (Arcadia Publishing, 2009) by Marin historian Fred Runner, “In 1904, the West Point Inn was built to support the railroad’s stagecoach line to Willow Camp (now known as Stinson Beach).” It still stands, appropriately, at the confluence of Old Railroad Grade Trail and Old Stage Road Trail. And Mount Tamalpais had a third Inn — the Muir Woods Inn (pictured above) — that is not so frequently discussed. “In late 1905, William and Elizabeth Kent bought Redwood Canyon solely to preserve the ancient trees,” writes Runner. The Kents then donated the canyon to the United States government, which eventually renamed the 554 acres Muir Woods National Monument. In 1907, in an effort to boost lagging ticket sales, the rail line was extended to the northern reaches of Muir Woods (at about where Camp Eastwood is now), and its name was changed to Mount Tamalpais and Muir Woods Railway. “The Muir Woods Inn opened on June 27, 1908,” says Runner, “echoing the rustic character of Old Faithful Lodge in Yellowstone.” The above photo shows the inn in 1911, when Edith Roosevelt, President Teddy Roosevelt’s second wife, visited Muir Woods as a guest of the Kents. On June 12, 1913, the inn was destroyed by fire, and a month later an even larger fire threatened both the West Point Inn and the Tavern of Tamalpais.