Posted in Blogging Marin on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 by MCVB Staff
By John Egan
Want to get outdoors but avoid the crowds? Marin County, just one famous bridge away from San Francisco, offers a wealth of breathtaking hiking trails and vistas. From rugged peaks to dazzling waterfalls on the beach, we’ve got six off-the-beaten-path options that you might not have discovered yet.
Samuel P. Taylor State Park
Put on your hiking boots and get ready for a strenuous jaunt (total time: about four hours) to Barnabe Peak, the highest peak of Samuel P. Taylor State Park in Lagunitas. The 1,446-foot summit affords outstanding views of Marin, including the Pacific Ocean and Mount Diablo. If that trek isn’t quite your speed, there’s an easier 2.7-mile hike along the park’s Pioneer Tree Trail, which is lined with trees and wildflowers.
Lucas Valley Open Space Preserve
If you have 90 minutes and plenty of stamina, head to San Rafael’s Lucas Valley Open Space Preserve to make the ascent to Big Rock Ridge. This out-and-back excursion isn’t for the faint of heart, as the climb involves an elevation change of about 1,400 feet, but if you make it to the top, you’ll be rewarded with stunning scenery (if the fog has lifted, that is).
Gary Giacomini Open Space Preserve
Springtime is the best time to check out the 4.1-mile out-and-back hike at the rugged Gary Giacomini Open Space Preserve in northern Marin between Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and Fairfax-Bolinas Road. With an elevation change of about 700 feet, this trail is easier on the body than the Lucas Valley trail is, although the hike is longer (two hours). On this trail, you can soak up awesome views of Kent Lake and Mount Tamalpais (where you can spot throngs of Mount Tam hikers).
King Mountain Open Space Preserve
Just outside Larkspur, you can venture onto the 3.3-mile loop at King Mountain Open Space Preserve and enjoy the surroundings without enduring an exhausting change in elevation. The 108 acres at this preserve truly have been preserved, as the land once was slated for residential development. The public trail goes across private property, circles the mountain and intersects with Contractors Trail. One warning: The King Mountain Loop Trail doesn’t permit bicycles.
11.4-mile round-trip hike
Wildcat Beach, which dazzles visitors with amazing views of the bluffs at the Point Reyes National Seashore, is far from a hotspot for tourists. That’s because you must walk 5.7 miles along the Coast Trail to reach the beach and the same number of miles, of course, to get back. The trail is accessible from the Palomarin Trailhead. Once you’ve made it to the remote 2.5-mile beach, you’ll be able to appreciate the solitude and the sea. The highlight of the hike is beachside Alamere Falls, whose waters flow into the ocean.
Cascade Canyon Open Space Preserve
Not far from downtown Fairfax is the starting point for a hike that takes you to Cascade Falls. Covering 1.2 miles out and back, the path is a bit steep but isn’t taxing when it comes to elevation change. The best time to go is winter when the waters are rushing and the wildflowers are out in full force. Bonus: Dogs are allowed, but only if they’re on leashes.
It’s summer and the Parks and Open Space rangers and naturalists are ready to show your family a good time in the great outdoors.
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