Five Best Hiking Trails in West Marin
Posted in Blogging Marin on Friday, April 14, 2023 by MCVB Staff
Marin County is a haven for nature enthusiasts and hiking aficionados alike. With its lush forests, rolling hills, and stunning coastal views, there's no better way to explore the area than by foot. Whether you're a seasoned hiker or a novice, Marin County has a variety of trails to suit any level of experience. So lace up your hiking boots and head outdoors as we reveal the five best hiking trails in West Marin to sink your teeth into.
1. Abbotts Lagoon
Nestled in the stunning coastal region of West Marin, the Abbotts Lagoon trail is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. This 3.4-mile round-trip hike is a feast for the senses, featuring wildflowers, marshes, sand dunes, and breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.
The trail begins at the Abbotts Lagoon Trailhead, a peaceful spot with picnic tables and restrooms. As you make your way along the trail, keep an eye out for the diverse array of wildlife that calls this area home, from great blue herons to black-tailed deer.
The highlight of the hike is undoubtedly the panoramic ocean views from the dunes, which are nothing short of awe-inspiring. Whether you're a seasoned hiker or just looking for a leisurely stroll in nature, the Abbotts Lagoon trail is an unforgettable experience not to be missed.
2. Chimney Rock
The Chimney Rock trail is a must-do hike for anyone visiting West Marin. This 1.8-mile round-trip hike offers stunning coastal views, wildflowers, and a chance to witness the incredible elephant seals at the overlook.
The trail begins at the Chimney Rock Trailhead, and as you hike along that trail you'll be treated to breathtaking views of the rugged coastline and the Point Reyes Lighthouse.
Our favorite part of this hike is the elephant seal overlook, where visitors can observe these massive creatures in their natural habitat, lounging on the beach and barking at each other. If you’re an animal lover, you should definitely give this trail a try.
3. Tomales Point Trail
The Tomales Point Trail in West Marin is a hiker's paradise. The 9.5-mile round-trip trail starts at the Pierce Point Ranch, which has a rich history dating back to the mid-1800s. Originally a dairy farm, the ranch later became a cattle and sheep ranch. In the 1970s, the National Park Service purchased the ranch and turned it into a visitor center.
As hikers make their way along the trail, they'll be treated to stunning views of Tomales Bay, Bodega Bay, and the Pacific Ocean. The trail winds through grassy hills and pastures, providing ample opportunity for wildlife sightings. The area is home to a diverse array of animals, including Tule Elk, coyotes, and even the occasional mountain lion.
The Tomales Point Trail also leads to the Elk Refuge, which was established in 1978 to protect the Tule Elk population. These majestic animals once roamed freely throughout California but were nearly hunted to extinction. Today, the elk population is slowly recovering, thanks in part to the efforts of the National Park Service.
Whether you're a seasoned hiker or just starting out, the Tomales Point Trail is worth the trip. The trail's stunning views, rich history, and diverse wildlife make it a must-see destination for anyone visiting the West Marin area.
4. Tomales Bay State Park Beach Trails
Tomales Bay State Park is a nature lover's paradise, offering stunning views of the bay and surrounding hills. The park is home to three beautiful beaches, each with its own unique features, and several trails that offer breathtaking views of the bay and surrounding landscape.
One popular trail is the Jepson-Johnstone Loop, which takes hikers through chaparral and oak woodlands to Shell Beach. From there, the Johnstone Trail leads to the Indian Nature Trail, which connects Shell Beach, Indian Beach, and Pebble Beach in a single hike. The Indian Nature Trail winds through dense forest and provides spectacular views of the bay and surrounding hills.
The park's three beaches, Pebble Beach, Shell Beach, and Indian Beach, are all must-see destinations for visitors to the area. Pebble Beach is a secluded cove with rocky outcroppings and clear blue water, while Shell Beach is a long, sandy beach perfect for picnicking and sunbathing. Indian Beach is a favorite among hikers, offering a secluded cove with calm waters and stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
A breathtaking view of Marin County from atop Mt. Tamalpias
5. Verna Dunshee Trail on Mt. Tam
The Verna Dunshee Trail on Mt. Tamalpais is a hidden gem in Marin County, California. The trail, named after a local conservationist and author, offers hikers stunning views of the Bay Area and an insight into the history of Mill Valley and Mt. Tamalpais.
Mill Valley was founded in the 1830s and served as a stopping point for those traveling to the gold rush. The town grew and evolved over time, but it wasn't until the late 1800s that the Mt. Tamalpais Scenic Railway was built. The railway was a marvel of engineering, taking passengers up the mountain to enjoy breathtaking views of the Bay Area.
The railway eventually closed, but the legacy lives on with the Verna Dunshee Trail, which follows the old railway route. Along the trail, hikers will encounter the remnants of the railway, including old concrete foundations and rusted rail spikes.
One of the highlights of the trail is the Gardner Fire Lookout, which sits atop a rocky outcrop and offers panoramic views of the surrounding area. The lookout was built in the 1930s and was used to spot fires in the surrounding forests. Today, it serves as a popular destination for hikers and is a testament to the history of the area.
Overall, the Verna Dunshee Trail is a must-do for anyone visiting the Bay Area. The trail offers a unique combination of natural beauty and historical significance, making it an unforgettable hiking experience.
Visit Marin County
Once you’re done checking out the sights and hiking to your heart's content, you’re going to want a soft bed to lay down on and relieve your tired feet. Why not stay right here in Marin County at one of our local establishments? For the best places to stay when in Marin, visit the Marin CVB at visitmarin.org/hotels.
Whether you’re traveling from near or far, Marin County is the quick getaway you're looking for.