Scenic Stops in Picture-Perfect Fairfax
Posted in Blogging Marin on Monday, January 3, 2022 by MCVB Staff
By Megan Eileen McDonough
Fairfax, California, doesn’t always get the credit it deserves, but it’s actually one of Marin County’s most picture-perfect towns. The downtown area is small and quaint, while the outskirts are vast and varied. Fairfax is also full of surprises. For example, despite its small population of about 7,400 people, there are three major music venues open nightly. Whether you’re in town for a day or hitting the road for a weekend getaway, here are five of Fairfax’s best viewpoints.
1. Bolinas-Fairfax Ridge
If time is on your side, spend a day driving (or hiking!) along Marin's most picturesque backroad. At 17 miles, the Coastal Trail is the longest of Marin's trails and arguably the most scenic. Pass the Golden Gate Bridge, then go deep into the Marin Headlands and Mount Tamalpais State Park. Keep your eyes open for views of Stinson Beach and Bolinas Lagoon, too. If you’re craving a little isolation from the outside world, make sure to walk the northernmost section of the trail, where you'll come face to face with spacious grasslands and thick redwood forests.
2. Cataract Falls (and Trail)
Stretching seven miles, the Cataract Trail Loop winds through the areas of the Mount Tamalpais Watershed. Before you know it, you find yourself deep within the Marin County backcountry, with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and forests packed with redwood trees. If this sounds a little too intense for you, consider hiking until you reach the top of the Cataract Creek Trail (just over a mile) and then head back. Now, some logistics. Parking can be tight, so try to take your wander through the woods on a weekday if possible. Also, steer clear of poison oak along the narrow parts of the trail.
3. Carson Falls/Pine Mountain
Can't choose between a waterfall and a mountain? Well, if you hike through Carson Falls and Pine Mountain, you get to see both. The trail is beautiful anytime of year but the landscape is especially lush after a rainfall. Don’t let the California drought discourage you, though. This trail is a must! If you head to Carson Falls, you'll see several smaller waterfalls as well. When you hit the fork in the road, veer left to see the upper section of the falls or right to view the lower section. When you reach the top of Pine Mountain on a clear day, you'll have an unbeatable 360-degree view of Marin County.
4. Lake Lagunitas and Alpine Lake Loop (Including Bon Tempe Lake)
For lakeside views, take a hike to Bon Tempe Lake. The lake, which is one of several reservoirs that are part of the Marin Municipal Water District, is home to an array of plant and animal species. There are two main trails to choose from: Shadyside and Sunnyside. Shadyside circles the west side of the lake, while Sunnyside circles the east. Bon Tempe dam separates the two and offers some pretty impressive views. If you’re hitting the road with your pooch, you're in luck! The trail is dog-friendly. Sorry, no bikes are allowed. Make sure to bring your camera and, while you're at it, pack a picnic lunch too.
5. Parks and Markets
Sometimes the best views aren’t of landscapes but of people. Kids can't get enough of Peri Park, with its climbing structures, playhouses, stage and barbecue area. The park is surrounded by towering redwood trees and feels very private. Another local favorite is the weekly Fairfax Farmers’ Market, held Wednesday afternoons from May to September. It's the perfect place to mix and mingle with local farmers and sample some of their fresh produce. Since it's such a community-driven event, you’re likely to make some new friends. Snap a few photos of colorful fruit and smiling vendors at the stalls.