By Joe Kukura
Outdoor enthusiasts won’t find a better place for a breath of fresh air than the northern California getaway of Marin County. Known as “the backyard of the Bay Area” for its array of outdoor attractions, Marin County offers hiking experiences through Pacific Ocean shores, redwood forests, mountains and waterfalls. Marin County is located right across the Golden Gate Bridge to the north of San Francisco, and an endless variety of Marin County hiking trails has something for hikers of every level — including brand-new hikers trying on their boots for the first time.
Even if you’ve never been hiking before, you’ll find that Marin County is an ideal place to get started on your trek. Whether you want to set your sights on watching Marin County wildlife, taking in panoramic views from mountaintops or just enjoying an outdoor picnic with some of the most beautiful backgrounds in America, here’s how new hikers can experience the height of Marin County hiking.
Where to hike
Novice and brand-new hikers have plenty of options when choosing a Marin County hiking adventure, from the redwood forests to mountain majesties to the shining seas of the Pacific coastline.
Mill Valley’s Muir Woods is perhaps the most famous of these trails, with its iconic 1,000-year-old giant redwood trees that are a fabled part of our national park system. These famous trails do draw crowds, so a Muir Woods parking reservation and shuttle system are in effect during peak visiting months. Also in Mill Valley, the Tennessee Valley Trail in the Marin Headlands combines beaches, mountains and sprawling views of the Pacific Ocean.
Over at the magnificent nature preserve known as the Point Reyes National Seashore, Chimney Rock is an easily hikable destination that offers the unforgettable sights of elephant seals and rare wildflowers in bloom. Novato’s Hamilton Wetland Restoration Project features a Bay Trail that’s perfectly suited for hiking or biking with kids. Elsewhere in Novato, Waterfall Trail to Indian Valley features an unforgettable waterfall hike that’s very easy on a novice hiker’s feet.
What to wear
Marin County is famed for its mild Mediterranean weather, but a novice hiker still ought to prepare for its elements. The trails we’ve described above may not necessarily require hiking boots, but you should at least wear comfortable hiking shoes in which you can walk for multiple hours. Thin cotton socks are highly recommended, perhaps even a second pair (worn over the first) if you’re prone to developing blisters.
You may encounter rain in Marin County between the months of November and April, but the rest of the year remains pretty dry. Long pants are generally encouraged. But the pleasant and almost-constant sunshine of Marin County can be deceptively harsh, so sunscreen and a ballcap are excellent additions to your Marin County hiking apparel.
What to pack
Obviously, you must bring plenty of water when embarking on a Marin County hike. These are remote locations in nature that require stocking up in advance because you won’t find any convenience stores once you embark on your adventure.
Printing a map in advance is never a bad idea, because you’re unlikely to have reliable cellphone coverage in the most remote mountain and ocean areas of Marin County. Other recommended items to have on your hike include a flashlight, a simple first-aid kit and some manner of knife or multipurpose tool. And of course, bring a backpack or something in which to conveniently carry all of these items!
The custom is to finish off your day of “roughing it” with a rewarding trip to some of the renowned farm-to-table Marin County restaurants and relaxing places to stay overnight in Marin County. So consider Marin County hiking the next time you hit the road, and trade the workday paper trail for the trails of Mother Nature.
For all you need to plan your Marin County vacation, visit the Marin Convention and Visitors Bureau’s website or Facebook page.