Best Hiking Trails In Marin County – Marin County, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, offers great backpacking. There are half a dozen public land agencies that manage the adjacent properties, and together they provide a very extensive network of trails. Marin is scenic and ecologically diverse. The Mediterranean climate is temperate and backpacking is viable all year round. It is well served by public transport, enabling car-free travel for Bay Area residents. Finally, campsites, inns and guesthouses offer options for all types of travel.
Your Guide to Marin County Public Lands (pdf file) from the NPS shows how to access lands managed by various agencies. Most of Marin’s 260,000 residents live in the eastern corridor, between the coastal mountains and the bay. Outside the urban corridor, the county is a mix of public and agricultural land. Of the private farmland, nearly half is protected in perpetuity by the Marin Farmland Trust.
Best Hiking Trails In Marin County
We have done several multi-day trips in the region and in this article we provide route and transport information for four trips. These walks are an example of a wide range of possible routes. For example, a hiker could combine several legs of these four routes with the Point Reyes Circumambulation to form a long, fun and varied loop ~200 miles from the city of San Francisco, using the Sausalito ferry on one end and walking across the bridge and along the sea of the city on the other side. Alternatively, one can shorten Step #2 from ~40 miles down to ~12-15 miles by going directly from Sausalito to Hawk, Haypress, Kirby Cove, or Bicentennial Camp, or to the Marin Headlands lodge. The permutations are endless.
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We lived secretly in all our travels. Stealth camping isn’t for everyone, and some people don’t practice the meticulous, trackless approach required. The good news is that there are some legitimate campsites and inns. Accommodation and food are available in every small town, so walking from one hostel to another is also a possible alternative.
This CalTopo map shows all campgrounds and a variety of cities and transit stations. There are many other bus stations that are not mapped.
Approaching the Golden Gate Bridge. The GGNRA is next to the bridge, and the road leads directly to the path on the bridge.
Mount Tam on the horizon right of Loma Alta OSP, on the ridge between Lucas Valley and San Geronimo Valley.
Incredible Hikes In Marin County, Ca
Heading north through the GGNRA on the Fox Trail. It is amazing that there is so much open public space so close to San Francisco, seen from a level in the mountains above the Golden Gate. Marin County is home to an abundance of outdoor adventure opportunities, including hiking and biking trails, beaches and forests spread across the various public lands at Muir Woods National Monument, Mount Tamalpais State Park, Point Reyes National Seashore, Tomale Bay and 2,100 acres is. of Marin Headlands. While some of these areas can be crowded on weekends, there are also many relatively less traveled roads. Here are some of our favorites.
Palomarin to Alamere Falls: 8.2 miles, 600 feet of elevation gain, moderate scrambling, ending in a waterfall that flows into the ocean.
Coastal Trail, Pantoll to W Ridgecrest Blvd: 5.4 miles, 200 feet elevation gain, low overhead, panoramic view of Mt. Tam State Park over the Pacific Ocean.
Coastal Trail, Rodeo Beach to Muir Beach: 13.1 miles, 3,528 feet of elevation gain, high traffic, explore beaches, bays and rugged coastal cliffs.
Great Marin County Hikes
Muir Woods via Deer Park Fire Road: 4.3 miles, 860 feet elevation gain, moderate elevation gain, backdoor trail in Muir Woods.
Sky Trail Loop, Bear Valley to Mount Wittenberg: 7 miles, 1,291 feet of elevation gain, moderate elevation, a gateway to little-known Point Reyes.
Steep Canyon Trail to Dipsea Trail Loop: 3.4 miles, 950 feet elevation, moderate scrambling, varied loop with redwood-filled canyons and coastal views.
East Peak via Hogback + Fern Creek Trail: 4 miles, 1,600 feet elevation, moderate elevation gain, direct route to Marin’s highest peak. At only 2,574 feet, Mount Tamalpais is nowhere near the list of tallest peaks in California. For runners in the Bay, however, this majestic peak looms large above all others. Marin County, north of San Francisco and anchored by Mount Tamalpais State Park, is home to some of the most sought-after trails in the country.
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Pray that runners everywhere will put this place on their bucket lists. This is no surprise to the local trail running community, one of the strongest in the country.
Ready to see what all the hype is about? Whether you’re a Mt Tam newbie or a long-time fan of this beloved peak, here’s what you need to know, from piste intelligence to race groups to races.
If you’re new to the area or unfamiliar with Marin, the Marin Headlands Visitor Center is a great place to familiarize yourself with the geography and all the must-see offerings. About three miles from each entrance to the Marin Headlands, the visitor center offers trail maps, friendly parks and clean restrooms.
Several trails are located around the visitor center, but the Tennessee Valley Trail is a good choice to pick up the pace. The Tennessee Valley Trail is a wide fire road with beautiful views, so it’s hard to get lost. From the fire road, you can take any number of single tracks for quick explorations. Or if you really want to stretch your legs, you can take the 9.7 mile coastal trail to Muir Beach or head in the other direction, 8.1 miles to Rodeo Beach.
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Known as the birthplace of mountain biking, Mount Tam is also home to the country’s oldest trail race, a 7.4-mile course that is as beautiful as it is tough. First run in 1905, the Dipsea Race begins in Mill Valley and charges nearly 700 pitches over Windy Gap before descending into Muir Woods to finish at Stinson Beach. In the first race two runners competed and the winning time was 1 hour 12 minutes. Now the demand to run is high and the race organizers are limiting the race to 1,500 hundred runners. The 2015 winner completed the course in 47 minutes 13 seconds.
The Dipsea is always on the second Sunday of June and if you can’t make it or just want to run more, there’s always the Double Dipsea two weeks later. And if that’s not enough of a challenge or time to charge through Marin, check out the Quad Dipsea held every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
If you prefer a more casual, less competitive ride, the Dipsea course is still a great place to come out (although it can get crowded on sunny weekends). see waterfalls, redwood forests and breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. The 6.6 mile run includes steep and technical sections, but be prepared.
The Mont Tamalpais Watershed is less famous than its state park cousin, but it might be more fun to run. It is less crowded and the locals love it for its secluded paths. Managed by the Marin Municipal Water District, this area offers five lakes of varying sizes with a maze of excellent trails. Another plus? Parking can be easier here because there are fewer tourists and more places.
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Phoenix Lake is a good place to start. You’ll have views of impressive peaks, exposed slopes, redwood forests and, in spring, wildflowers. This 2.7-mile loop is also dog-friendly, so bring your four-legged friend. If you want to add distance, you can hit any number of paths that branch the loop in all directions. If you go back, you will also find several runners who can guide you to your car.
Another spectacular run is the Cataract Trail, a 2.6 mile out and back to Cataract Falls that includes 680 feet of elevation gain. Full shade, the trail is always cool and usually earns layers. Touch the falls, soak the mist and return to where you started.
To really get to know the secrets of Marin County’s maze of running trails, consider joining a running club. Tamalpa Runners have been running across the country for 40 years. Kees Tuinsing, the original president of the club, is still going strong and leads a free track practice every Thursday morning at the College of Marin. In the spring he also runs a series of hill repeats for anyone training for Dipsea. In addition, the club offers group races every week, races once a month and a new member race every two months.
Another pioneer in the Bay Area running scene, the San Francisco Running Company in Mill Valley also hosts community runs every Saturday morning at 8am. A more experienced group usually runs 13-15 miles, and another runs to the beach and back for a regular seven miles.
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Marin is the land of microclimates. You can see the full sun and serious heat at the beginning of the trail, but a kilometer in or a kilometer the trail can be shaded, foggy and 15 degrees cooler. Take sunscreen, extra water