In my experience as a Realtor® and long-time resident in Marin County, it's become clear that proximity to the naturally beautiful landscapes of hillsides, lakes and the coast draws many homebuyers to Marin. Along with questions about the quality of schools, length of the commute into the City and/or the local tax rate, it's not uncommon to hear questions about where to ride a bike or do some hiking.
For the nature-lovers as well as health-minded, below are lists of some of Marin's finest trails. Some are well-known and well-traveled, while a few lesser-known trails are offered for those who want to try something new and, in some instances, more challenging.
Known Trails in Marin
Tennessee Valley Trail: From the parking lot, the approximately 1.5 mile hike in leads you to a beautiful, secluded beach. And, for a little more exercise, you could even take a child in a baby jogger. Bikes are allowed.
Mt Tam: The most popular way up is probably the Railroad Grade from East Blithedale Avenue in Mill Valley. The reward is panoramic views of Marin at the top, as well as views into the City. On a clear day, you can see as far as Mount Diablo in the East Bay. This hike is about seven miles each way, and considered a long, hard climb up by many. Bikes are allowed.
China Camp: This state park, located near Peacock Gap in San Rafael, includes miles and miles of easy single-track, offering lots of options for longer or shorter loops all under a forest canopy with moderate hills and bay views. It's very popular with mountain bikers on weekends.
Cataract Trail: Outside Fairfax, this gem offers an abundance of waterfalls after a season of moderate rains (maybe not this season) and gorgeous redwoods. Steep climbing with many steps, but well worth the effort!
Phoenix Lake: At the end of Lagunitas Road in Ross, this lake offers a 2-mile loop that is enjoyed by both hikers and runners. The only downside is that the parking lot tends to fill up. If you're up for the exercise, you can park by the Ross Post Office and run or walk along tree-lined Lagunitas, to the lake and back for a 5-mile trip.
Mt Burdell: Off San Marin Boulevard in Novato, you have various options here, among them a climb to the top, which rewards you with sweeping views of northern Marin.
Known Hiking Trails in Marin County
These are far less popular than those listed above, but are still reasonably accessible and, to some, more rewarding. I haven't done all of these personally; rather, I consulted a source that I highly trust on this matter, as I think he's been on most of the trails in Marin as an avid runner...he also happens to be my husband! The following descriptions are mostly his:
The Redwood Creek and Miwok Trails in Muir Beach can be combined for an 8-mile loop through lush forests and ridge-top views. Plus there is a requisite visit to the rustic Pelican Inn for refreshments afterwards.
Pt. Reyes: The Sky Trail may be the jewel in the crown of this phenomenal national park, where you can hike through the amazing coastal forest and experience spectacular views toward the Pacific. Get there from the Bear Valley trailhead.
Northside Trail: Located on the less-traveled north side of Mount Tam, above Fairfax, the rugged Northside Trail connects the Eldridge Grade with the Rocky Ridge Fire Road. The views are super and it's a beautiful place to be. It's more directly reachable from Rifle Camp.
Indian Tree Preserve: Tucked behind Stafford Lake in Novato, this pristine trail network features wonderful Oak and Redwood stands. It's reminiscent of China Camp, but without the crowds and bikes.
Coastal Trail (west-side of Mt. Tam): An absurdly scenic ribbon of trail high on bluffs above the ocean. The views are unforgettable. There are a few ways to reach the trail from Ridgecrest Boulevard, but the Pantoll trailhead probably makes the most sense.
Access to the natural beauty of our landscape is something that locals don't take for granted. If you're a nature-lover and thinking about moving to Marin, I encourage you to take in a hike between home tours...it is likely to feed your excitement about moving here!