RecreationHiking & Biking in Northern California
With an abundance of national and state parks to choose from, it’s easy to plan your next great adventure in Northern California. Just north of Golden Gate stands Mount Tamalpais, rising 2,571 feet above sea level with spectacular views and miles of trails. Not far from the beautiful wine countries of Sonoma and Napa Valley, Marin County has gorgeous coastlines with miles of beaches, and the famous Muir Woods. Whether you’re interested in a day hike, a dog park, mountain biking or birdwatching, read below for more information to help plan your trip.
Hiking in Marin County
Tennessee Valley Trail
Located inside the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Tennessee Valley is an amazing offshoot of the Marin Headlands. The Tennessee Valley Trail is mostly level, traveling 1.7 miles to Tennessee Beach. More adventurous hikers can opt for trails leading into the upper hills, but all are sure to enjoy the blooming vegetation and local wildlife such as raptors, deer, coyote and the occasional bobcat sighting.
Point Reyes National Seashore
The Point Reyes National Seashore has many trails passing through Miwok communities and the San Andreas Fault line. Astounding views can be seen from Drakes Bay where the Point Reyes Lighthouse sits along the coastline.
Point Bonita Lighthouse
The Point Bonita Lighthouse offers sunset and full moon tours through tunnels and footbridges. The last manned lighthouse on the California coast, it’s located at the San Francisco Bay entrance in the Marin Headlands near Sausalito, California.
With an elevation of 2571 feet, Mount Tamalpais has 200 miles of hiking trails with views of the entire county, San Francisco and the East Bay. The best time to visit is in the spring, when thousands of colorful wildflowers are in bloom.
The Marin Headlands cover a lot of history from the Miwok Indians to the Military, including the historic Fort Barry and Fort Cronkhite, the NIKE Missile site and the Point Bonita lighthouse. Other attractions include vast hiking trails, dog friendly Rodeo Beach, and breathtaking views overlooking the coast and the city.
Phoenix Lake Trail
The Phoenix Lake Trail is a 2.8 mile loop located inside the Phoenix Lake Park near San Anselmo, California. Pet friendly and perfect for all skill levels, the best time to hike or walk around the lake is from March through September.
National & State Parks
Tomales Bay State Park
This area, celebrated for its natural beauty, is one of constant movement: the land, the animal migrations and the seasonal wildflowers that come up through the earth. For spectacular views, March flowers, beaches and bird-watching, it is a must see.
China Camp State Park
China Camp State Park offers fifteen miles of hiking trails and a house museum that describes the early Chinese settlement of the village. The park is typically busiest on weekends during the spring and summer months.
Angel Island State Park
In the middle of San Francisco Bay sits Angel Island, offering spectacular views of the Marin Headlands, Mount Tamalpais, and the San Francisco skyline. Over 13 miles of foot trails in San Francisco and fire roads circle the island. The Northridge/Sunset loop trail leads to the 788-foot high summit of Mt. Livermore providing spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay. The paved Perimeter Road provides access the island’s several beaches and historical sites such as Immigration Station and Fort McDowell.
Samuel P. Taylor Park
This popular park has over 2,700 acres of wooded countryside in the steep rolling hills of West Marin. The park features a unique contrast of coast redwoods groves and open grassland. Miles of Marin County hiking trails and fire roads make it easy to hike to the top of Mount Barnabe. Or, for a less strenuous visit, many visitors consider Devil’s Gulch the best place in the park for a picnic or a place to relax.
"This is the best tree-lovers monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world," boasted conservationist John Muir when describing the majestic coast redwoods of Muir Woods. Muir Woods has a rich and varied history, from its use by the Coast Miwok people, to its early days of tourism, to an era of conservation, to modern preservation.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Golden Gate National Parks narrate two hundred years of history, from the Native American culture and the Spanish Empire frontier, to maritime history, the California Gold Rush and the expansion of urban San Francisco.
Biking in Marin County
Marin County’s Mount Tamalpais is the birthplace of mountain biking. In the early 1970s Joe Breeze, Gary Fisher, Otis Guy and Charlie Kelly began refurbishing old balloon tire bicycles from the 1930s and 40s to use for riding off-road. Between 1977 and 1978 Joe built 10 frames which were the first successful frames designed and built for use as mountain bikes.
Point Reyes National Seashore
The Point Reyes National Seashore provides a variety of off-road biking opportunities. Trails run through the forest, coastal scrub and along the beach bluffs. The Visitor Centers provide free maps of the park’s trails designated for bike travel.
The trail to Marshall Beach begins on a paved road just west of the entrance to Tomales Bay State Park. The trail goes uphill initially, then levels out into a wide fire road. It drops down to Marshall Beach on Tomales Bay, complete with bay views and picnic sites.
Samuel P. Taylor Park
A ride through Samuel P. Taylor Park is wonderful for children and beginners. The Cross Marin Trail starts at Tocaloma at the Platform Bridge Road. The road is paved, cool and shady. Many picnic areas are available in the park as well.
Dog Walk & Dog Parks in Marin County
Dogs in Federal Park Lands
There are many trails and some beaches within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) that allow off-leash dogs. The Marin Headlands, at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge, is a spectacular area to hike with your dog. The GGNRA can be accessed from several roads off Highway 101: Alexander Avenue, Shoreline Highway and Sir Francis Drake Blvd.
Dogs on Country Open Space Lands
Marin County’s regulations permit only three dogs per individual on open space lands. Dogs are permitted on open space lands when restrained by a 6 ft. (maximum) leash. Dogs may be off-leash on maintained fire roads only when under direct and immediate control of a responsible person.
Dogs in County Parks
Leashed dogs are permitted at all Marin County parks except McNear’s Beach, Paradise Beach and Stafford Lake. Dogs are permitted off-leash but under direct, immediate control at portions of McInnis Park and Upton Beach at Stinson Beach.
Sausalito - Remington Park
Located on Ebbtide at Bridgeway, (415) 332-3270
Novato - O'Hair Park
Located on Novato Blvd. just west of Sutro in San Marin, (415) 892-1826
San Rafael - Field of Dogs
Located on Civic Center Drive at Armory Drive and the Lagoon
Mill Valley - Bayfront Park
Two-acre park located on Sycamore, east of Camino Alto, (415) 383-3298
Larkspur - Pier Park
250 Doherty Drive (behind police station)