To improve emergency response ability for the Marin County Fire Department and access for preserve visitors, the MCOSD trail crew will be conducting trail maintenance activities on Smith Ridge Fire Road and Sunrise Fire Road (formerly Gunshot Fire Road) at Loma Alta Preserve. The roads will be closed periodically Monday through Thursday from 7:00am to 4:00pm for the months of April, May, and June 2016. Heavy equipment and materials necessary for the work may be on or adjacent to the fire road at all times for the duration of the project. For more information Contact Brian Sanford at (415) 473-7473.
Rising to a height of 1592 feet, this “tall hill” is actually one of the highest points in Marin. The ridge lines that run together to form Loma Alta divide the four major watersheds of the county: Miller Creek to the northeast, Corte Madera Creek to the southeast, Lagunitas Creek to the southwest, and Nicasio Creek to the northwest. This 509 acre preserve encompasses most of the grass-covered south facing slopes of this broad, gently sloping hill. Running along the lower perimeter of the preserve is the Old Railroad Grade Fire Road.
During winter, a prominent feature of this lower trail is the 25-foot cascade known as Fairfax Falls. To reach the summit, take the Smith Ridge Fire Road, or the extremely steep Gunshot Fire Road. Either way, spectacular views of the entire Bay Area will reward you each time you stop to catch your breath. Near the top of the hill, the Loma Alta Fire Road continues north then drops off gradually to the Big Rock trailhead at Lucas Valley Road. This is also an important link in the Bay Area Ridge Trail. A public trail easement encumbers this section of road, so please stay on the road. The exposed grassland in this area is an important breeding site for horned larks and western meadowlarks. Further down, look for lazuli buntings and chipping sparrows along the road. Near the bottom of the road you’ll pass through some patches of serpentine soil that provide one of the best late-season wildflower displays in the county.
East access: from Hwy 101 in San Rafael, take the exit for Central San Rafael west. Follow 3rd St approximately 1 mile, continue on 2nd St, which merges into 4th St. 4th St turns into Red Hill Ave after 0.6 mile; follow for 0.5 miles. Stay right onto Sir Francis Drake Blvd and follow 3 miles, turn right onto Glen Dr and follow 0.5 miles to end (dead end).
West access: from Hwy 101 in Larkspur, take the exit for Sir Francis Drake Blvd west 6 miles. Park in the big gravel pullout on the right side, below the crest of White Hill.
Visit walkbikemarin.org, transitandtrails.org, 511.org, or dial 511 to find out about alternative transportation and public transit options from your location.
Western Bluebirds nest in the forested canyons and hunt grasshoppers (and other insects) in the tall grass. Raptors of every kind are common here, hunting for voles and gopher snakes on the open slopes. Don’t forget to look for Horned Larks which nest in the short grass near the summit.