This 230 acre preserve west of Novato is accessed via trails originating from the end of Vineyard Road, which cross lands owned by the North Marin Water District. These trails ascend through shaded woodlands to reach the ridge beside clusters of massive redwoods and fields of ferns. After the long ascent, the rewards of this hilltop experience make it hard to turn away and head back down to the civilized world. This is one of the best preserves to visit during a summer heat wave as the trails up the north facing slopes are cloaked in forests of oak, bay, and madrone. The open places at the top are usually moist from summer fog drip and caressed by cool west winds. Views along the way stretch from the nearby Stafford Lake to the outline of Mount Saint Helena at the edge of distant Lake County
A great deal of trail improvement has taken place here over the last few years. The old eroded farm road that cut up the ridge to the top has been replaced by the meandering Big Trees Trail. The Ship’s Mast Trail offers a forested traverse through a quiet redwood grove near the top. There are several options that produce interesting all day loop hikes, and there is usually plenty of parking along Vineyard Road.
From Hwy 101 in Novato, take the Atherton Ave/San Marin Dr exit west on San Marin Ave (San Marin Ave becomes Sutro Ave after Novato Blvd junction), and turn right at Vineyard Rd. Trailhead is where the pavement turns to a dirt road.
Visit walkbikemarin.org, transitandtrails.org, 511.org, or dial 511 to find out about alternative transportation and public transit options from your location.
So many different habitats mean that there is a tremendous variety of animals to encounter as you ascend from the valley to the redwood groves at the top.