Rangers Recommend

County park and open space rangers share their favorite things to do and see.

Canyon Views

Blithedale Summit Preserve

View from Blithedale Ridge

Hike Corte Madera Ridge Fire Road to Blithedale Ridge Fire Road, out and back, for soaring views over a deep, forested canyon. Locals call this neighborhood Christmas Tree Hill–in the 1920s street lamps on the zig zagging streets were decorated with colored bulbs. Start your hike from the gate at the top of Summit Drive. Go slow – the road is narrow with hairpin turns. Limited parking.

  • 4 miles out and back
  • 350 foot elevation gain
  • Moderate difficulty

Indian Tree Preserve

View of the canyon from top of Indian Tree Preserve

Start at Big Trees Trail off Vineyard Road. Take the first right onto Upper Meadow Trail, which skirts the tree line above a meadow with bridges over seasonal creeks. Turn left onto Deer Camp Fire Road, into a tranquil canyon filled with redwoods and maples. The road climbs steadily with switchbacks through a mixed forest, turning into Deer Camp Trail. Go right and get back on Big Trees Trail. Enjoy views across the canyon and glimpses of Stafford Lake. Take your time gaining elevation. At the top, cross Indian Tree Fire Road into a small meadow to pay homage to the massive old growth redwood known as the Indian Tree. To return, take Indian Tree Fire Road to the east, then a sharp left onto Ship’s Mast Trail, and a right to follow Big Trees Trail downhill.

  • 7 miles
  • 1000 foot elevation gain
  • Strenuous

Fall Color

Cascade Canyon Preserve

Fall leaves scattered on the ground

The black oaks and big leaf maples along the Carey Camp Trail loop turn golden-yellow in fall. November’s the best time to catch the color. Enter at the gate off Cascade Drive in San Anselmo. (Very limited parking; respect local residents.) Hike out a short way on Cascade Fire Road, go left onto Carey Camp Trail, then head back. Watch your step, this trail is steep in parts.

  • 1 mile
  • 400 foot elevation gain
  • Steep on some parts of the trail

Stafford Lake Park

Trees with golden fall leaves next to Stafford Lake

As days grow shorter, black oaks along the water put on a scenic display. Take an easy stroll on paths next to the reservoir, then relax in a colorful string hammock. Kids can play games and enjoy the playground next to a redwood grove, complete with with action-oriented ziplines. Stretch your legs by hiking the 2-mile Terwilliger Nature Trail, a gentle ascent through grasslands dotted with buckeye, coast live oak, white oaks, and California bay trees.

  • 1-2 miles
  • Easy to moderate
  • Mostly flat; gentle climb on Terwilliger Trail

Big Oaks

Mount Burdell Preserve

Giant oak tree in Bowman Canyon

This preserve holds some of the mightiest valley oaks in Marin. There are also impressive coast live oaks, black oaks, and blue oaks. Start at the gate at the end of San Andreas Drive, heading out on San Andreas Fire Road. Turn right onto Middle Burdell Fire Road, passing the seasonal vernal pool called Hidden Lake. After crossing Old Quarry Trail, take a sharp right at the second junction, on to Salt Lick Fire Road, where hillsides above the grasslands are dotted with valley oaks. Follow to the junction where it joins San Carlos Fire Road, which loops right onto San Marin Fire Road, heading back past the water tanks to where you started on San Andreas.

  • 4.5 miles
  • 700 foot elevation gain
  • Strenuous

Indian Valley Preserve

Sun shining through oak branches

Oak woodlands offer a glimpse of what Marin County looked like before European settlement. Start on Ad & Gloria Schwindt Trail through oak and bay forest, continuing on to Indian Valley Fire Road. At the next junction, turn right on to Buzzard Burn Fire Road, crossing the creek bed through bay, buckeye, madrone, manzanita, coast live oak, blue oak, and black oak. The road becomes Witzel Trail. Stay straight until joining Susan Alexander Trail, which is a steep uphill through buckeye, California bay, and black oak woodland. Pass the waterfall, taking Ken Harth Trail on the right. Switch backs loop you to Pacheco Pond Fire Road, along the parking area. Plenty of paid parking is available in the college campus lot.

  • 4 miles
  • 500 foot elevation gain
  • Moderate difficulty

Scenic Wetlands

McInnis Marsh

Gallinas Creek marshland

Walk out along the 100-year-old levees where Las Gallinas and Miller Creeks flow into San Pablo Bay. This wetland is a focal point of history, as well as a harbinger of the future. The marshland was first diked in the early 1900s, to create a cattle ranch. When it became public land, in the 1970s, park facilities, including a golf course, were built. Later, wildlife biologists discovered the marsh is habitat to protected species: black rail, Ridgeway’s rail, and salt marsh harvest mouse. And hydrologists learned that natural tidal flows provide resilience against flooding. As sea level rise increases breaching of the man-made barriers, researchers are working with the local community, exploring ways to help the shoreline adapt.

  • 2.4 miles out and back
  • Mostly flat
  • Easy

Rush Creek Preserve

Great blue heron

Year-round, look here for herons and egrets near the water, chickadees and woodpeckers in the trees, and raptors in the sky. Many more shorebirds migrate in during fall. Enter the gate off Binford Road on to wide, easy sloping Pinheiro Fire Road, with Rush Creek Marsh Wildlife Area on your left. The road curves right, around Cemetery Marsh. Turn left to continue on Rush Creek Fire Road. At the junction, turn left again, and loop back using the North Levee Trail and back the way you came on Pinheiro. If North Levee is closed due to tidal flooding, just head back out the way you came.

  • 4 miles
  • Mostly flat
  • Easy to moderate