What’s Best: A short walk or peak trek through a park that reveals layers of Marin’s history from Sir Francis Drake to the Summer of Love.
Parking: Go north of Novato on Hwy. 101, passing Olompali State Historic Park, and turn around after 2.25 ml. at San Antonio Rd. Return southbound to park. Notes: Park is accessible only to southbound traffic. Parking fee required. Open (probably) on weekends, 10 to 5. Agency: Olompali State Historic Park
Hike: Olompali loop (3.25 ml.); Mt. Burdell (9.25 ml.)
For both hikes, walk up through the Burdell complex and continue past the dairy toward the Miwok Village. Go left at the village and bear right on a trail that leads up one of Mt. Burdell’s shoulders. You gain about 250 feet over a short distance to a trail junction. For the Olompali loop, go straight on the Miwok Trail that will take you across the stream ravine and down switchbacks over a 2-mile route to the parking area.
To reach the summit, turn right at the junction on the Mt. Burdell Trail. In widely looping switchbacks, the trail covers 3.5-miles to Burdell Ridge Road. The peak is to the right when you reach the ridge. You’ll be able to see from the San Francisco Bay to the beginnings of the remote California coast to the north. Notes: Rock walls you may see on Olompali’s trails were built in the 1870s by Chinese workers; the walls mark ranchero boundaries. (You can reach both the loop trail and Burdell trail from the upper end of the parking area.)
0LOMPALI MAP SAN FRANCISCO Photo Gallery
Walk: Olompali State Historic Park
Olompali thought to mean “southern people” tells the history of Marin, from antiquity to the present. For centuries the grounds were a trading village a transition border between the Coast Miwok of Marin and other Miwok people. Olompali’s last leader, Camilo Ynitia, was the only Miwok to receive a Mexican land grant, in 1843 from General Mariano Vallejo. Unlike most people of Miwok descent, who perished under the Mexicans and later the Americans, Ynitia adapted. He was able to trade wheat with the Russian colonials on the coast and livestock with the Mexicans in Sonoma. Ynitia sold his properties to big landowner and politico James Black, whose son-in-law was Galen Burdell a dentist who prospered in post-Gold Rush California. The Burdell family kept the extensive property until the 1940s, prospering in ranching, quarries, and land development.
The University of San Francisco became the new owners of Olompali, hoping to establish a Jesuit retreat, but those plans fell through and the buildings fell into disrepair. In the 1960s, the Grateful Dead moved in as renters, and fellow rock legends like Janis Joplin and the Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick jammed here. When the Dead moved out, the grounds became a hippie commune known as “The Chosen Family,” with numbers swelling to 100 on special occasions. Alas, the amplified music proved too much for the old electrical wiring, and one of the Burdell buildings was partially destroyed by fire. But the fire turned out to be a blessing, as it revealed the adobe walls of Camilo Ynitia’s dwelling, which had been framed over, and prompted efforts to turn the grounds into a 700-acre state park, which took place in 1977. The final impetus for the creation of the park came in 1974: Archeologists found an Elizabethan silver sixpence dated 1567 thought to have been left by Sir Francis Drake during his soiree in West Marin in 1579.
To stroll the historic ruins and recreated Coast Miwok village of Olompali State Historic Park, head across the bridge from the parking area. On the lower grounds are the Burdell Mansion, which envelopes the adobe ruins, the ranch house and barns, and remains of Mary Augustina Black-Burdell’s extensive Victorian garden. Near the original barn is Kitchen Rock, where Coast Miwok would gather around, generation after generation, to grind acorns. The recreated Coast Miwok village, an interpretive site begun in 1994, is a short walk up the road from the Burdell estate.
In almost all cases dogs must be on leash. You must also clean up after your pet. Public policy may change, so observe all signs when hiking.