What’s Best: Barnabe is one of Marin’s notable peaks. This high ridge is a slice of Taylor family history and a place to visually connect the forested watershed of Mount Tam with the grassy ridges of the northern rancheros.
BARNABE PEAK MAP SAN FRANCISCO Photo Gallery
Parking: From Hwy. 101, take Sir Francis Drake Blvd. west, through Fairfax. Park at Madrone Group Area, on right, less than .5 ml. west of the main entrance to Samuel P. Taylor Park. Agency: Samuel P. Taylor State Park
Barnabe Peak, a sentinel of north Marin at 1,466-feet, has been a fire lookout station since 1940. You can see the top from the ranger office at the main park entrance. Barnabe was a white mule, a good animal by all reports, who came across the country with Captain John C. Fremont and Kit Carson during the Expedition of the Western Territories in the early 1840s. His last days were as a beloved pet for Sam and Sarah Taylor’s boys, who named the peak for him since it was his favorite place to roam.
For both hikes, follow the road up through the oak groves to the trailhead, which is at the back left of the parking lot above the picnic area. Start up the gravel fire road, and veer left after the first little climb. You can look up the draw northward and see Barnabe, with mixed forests in the creases of its knuckled, grassy top. The road to the right at this first junction goes to Irving Picnic Area, TH86. You’ll contour left, and come to a trail junction, some .75-miles from the trailhead. To Taylor’s Grave Site, a modest memorial to the honest, enterprising pioneer, go left at this junction. Then bear left as another trail goes right, on the way to Devils Gulch. Taylor died of a heart attack in 1885; the family businesses, run by wife Sarah and their seven sons, went into default in the depression of 1893, and the lands were foreclosed. New landowners refused Sarah’s wish to be buried with her husband. She died in Oakland several years later.
For Barnabe Peak, go right at the junction, beginning a 900-foot climb over the next 1.5 miles. Bring water and a good hat on sunny days, as open spaces are the rule on this south-facing trail. You walk above the tree line, contouring above mixed forests that spread up the Barnabe Creek drainage and other ravines. The ridge top has views of almost everywhere private property to the north blocks access to one small area.
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