What’s Best: Marin’s new preserve is the crown jewel of the north hills, linking Big Rock Ridge with the slopes of Loma Alta (and on to San Francisco).

Parking: From Hwy. 101 take Smith Ranch Rd.-Lucas Valley Rd. exit north of Terra Linda. Go west on Lucas Valley Rd. about 6 ml, to where the road has climbed out of the valley. Park at gate near the big rock. Agency: Marin County Open Space District


Hike: North to Big Rock Ridge (6.25 ml.); south to Loma Alta (5.25 ml.)

With trails north and south from this central trailhead, the Big Rock-Lucas Vaooey Open Space Preserve trailhead provides the crucial link in Marin’s Bay Area Ridge Trail. Marin County Supervisors, MCOSD planners and landowner George Lucas, Marin’s famous filmmaker, have put their heads together toward making this hiker’s dream a reality. The Star Wars maker built theLucasfilm-Skywalker Ranch facility near the Big Rock trailhead. Lucas’ surname is coincidental to that of the valley, which refers to John Lucas, who ranched 7,600 hundred acres here in the mid-1800s.

The northern trail, from Lucas Valley Road to Big Rock Ridge, switchbacks and weaves upward about 1,200 feet to connect with Big Rock Ridge. The ridge, on which is Marin’s second-highest point at 1,895 feet, rises above the wetlands east of Marinwood and runs northeasterly for nearly 10 miles, before dying into the dairyland valleys that send their waters to the southern end of Tomales Bay. From the trail’s highpoints, you’ll see Redwood Canyon opening toward the Pacific.

A southern trail connects with Loma Alta on a straighter course that ascends 900 feet on the Loma Alta Fire Road-BART. From Loma Alta, public lands those of open space, Mount Tam watershed, state parks, and national recreation area are contiguous to the Golden Gate. Note: Sections of this route are an easement through private property: be sure to stay on the trail.

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