What’s Best: An old stagecoach route offers superlative outings for hikers, runners and bikers extending 12 miles, from the grazing highlands above Tomales Bay to the forested ridges of Mount Tam. This is big country.
Parking: From Hwy. 101: Take Sir Francis Drake Blvd. past Samuel P. Taylor Park’s western boundary. Park on left at top of hill, up from Platform Bridge Rd. From Olema on Hwy. 1: Drive about 1.5 ml. east on Drake Blvd. Note: Limited roadside parking on weekends; watch for high-speed traffic. Agency: GGNRA-administered by Point Reyes National Seashore
Beginning amid a dairy cow hangout at 400 feet, the Bolinas Ridge Trail undulates over hillock and saddle, but maintains a steady ascent for 11.5 miles, reaching an elevation of 1,500 feet. It ends at the saddle of Fairfax-Bolinas Road, coming up from Alpine Lake, TH42. The trail’s end is also where
Ridgecrest Boulevard, TH61, curves down from Mount Tam. The long road is a garden of West Marin trees starting out in grasslands with pockets of oak and laurels, entering forests of fir and madrone, and winding up in redwoods. It’s also a history tour, since the tourist stages from the Tam railroad junctions came along here en route to Olema and Taylorville.
BOLINAS RIDGE MAP SAN FRANCISCO Photo Gallery
The road offers no convenient loops, but good car-shuttles are possible. For a Samuel P. Taylor car-shuttle, go almost 1.5 miles, gaining around 200 feet, on the ridge trail. Then take a left down the Jewell Trail. The Jewell Trail drops 400 feet, coming to the paved Cross Marin Trail which runs along Papermill Creek. From there you go right, leaving oak woodlands and entering the big redwoods and other conifers, over another 2 miles to park headquarters where you had the foresight to leave a second car on the way to trailhead parking.
For the Randall Trail car-shuttle, which takes you west into the Olema Valley, continue another mile beyond the Shafter Road junction. The Randall Trail, a graded road, drops steeply down a spur ridge and reaches Highway 1, about 2 miles south of Five Brooks, TH66. Large Douglas fir are in abundance, although this side of the ridge is more open than the Taylor Park side or the ridge of the Point Reyes Peninsula, that looms to the west above Olema Valley. More Stuff: Another car-shuttle into the Olema Valley is available: The McCurdy Trail, beginning about 1.5 miles south of the Randall, drops 1,200 feet. This hike is almost 10 miles, reaching Highway 1 about .5-mile north of the turnoff to Bolinas.
Bike: All the car-shuttle hikes are accessible to cyclists with a home leg on Highway 1 or a short stretch of Drake Boulevard making Bolinas Ridge Trail a first-class mountain bike area. Or forget about a loop and do the out-and-back to Fairfax-Bolinas Road, a round-trip ride of 23 miles with some 1,200 feet of overall elevation gain.
The Samuel P. Taylor loop, via the Jewell Trail, is about 4.5 miles. At the bottom of the Jewell Trail, go left on the Cross Marin Trail for 1.5 miles to the Platform Bridge on Drake Boulevard. From there it’s .75-mile up a fairly steep grade back to trailhead parking. For the Kent Lake loop a great ride of 13.5 miles you need to turn left on Drake Boulevard after dropping down from
Shafter Road. After 1.25 miles, turn right into Irving Picnic Area, where you go left, crossing over Drake Boulevard on a footbridge, now on the Cross Marin Trail. The trail continues through the state park to the Platform Bridge.