What’s Best: Three open space preserves and a lakeside county park create a diverse system of trails, ranging from a nature stroll to 1,400-foot ridge-top trek to a mystical grove of virgin coast redwoods.
INDIAN TREE HILLS MAP SAN FRANCISCO Photo Gallery
Parking: From Hwy. 101, take the DeLong Ave. exit, continue through traffic signal on Diablo Ave, and turn right on Novato Blvd. Pass Miwok Park on the west end of Novato. For Indian Tree hikes: Go left on Sutro Ave. and then right on Vineyard Rd. For Verissimo Hills hike: Go left on Sutro Ave. and right on Center Rd. For Stafford Lake Park: Continue on Novato Blvd another 2 ml. and turn left into park; day use fee required. Agency: Marin County Open Space District; Marin County Parks
The Rebelo to Indian Trees walk is the pick for this trailhead. Parking: turn left on Rebelo Lane off Vineyard, past Verissimo Drive. Take Rebelo up past new homes and continue on a paved lane that looks like a driveway in a cul-de-sac. Park at an MCOSD gate. Hike up Indian Tree Fire Road to a second gate after the road dips. After about .75-mile, keep left on a side-hill trail that follows a fence line to avoid a major dip in the road’s course. You rejoin the road about 600 feet above the trailhead. A few redwoods here preview those that await.
Ramping up another 75-mile, to the road’s highpoint, you then come to the redwood grove that can be seen from far below. The biggest diameter tree is almost hidden in the grove to your left as you go up the knoll. Big Trees Trail joins the road in the glade below the redwood knoll. West of Big Trees, the road reaches the preserve boundary in less than .25-mile. The Indian Tree, in the middle of the knoll at the top, is partially hollowed by a lightning fire long ago. According to local lore, this tree was once the home of a Coast Miwok, and now touching its bark is said to bring good fortune to all who have made the pilgrimage. Might as well give it a try.
More Stuff: The Big Trees Trail is a longer route than the fire road, and requires 300 feet more climbing. Parking: Look on left after the pavement ends on Vineyard. Begin on the Upper Meadow Trail as it veers off to the right, and then take the Big Trees Trail as it departs to the left.
The rolling Verissimo Hills provide a good view of Stafford lake, as well as habitat for a number of woodland critters. Go left across the gully from the
Center Road parking. You cross a short section of North Marin Water District lands, and then begin a gentle switchback up the Stafford Lake Trail through nicely spaced oaks. After about .75-mile, you’ll be able to see over to Indian Tree Open Space to where the trail continues. But you go left at a junction with the Sanchez Fire Road, which leads to the Verissimo Hills Trail Continue up to the first, and highest of the ridge’s four grassy mounds.
The easy-walking Terwilliger Nature Trail named after Marin’s grandame of conservation, Elizabeth begins along the lakeshore to the right of the parking area inside Stafford Lake Park. Interpretive signs explain marshland ecology. You’ll find room to roam on the lawns of this 139-acre park that is the setting for family picnics and group outings featuring playgrounds, athletic fields, and barbecues.
Bike: The 4-mile round-trip ride from Rebelo up Indian Tree Fire Road gaining 1,200 feet, but not insanely steep is one of the better view rides in north Marin. The Stafford Lake bike path is a pleasant 3.25 stretch for cyclists taking the ride from Novato toward the coast.
What’s Best: All the ingredients for a family outing: Marin Museum of the American Indian, nature walks, rustic picnic area and an easy bike path.
Parking: From Hwy. 101 in Novato, take either the Rowland Ave. or DeLong Ave. exit and go west to Novato Blvd. Continue on Novato Blvd, past Wilson Ave, to signs on right for Miwok Park. Agency: City of Novato
For the Rueger Nature Trail, an oak island in the backyard of Miwok Park, head up the path through the park away from the museum. You’ll come to San Miguel Way, where the path curves right and you’ll see a footbridge leading across Novato Creek. Jays and squirrels may join you on a circular path of the rocky woodland knoll. Spur routes lead out to different streets. You’ll want to
Walk: Miwok Park-Marin Museum of the American Indian
Miwok Park’s spacious grounds lawns and natural areas under spreading oak trees, along the banks of Novato Creek feature picnic and barbecue areas for families big and small, as well as horseshoe pits, play sets, and places to get away and just sit quietly. Central in the park is the Marin Museum of the American Indian, a modest, woodframe structure. The museum’s smallish quarters belie a wealth of exhibits, artifacts and artwork inside. When the museum opened its doors 25 years ago, Miwok culture was emphasized, but the years have seen a broadening of scope to include all American Indian cultures, as part of a new movement to retrieve and teach values that were lost.
Bike: The Stafford Lake bike path runs for a little more than 3 miles to the county park at Stafford Lake, along the way passing greenbelts of O’Hair Park and Little Mountain Open Space Preserve. About .5-mile from Miwok Park, at Sutro Avenue, you need to cross to the other side of Novato Boulevard. The path is close to the boulevard at times, while at others it loops inward closer to Novato Creek.