What’s Best: A deep creek with spawning salmon and steelhead; or trails to Marin’s biggest lake, fringed by thick evergreen forests and steep ridges.
Parking: From Hwy. 101, take Sir Francis Drake Blvd. about 8 ml. west of Fairfax, to east boundary of Taylor State Park at Shafer Bridge; two gated roads on left. Note: During winter and early spring, the right side gate is open to a parking area; at other times roadside parking is available about .25 ml. beyond the bridge. Agency: Marin Municipal Water District
KENT LAKE MAP SAN FRANCISCO Photo Gallery
Shafter Road-Peters Dam loop (2.5 ml.); Peters Dam Road to IKE’ Continen tal Cove (5.75 ml.)
Built in 1953, Kent Lake is named to honor conservationist and Congressman William Kent, who donated Muir Woods for a park in 1905. The reservoir, which is more than double the capacity of the four others in the Mount Tam watershed, is wishbone-shaped. One arm collects the waters of Big Carson Creek, coming down from the San Geronimo Ridge, and the other, the waters of Lagunitas Creek, coming down from Tamalpais and Alpine Lake.
For the Shafter Road-Peters Dam loop, head up the road on the right as you face upstream. Veer left on the unpaved path that follows the creek through maples and fir. After less than .5-mile, turn right at a switchback that takes you back up to Shafter Road but before you do, you may want to continue on the creek trail, which peters out at pools below Peters Spillway. Back on Shafter Road, you pass the right-junction to Bolinas Ridge and continue up, passing a tempting left option that dead-ends at a log landing. You top out about 100 feet above the lake. Go left, down to water level, and then left again on Peters Dam Road, which follows the other side of Lagunitas Creek back to the trailhead. More Stuff: For Bolinas Ridge, keep right on Shafter Road and take a signed right turn you’ll see the spillway but not the lake. The inviting road, cushioned by orange redwood and fir needles, leads up for 1.5-miles and more than 1,000-feet. You reach the Bolinas Ridge Trail about 5 miles south of TH82.
For the Peters Dam Road hike, start up the paved road going upstream to the left. You follow the creek for a short distance and then veer away on a rising grade that makes a couple sweeps before reaching the top of the dam. Continue to your left, passing view spurs and piles of big logs that are routinely fished out of the lake. You’ll go up several hundred feet, with views through trees of the lake down to your right. Almost a mile from the dam you top out at a junction. To Continental Cove, go straight, losing all the elevation through fir and mixed woodland forest passing a left-bearing option after .25-mile and coming to road’s end at the cove, about .5-mile from the junction. The cove is on the Kent Lake branch that is fed by the Big Carson Creek.
Walk: Leo T. Cronin Fish Viewing Area
Usually from November through February, the Shafter Road gate is open at Drake Boulevard, creating a zone the Leo T. Cronin Fish Viewing Area to observe the silver salmon and steelhead that spawn in Papermill Creek. Although fishing is no longer permitted in the lower portion of the creek, in 1959 the largest silver salmon ever caught in California 22 pounds came from these waters. The salmon spawn is usually over in early January; look for brick-red males and bronze females. The pink-stripped spawning steelhead usually appear later in February and early March. The creek is also habitat for the threatened coho salmon. Near Papermill Dam in the state park, the west coast’s first spawning fish ladder was constructed in 1881.
Bike: For a ride out of steep-ridged Kent Lake that requires strong thighs and a steady will, try a Bolinas Ridge loop, covering some 10 miles. Ford the creek across Drake Boulevard, and get on the Cross Marin Trail; or you can ride down the Drake for 1.25 miles and pick up the trail at Irving Picnic Area. Continue on the Cross Marin Trail to about 2 miles beyond the campground and make a left on the Jewell Trail. You climb a few hundred feet over a mile to the Bolinas Ridge Trail. Turn left on the ridge trail, and pump the rising roller coaster for almost 4 miles, gaining 600 feet and coming to Shafter Road. Hang a left and hang on down Shafter, rolling a steep 2 miles past Kent Lake to trailhead parking.