MARINWOOD MAP SAN FRANCISCO

What’s Best: A rugged route through thick forest to Big Rock Ridge; or a quiet creek-side stroll of a large neighborhood park. Not many people know about this woodland beauty.

Parking: From Hwy. 101, take St. Vincents-Marinwood exit and go west on Miller Creek Rd. Pass Las Gallinas Ave. and turn right on Queenstone Dr. Park at end of cul-de-sac. Agency: Marinwood Community Open Space District

The Marinwood Community Open Space is on the east end of Big Rock Ridge, where it borders Lucas Valley Open Space Preserve. Other county preserves are at its northern boundary. Marinwood’s trails, less publicized than those of neighboring parklands, lead steeply up deep oak woodland and are some of the best places to spot critters.

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The hike up rugged Queenstone Fire Road to Big Rock Ridge gains 1,200 feet, taking you atop a 1,444-foot viewing knoll looking to the San Pablo Bay. Although there are plenty of trees, this can be a hot hike, best not pursued on a summer afternoon. Queenstone is sometimes called Big Cat Road, since the remote woodlands it cuts through support a food chain ending at the mountain lions. Watch your dog. About 1.5 miles up, Queenstone ends, where Chicken Shack Fire Road comes in from the right and Big Rock Ridge Fire Road begins its tortuous journey to the west. Go left on Big Rock Ridge Road, to the vista point. Continuing west on Big Rock takes you immediately down a saddle; see Lucas Valley, TH95, for other access to the ridge.

More Stuff: The Ridge Ravine Trail goes up a rich woodland ravine along an ephemeral stream. Parking: Drive Miller Creek Road from the freeway and turn right on Las Galinas Avenue, before you get to Queenstone. Then go left on Blackstone Drive and veer left on short Valleystone Drive. Park at entrance gate.

Quietwood Park is perfect for a family picnic. Parking: Take Miller Creek Road and park on your left near the community center, just before you reach Lucas Valley Road. The park features rolling lawns shaded by large oaks and laurels, curving around a nearly .5-mile stretch of Miller Creek. The creek, with water flowing over bedrock pools, is one of the larger in Marin, taking the runoff from Lucas Valley.

Bike: Queenstone Fire Road is a masochist’s dream, steep and rugged, going straight up to Big Rock Ridge. You can then ride west along the ridge and come down Luiz Fire Road, making a loop ride by coming back on Lucas Valley Road 7.5 tough miles in all. To ride to San Rafael, TH31, from Marinwood, take Las Galinas Avenue, which turns into Los Ranchitos Road. You pump over Puerto Suello Hill and drop down to Lincoln Avenue. To ride north from Marinwood toward Indian Valley, TH98, or Novato, take the bike path that begins at the on-ramp at Clay Court, which takes you to Alameda del Prado, and on to Ignacio Boulevard.

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