What’s Best: The high outpost of north Marin, with a system of panoramic trails.

Parking: From Hwy. 101 in Novato, go north of DeLong Ave. and take the San Marin Dr.-Atherton Ave. exit and go west on San Marin. Turn right on San Andreas Ave. Follow to top to on-street parking at MCOSD gate. Note: Additional parking in hike descriptions. Agency: Marin County Open Space District


Mt. Burdell, 1,558-feet high, is appreciated now as north Marin’s most popular hiking getaway, a preserve of 1,600-plus acres. The mountain is named for Galen Burdell, a Gold-Rush era dentist who married Mary Augustina Black, the daughter of Judge James Black who had purchased large parcels of former Mexican land grants. In the mid-1800s, Black owned more Marin land than anyone except for the Shafers in West Marin. Mary Augustina inherited her father’s properties, but only after a series of lawsuits; Judge Black tried to disown Mary after Galen, during routine dental care, overdosed his mother-in-law.

For all San Andreas trailhead hikes, start up the appealing trail, the San Andreas Fire Road, to your left. Ascending gradually, you’ll pass the Dwarf Oak Trail on the left. Then bear right at Middle Burdell Fire Road as the San Andreas Road continues left to the preserve boundary. For the Deer Camp loop, through a classic oak forest, go left at the junction with the Deer Camp Fire Road (also Bay Area Ridge Trail) about .25-mile from the start of Middle Burdell Road. This road takes a 1.5-mile swing out to the preserve’s northwestern boundary passing a serene oak grove named in honor of Pierre Joske, a former MCOSD general manager and climbing gradually about 400 feet. The route doubles back to your right and reaches the Cobblestone Fire Road. Here you go right and drop back down to Middle Burdell Fire Road.

For the Cobblestone route to Mt. Burdell, pass the Deer Camp Road on Middle Burdell Road. Walk another .5-mile to Hidden Lake, where you go left on Cobblestone. Over a mile-long course, Cobblestone takes you up almost 700 feet to the Burdell Ridge Fire Road, passing Deer Camp Road on the left about one-third of the way up. Stones from this route provided the cobbles for many of San Francisco’s early streets. From the top of the trail, the summit of Burdell is to your left. The paved ridge road, adorned with telecommunications installations, is about .5-mile long; to your left it ends in short order and to the right a trail leads down north to Olompali State Park.

The zig-zagging Fieldstone Trail up the east face of Mt. Burdell sees fewer hikers. Parking: Immediately west of the freeway on San Marin Drive, turn right on Redwood Boulevard, and then left on Wood Hollow Drive. Drive to the top, go left on Fieldstone Drive, and look for parking on the right at 473 Fieldstone. The Fieldstone Trail takes you on a 1.25-mile, 400-foot switchbacking ascent to meet Middle Burdell Fire Road. You cross the jumbled remains of an old quarry that helped build San Francisco in the gold-and-silver booms of the late 1870s. Go left on Middle Burdell Road, climbing a dignified 200 feet over .75-mile before reaching the Old Quarry Road, where you climb like a goat up 650 feet over about .75-mile.

Bike: Burdell has two kinds of trails steep and too steep. For a 7.25 mile Burdell Preserve loop, which makes a circle within the mountain’s south-facing folds, head up the San Andreas Road and go left on the Deer Camp Road described in the loop hike above. You ride Deer Camp around and up for 1.5-miles, joining the Cobblestone Road having the option of going up .6-mile to the ridge. Drop down Cobblestone to Middle Burdell Road, go left at the bog of Hidden Lake. In .75-mile you pass San Carlos Road where you could drop down and continue another .5-mile to Salt Lick Road, a sharp right-hand turn. After dropping .5-mile on Salt Lick, hang a left on San Marin Road. San Marin comes down the side of a ravine contoursing along the base of the preserve, connecting back with the San Andreas trailhead after 2 miles.

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