What’s Best: Since 1875, nature lovers have enjoyed these redwood-and-fern streamside trails, which impart a sense of history along with serene beauty.

Parking: From Hwy. 101, take Sir Francis Drake Blvd. to park headquarters, about 10 ml. west of Fairfax. Notes: Parking fee required inside the park; some on-street parking available. Budget cutbacks have limited hours for the restrooms, parking lots, and campground; trails remain open. Agency: Samuel P. Taylor State Park, National Park Service

Papermill Creek to Old Mill Site loop (2.5 ml.); Ox Trail-Papermill IKE’ Creek loop (2 ml.); Pioneer Tree Trail loop (2.75 ml.)

After several years of effort by the Marin Conservation League, Samuel P. Taylor State Park was established in 1945. The park now covers 2,613 acres of redwoods and woodlands on either side of Lagunitas or Papermill Creek, stretching 4 miles along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard.


The park honors Samuel Penfield Taylor who, at age 21, came around the Horn to San Francisco and opened a snack stand on the Barbary Coast. He parlayed his meager earnings into a grubstake that, in turn, netted him a small sack of gold from the Mother Lode. He used that money to buy 100 acres along the creek in 1852, then roadless. Rather than cut down virgin timber for lumber-starved San Francisco, he along with wife Sarah and a growing family constructed Pioneer Paper Mill, powered by the creek flow and using imported rags and jute to make pulp. In operation for 40 years, the mill was the first on the Pacific Coast. In this smart-phone era a little over 100 years later, it’s hard to believe that, in the late 1800s, if Taylor’s paper rolls weren’t hauled by oxen and then shipped to daily papers in San Francisco, that city of 300,000 was without news. In 1875, when a railway was constructed down the east shore of Tomales Bay, Taylor opened a resort hotel and campground Camp Taylor or Taylorville. It was one of the first parks in America to offer camping as a recreational pursuit.

For the Papermill Creek to Old Mill Site loop, head through the campground on the paved road, keeping right on the road. The Cross Marin Trail continues alongside the creek bank, while a rustic trail runs closer to the water. Within a mile you’ll come to the remains of the paper mill, and then a plaque marking the mill site itself. Downstream from this bridge is the park’s swimming hole, a must on hot days. Cross the wide bridge beyond the historic sites, go right along Drake Boulevard, and drop down toward the creek to pick up the North Creek Trail.

The Ox Trail-Papermill Creek loop takes in a portion of the first road that was used to cart paper to San Francisco and bring pulping rags back to the mill. Veer left from the park road, up toward Upper Campground. The Ox Trail follows a rough contour about 200 feet above the creek and then drops down to creek level near the swimming hole and the gate for the Cross Marin Trail. Turn right on the road, passing the Old Mill Site and dam remains. Walk the trail along the creek or stay on the broad path.

To take the Pioneer Tree Trail loop, walk through the main picnic area at the rangers station and go left toward the Redwood Grove Picnic Area. This trail does a squiggly contour, climbing about 200 feet, crossing Wildcat Canyon Creek, and coming down the drainage of Irving Creek. About halfway you pass the Pioneer Tree, an old-growth redwood, hollowed by a lightening fire, but still standing a metaphor for Taylor, his family, and their workers, who worked hard in these forests but left them unharmed.

Bike: The Cross Marin Trail runs for more than 5 miles. It begins across the creek at the road to Kent Lake. Ford the stream there and continue through the state park campground to Platform Bridge. This is a car-free and highly scenic way to get through the creek canyon. To avoid parking issues, drive to Platform Bridge Road and pick up the path heading upstream toward the park a wonderful family ride. Big-time pedal pushers can also use the Cross Marin Trail as part of a loop ride that involves climbing to Bolinas Ridge Trail; see the Samuel P Taylor loop, in TH82. Antother option is to roll back down to the park from Bolinas Ridge via Shafer Road to Kent Lake.

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