What’s Best: The wooly hinterlands of Marin, a long and high ridge that separates the Tamalpais watershed from the grassland hills of north Marin.
The north slopes of the 1,400-foot high San Geronimo Ridge, which is about 6.5 miles long, are part of the Gary Giacomini Open Space Preserve. The 1,476 acres are named in honor of the Marin County Supervisor who worked to make these lands public. The north slopes of the ridge are MMWD lands accessible via Alpine Lake, TH42, and Cascade Canyon, TH44.
SAN GERONIMO RIDGE MAP SAN FRANCISCO Photo Gallery
For both Buckeye hikes, head up the easement road, Summit Fire Road, through oaks, Douglas fir, coming to the MCOSD border. The road gets steep, breaks into the open, and reaches the White Hill Fire Road, less than .5-mile from the trailhead. For White Hill, a 1,430-foot virgin ridge top, pale with blonde grass most of the year, go left on the fire road. You drop into a saddle and over a false summit avoid a left-bearing road, which is actually White Hill road and continue right on Blue Ridge Road to the top of cashewshaped White Hill. You’ll have a view of the San Francisco skyline and the bay. Blue Ridge Road continues down to Cascade Canyon.
To see the Sargent cypress grove, go right on White Hill Fire Road when you reach the top of Summit Fire Road. These dwarf trees, unique to California, grow in the stingy serpentine soils of the ridge. You’ll enter a forest of Douglas fir and the rare Marin Manzanita, and then drop through a rocky ravine. A steep but short climb leads to San Geronimo Ridge Fire Road. Go left, or south, on this popular biking road, climbing another 150 feet before coming to the small but century-old conifers that manage to thrive here. The grove extends for nearly .5-mile.
More Stuff: The Conifer Fire Road hikes are on a less-traveled trail because of difficult access roads. Parking: Using the above directions, continue straight on Carson Road (don’t go left on Redwood). Wind upward, keep left, and then go left on Conifer Way. Continue .25.-mi to the end and park under oaks at an MCOSD gate. Conifer Fire Road climbs steeply, through Douglas fir and mixed woodland forest, gaining 600 feet over a .75-mile route to meet San Geronimo Ridge Fire Road (take a right fork at Carson Meadows, as the
Conifer Road splits near its terminus). To reach Green Hill, go right on the ridge road from Carson Meadows. After 1.5 miles, you’ll top the hill and get a big view down to a long arm of Kent Lake. Easier Stuff: The mile-long Willis Evans Trail ascends some 400 feet through lush Bates Canyon to reach Conifer Road, about .25-mile from the open space gate. Parking: Stay on San Geronimo Valley Road. About .75-mile past Railroad, look on the left for the trailhead at Redwood Canyon Dr. The trail honors environmentalist Willis Evans, who led efforts to preserve stream habitats.
Bike: The Summit Fire Road, which connects with White Hill Fire Road from Buckeye Circle, is a good access option. After making the short, steep climb of White Hill, described in the hiking section, you can take Blue Ridge Road into Cascade Canyon and hump back up Repack Road.
You can also go right on White Hill Fire Road and connect with San Geronimo Ridge Road. Then go south, or left, to Pine Mountain Road where you turn right to make an ambitious loop toward Kent Lake. This tough route through Marin’s wildest country takes you over the top of Pine Mountain and through the Big Carson Creek Canyon. You then come to San Geronimo Ridge Road. Turn right and head east along the roller coaster ridgeuntil you return to White Hill Road. This loop is about 13 hard miles.