There is a long stretch of the Bay Area Ridge Trail in Marin County – nearly 55 miles – that is already contiguous. I have only hiked a few segments and always look forward to an opportunity to hike more. On this occasion I had a commitment in the area in the mid-afternoon, so it was a perfect opportunity to explore a new-for-me hiking trail. I chose a segment starting in Samuel P. Taylor State Park and continuing into the Golden Gate National Recreation Area along Bolinas Ridge. I had not previously hiked in the State Park although, like many others, I had driven past the entrance station many times on my way to Point Reyes. It turned out to be a great day for this hike.
My out-and-back hike started near the picnic area immediately adjacent to the entrance station. The Bay Area Ridge Trail route starts out along the Cross Marin Trail, which is actually a paved road allowing auto traffic for a short distance past the campsite and group picnic areas near the park entrance. To get to the Cross Marin Trail from the parking area you go across a bridge which crosses the Lagunitas (Papermill) Creek. Samuel P. Taylor’s paper mill once produced newsprint and paper bags for San Francisco. According to the park web site (see link above), silver salmon and steelhead trout migrate up the creek to spawn.
The Cross Marin Trail follows a right-of-way previously used by the Northern Pacific Coast Railroad and passes through a lovely shaded forest area.
There are several types of trees in this part of the park, most notably including coastal redwoods.
While walking along the trail I was delighted to hear thrushes singing their beautiful haunting song. Later I confirmed with a park ranger that they were Swainson’s thrushes, which are common in the park.
While still on the Cross Marin Trail you depart Samuel P. Taylor State Park and enter the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. About 0.2 mile later, 2 miles from the parking area, the Jewell Trail takes off to the left and climbs about 350 feet in 0.9 mile up to the Bolinas Ridge.
The trail continues along the Bolinas Ridge Fire Road for several miles, farther than I hiked this time. The terrain is mostly open grassland with views of hills, now (July) in their golden summer hue.
Occasionally the trail goes near or through small groves of trees, and here and there are wildflowers.
This is a view of the trail looking roughly northwest along the ridge.
The trail apparently passes through some active cattle grazing land – I didn’t actually see cattle, but there were a couple of gates. At the first one there is a picnic table, a good place to stop for a break. This gate is a particularly interesting design, which makes it easy for (slim) hikers to pass through without fussing with a latch.
A highlight of the hike along Bolinas Ridge is that there are several spots with wonderful views of Tomales Bay, with Point Reyes National Seashore to the west.
I selected a turnaround point about 2.8 miles southeast of the junction with the Jewell Trail, at a slight rise just under 1100 feet elevation. I believe this is about 1.2 miles northwest of a junction with the Shafter Trail. When I return to hike the next portion I’ll confirm this location.