I had recently hiked the Bay Area Ridge Trail segments to the northwest and southeast of this one. I was happy to return to hike this segment from the Samuel P. Taylor State Park entrance nearly to Green Hill on San Geronimo Ridge Road in the Gary Giacomini Open Space Preserve. Within the previous week there had been an early-season rain storm, and much of the hike passed through shaded woods that were still moist and fragrant following the rain. Even the portion of the trail on San Geronimo Ridge was mostly wooded, so the views of neighboring ridges were primarily between the trees rather than wide-open views.
From the Samuel P. Taylor State Park entrance on Sir Francis Drake Blvd, access to the Bay Area Ridge Trail is just across Lagunitas Creek, where I noticed a pretty reflection in the water.
The trail route initially follows the Cross Marin Trail to the east and south. Although the trail runs parallel to the road, on light traffic days this proximity is hardly noticeable. I saw a couple of banana slugs on the trail and this seemed appropriate, perhaps because I usually see them right after winter rains.
I passed several locations where low bridges are being constructed (or improved) to allow Cross Marin Trail users to cross seasonal streams that flow down the steep hillside.
About 2 miles from the trailhead the trail leaves Samuel P. Taylor State Park. Shortly after the park boundary is the Marie Dhority Bridge, which crosses the creek at an area known as the Inkwells. The Inkwells can look very dark, particularly in the Fall in certain lighting conditions. This is how it looked in the early afternoon.
After crossing the bridge you cross Sir Francis Drake Blvd and continue along the left side of the creek. Less than a quarter mile later a trail goes left and uphill, currently signed with just a discreet round marker with an arrow to indicate the Ridge Trail route. This is San Geronimo Ridge Rd, which climbs steadily uphill along the southern boundary of the Gary Giacomini Open Space Preserve.
A little over 1 mile up San Geronimo Ridge Rd there is a crossroads-type intersection where you go left to stay on the Ridge Trail. As the trail gained elevation it became drier. In an area of dappled sunlight, suddenly a butterfly landed and posed in the sun for a couple of minutes. After I took several pictures I decided to move carefully forward, and as I expected the butterfly flew away.
The trail climbs gradually to over 1000 feet elevation. As the trail got to the ridge top, I noted that this was a somewhat unusual ridge top because it continued to pass through forested areas. Sometimes I think all ridge tops should have expansive views – this one is different.
There are a few places along the ridge with views to the south across the steep canyon containing Kent Lake. Here is a great view of Pine Mountain Ridge, which actually bisects two arms of Kent Lake.
Close by, the northwestern portion of Bolinas Ridge is visible through a gap in the trees. Note that on the outbound hike you have to look behind your path.
I had no trouble finding the side trail at Hudt Camp Road where I had turned around on my earlier hike, and again turned around there to return to the trail head.
On the outbound portion of the hike I had noticed a couple of informal trails that looked like they might afford a view of Kent Lake, so I decided to explore them on the return portion of the hike. Neither of the trails actually led to the views I was looking for, but one of them shortly passed through an interesting cluster of manzanitas.
The rest of my return trip was a pleasant, though uneventful, retracing of my outbound hike. This area of Marin County contains a long contiguous stretch of Ridge Trail, and I look forward to hiking the other sections.