Bolinas Ridge Fire Road

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The forecast for the day of this hike was for clear weather along the coast, so it was an easy decision to drive up to Marin County and hike a section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail.  I decided to hike the southern portion of the Bolinas Ridge Fire Road, having hiked the northern section a few months earlier.  I expected to have nice views of Tomales Bay and Point Reyes and was looking forward to some views of the Pacific Ocean.  However, I was treated to a few spectacular views that I wasn’t expecting, so I was wonderfully surprised and delighted.  Sometimes it’s nice not to know exactly what to expect along the trail!

I started my hike at the trailhead on Bolinas-Fairfax Rd, following a very scenic drive along Panoramic Hwy, Pan Toll Rd, and Ridgecrest Blvd.  There were some pretty spectacular views along the way, which I hope to revisit on future hikes roughly parallel to these roads.  Trail-finding on the Bolinas Ridge Fire Road was very easy: I simply found the sign indicating the Bolinas Ridge Trail and then followed the trail to the location where I’d turned around on my previous hike.

GPS track

GPS track

The first part of the trail passes through a cool, forested area.  A low fence is in place to keep feral pigs out of the nearby Audubon Canyon Ranch Preserve.  I was just as glad I didn’t actually see any pigs, as they have a reputation for being aggressive.

picture of cool forested area near Audubon Canyon Ranch Preserve

Cool forested area near Audubon Canyon Ranch Preserve

After climbing gently for less than 1 mile, the trail emerges from the forest onto the Bolinas Ridge and gradually descends, with some minor ups and downs, as it continues northwest.  After emerging from the forest there is a nice view of the Pacific Ocean across Bolinas Lagoon and the town of Bolinas, at the southern tip of Point Reyes.  The San Andreas Fault runs through Bolinas Lagoon and continues up Tomales Bay to the northwest.

photo of Pacific Ocean across Bolinas Lagoon and the town of Bolinas

Pacific Ocean across Bolinas Lagoon and the town of Bolinas

A bit farther along there was a good place to look back to the east across San Pablo Bay.

image of San Pablo Bay

San Pablo Bay

And a bit to the south, Mount Diablo seemed to be hovering in the background right next to the silhouette of Mount Tamalpais: a wonderful juxtaposition of prominent Bay Area landmarks.

picture of Mount Tamalpais with Mount Diablo in the background

Mount Tamalpais with Mount Diablo in the background

After another short distance the Pacific Ocean was again in view, this time to the south with the San Mateo County coastline visible, and the Golden Gate out of view past the left of the picture.

photo of Peninsula coastline, with the sun reflecting from the Pacific Ocean

Peninsula coastline, with the sun reflecting from the Pacific Ocean

For perspective, I’ll note that this was all within about 1.5 miles of the Bolinas-Fairfax Road trailhead.  The trail continues, alternating between forested and scrub areas, past the McCurdy Trail (at 3.5 mi) and the Randall Trail (at 5.1 mi).  The forested areas were cool and moist, nourishing many ferns.

image of ferns growing in the cool, moist forest areas along the trail

Ferns growing in the cool, moist forest areas along the trail

Not far from the Randall Trail junction I noticed a particularly interesting-shaped tree that reminded me of a candelabra, with many large branches growing from the base of the trunk.

picture of candelabra tree

Candelabra tree

About 1 mile past Randall Trail is the junction with Shafter Trail, which descends to the Lagunitas Creek just north of Kent Lake and connects to the Cross Marin Trail and the lower end of San Geronimo Ridge Road near Sir Francis Drake Blvd.  About 0.4 mile past Shafter Trail a gate marks the boundary of the Marin Municipal Water District Mount Tamalpais Watershed, and the Bolinas Ridge Fire Road is fully within Golden Gate National Recreation Area.  After this the trail descends more rapidly, dropping about 200 feet in a half mile.

Elevation profile

Elevation profile

After the Shafter Trail junction the trail is in open grassland.  Just before the trail descends there are five majestic eucalyptus trees, four in a row very close together and one just across the trail.  A roadhouse was apparently operated here until 1888.  The trees are known as the Five Sisters and can be seen from Tomales Bay.

photo of The Five Sisters

The Five Sisters

At 7.1 miles from the trailhead I reached the turnaround point of my previous hike from the north and once again enjoyed a great view of Tomales Bay.

image of Tomales Bay, with Point Reyes peninsula to the left

Tomales Bay, with Point Reyes peninsula to the left

A nice feature of out-and-back hikes with pretty views is the opportunity to enjoy the views a second time while returning to the trailhead.  In this case, toward the end of my return trip the sun was starting to get lower in the sky and reflected brightly off the ocean.  I finally realized that the specks out in the ocean were neither ships nor illusions, but the Farallon Islands (which I’d never seen before).  Even with the fantastic zoom on my camera, it’s hard to believe that they are about 30 miles away.

picture of Farallon Islands in late afternoon sunlight

Farallon Islands in late afternoon sunlight

I resolved to return to this part of Marin County for future hikes on clear-weather days like this one.

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2 Responses to Bolinas Ridge Fire Road

  1. Pingback: Joseph D Grant County Park | trailhiker

  2. Pingback: Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Samuel P. Taylor State Park | trailhiker

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