When I planned this hike up and over Loma Alta in Marin County, I did not fully realize the potential for fabulous views, so I was delightfully surprised. This segment of the Bay Area Ridge Trail passes between trailheads at Big Rock, on Lucas Valley Road, and Brown Bridge, on Sir Francis Drake Blvd. The southern portion of the trail passes through Loma Alta Open Space Preserve.
With nearly the same elevation gain and loss in either direction, I think I flipped a coin to decide which direction to hike first for my out-and-back hike. In any case, I started at Big Rock, near Lucas Valley Open Space Preserve and turned around at Brown Bridge, near White Hill Open Space Preserve. The slope is a bit steeper to/from Brown Bridge. The average grade for the entire hike is about 10%.
Almost immediately, within 0.25 mile of the Big Rock trailhead, I had a great view across Lucas Valley to Big Rock Ridge. I took particular note of this, since I had previously hiked the adjoining Ridge Trail segment up to this ridge.
Though it was off-season for most wildflowers, I found a few examples of this pretty flowering bush.
During the climb up to Loma Alta, I quickly realized that there would be nearly continuous opportunities to view Mt Diablo, nearly 40 miles away due East across San Pablo Bay.
From the top of Loma Alta there were panoramic views, including this one that includes the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, the East Bay hills, Tiburon, the Bay Bridge, and downtown San Francisco.
Zooming in on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, the Berkeley and Oakland skylines are visible.
After passing over the top of Loma Alta, the hills of Loma Alta Open Space Preserve and other Marin County open spaces could be seen.
And now Mt Tamalpais was also in clear view, just 6 miles away. It seemed to be keeping an eye on downtown San Francisco.
Mt Tamalpais is visible for much of the hike down to Brown Bridge, just as Mt Diablo is visible for much of the hike from Big Rock. In this view, about 0.5 mile from the top of Loma Alta, Sir Francis Drake Blvd crossing Brown Bridge is the light-colored squiggle to the lower right.
The Brown Bridge trailhead is on the other side of Sir Francis Drake Blvd, and the trail passes underneath the bridge. This trailhead services a Ridge Trail segment through the White Hill Open Space Preserve, which I have also hiked. After reaching the trailhead I turned around to hike back up and over Loma Alta and enjoy the wonderful views a second time. This can be one of the delights of an out-and-back hike!
As I approached the Big Rock trailhead, it was interesting to look nearly straight down into Lucas Valley to the beginning of the next Ridge Trail segment, with a distinctive fence running parallel for a short distance.
A bit closer to the trailhead there was a great view of Big Rock from the hillside above.
Although this hike is moderately steep at 10% grade, the wonderful views make the effort very worthwhile.