Cool refuge with waterfall and wildlife
HIGHLIGHTS: At 193 acres, the Baltimore Canyon Open Space Preserve is a small but flawless gem. Located at the headwaters of Larkspur Creek, it encompasses a mixed hardwood and second-growth redwood forest that shelters one of the prettiest canyons in the North Bay. Larkspur Creek usually has at least a minimum flow year-round, cooling the canyon even during the hottest summer days. The creek is a critical source of water for the abundant local wildlife, and supports a variety of fish and amphibians, including steelhead trout and California giant salamanders.
ACTIVITIES: The preserve is a starting point for ambitious hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding outings along Mt. Tam, and also offers fine sites for picnicking. The canyon is an excellent venue for wildlife watching, especially its 100 species of birds.
VISITOR CENTER: None.
TRAILS: There are 7 miles of trails, and various loops are possible. One possibility: combine the Dawn Falls Trail, Southern Marin Line and Barbara Springs Trail for a 3-mile loop. (The Barbara Springs Trail is rather steep.) Baltimore Canyon is a good access point for the trails and fire roads along Blithedale Ridge on the north slope of Mt. Tam, but be forewarned: The climb is steep.
MUST-SEE UNIQUE FEATURE OF SEASONAL HIGHLIGHT: Any trip to the preserve demands a visit to Dawn Falls, a beautiful 25-foot cascade on the upper reaches of Larkspur Creek. The falls are a dramatic torrent of whitewater after a storm, and flow throughout the year; a trickle of water runs over the rock face even at the end of a dry summer, providing a deliciously cool refuge for hot and weary hikers.
HIDDEN GEM: In winter near the junction of the Ladybug Trail and the Dawn Falls Trail, a natural phenomenon occurs that gave the Ladybug Trail its name: Thousands of ladybugs converge to hibernate together under rocks and branches. In some places their numbers are so thick that the vegetation seems to shimmer with a glossy orange finish.
FEATURES ACCESSIBLE TO PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: A 3-mile-long fire road accessible from Crown Road has a level surface and gentle grade, and is suitable for wheelchairs.
DOGS: On-leash on single track trails and under voice control on fire roads, as long as the owner possesses a leash.
ENTRANCE FEE: None.
SPECIAL EVENTS: Marin County Parks often hosts or authorizes special events and programs on district properties. Go to the department’s activities calendar for updates and details.
INFORMATION: Call 415-473-6387 or go to Baltimore Canyon’s webpage.
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