Panoramic views, spectacular wildflowers
HIGHLIGHTS: At 639 acres, this is the largest of the linked preserves that protect the north ridge of Mount Tamalpais. The Blithedale Summit preserve encompasses diverse habitats, from thick forest to chaparral. In short order, hikers can pass from beautiful redwood groves with lush understories of huckleberries and sword ferns to mixed hardwoods, dense stands of California lilacs, and meadows replete with wildflowers. Birds are numerous, and confirmed species include crow-sized pileated woodpeckers and imperiled northern spotted owls.
ACTIVITIES: As with all the preserves along the north ridge, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, picnicking and wildlife observation are the primary attractions. The views along the ridge are dramatic, and spring wildflower displays can be spectacular.
VISITOR CENTER: None.
TRAILS: There are more than 9 miles of trails at the preserve, many of them connecting to other public properties on Mount Tamalpais. Fire roads provide much of the access, though there is also ample single track. A good introductory hike is Old Railroad Grade; as its name suggests, this route was constructed in the 1890s by the Mill Valley and Mount Tamalpais Railroad Company. Before construction of paved roads on Mount Tam, little steam engines took tourists from Mill Valley to the peak’s summit. Because trains need relatively gentle grades to ascend, this route is an easy hike, suitable for all ages and most fitness levels.
MUST-SEE UNIQUE FEATURE OR SEASONAL HIGHLIGHT: The Huckleberry Trail, a diagonal single track trail between the Main Line Fire Road and the Corte Madera Ridge Fire Road, traverses a variety of distinct habitats. In some places, thick stands of huckleberries line the trail, providing a tasty snack for hikers in August and September, when the berries typically ripen.
HIDDEN GEM: The trail up Warner Canyon wends through a redwood and Douglas fir forest, culminating in Warner Falls, an exquisite and seldom-seen little cascade that is best visited after a winter rain. In early spring, trillium and other understory flowers bloom among the trees.
FEATURES ACCESSIBLE TO PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: Though unpaved, Old Railroad Grade is accessible to wheelchairs.
DOGS: On leash on single track and off leash on fire roads if under voice command and the owner carries a leash.
ENTRANCE FEE: None.
MORE INFORMATION: Call 415-473-6387 or go to the preserve’s webpage.
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
PLACES TO EAT: Joe’s Taco Lounge and Tony Tutto Pizza in Mill Valley serve, respectively, excellent Mexican and Italian fare. The Dipsea Café, also in Mill Valley, specializes in salads and sandwiches.
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