Solitude in a splendid forest
HIGHLIGHTS: Situated on the south-facing slope above the western margin of the San Geronimo Valley, this 403-acre preserve links with the Gary Giacomini and Roy’s Redwoods Preserves to protect much of the Lagunitas Creek area. French Ranch is notable for several reasons. Lagunitas Creek harbors a run of wild coho salmon, and management practices on watershed lands are critical to the survival of these rare and sensitive fish. Large expanses of exposed serpentine on the west end of the reserve support rare “serpentine endemic” plants, including Tiburon buckwheat, Tamalpais lessingia and serpentine reedgrass, and the preserve has deep forests of redwood, Douglas fir, oak and tanoak that are rich in wildlife.
ACTIVITIES: Hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, picnicking and birding are all good options.
VISITOR CENTER: None.
TRAILS: The preserve offers about 2 miles of trails and fire roads. The French Ranch and Barnabe Fire Roads provide good overviews of the Lagunitas Creek gorge, while the Top Flight and Moon Hill Trails afford pleasant (if short) single track experiences.
MUST-SEE UNIQUE FEATURE OR SEASONAL HIGHLIGHT: It’s not possible to plan a loop hike at the preserve, but that works to the advantage of any hiker who wants real solitude. The French Ranch Fire Road leads to the Barnabe Mountain Fire Road, which is situated on a ridge cloaked with a splendid forest of redwood, Douglas fir, oak and California bay laurel. Because there is only one access point, visitors are relatively few. It’s a great choice for a picnic, extended contemplation, or both.
HIDDEN GEM: On ascending the French Ranch Fire Road from the San Geronimo Valley, turn left at the junction with Barnabe Mountain Road. After a half mile, the vistas open up dramatically, providing a stunning view of the San Geronimo Valley and Bolinas Ridge
FEATURES ACCESSIBLE TO PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: The trailhead entrance to the French Ranch Fire Road is accessible, though the route itself is rough.
DOGS: On leash on single track and off leash but under voice command on fire roads, providing the owner has a leash.
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.
MORE INFORMATION: Call 415-473-6387 or go to the preserve’s webpage.
PLACE TO EAT: The cozy, nearby Two Bird Café offers breakfast, lunch and dinner.
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