21,000 acres of woodlands and grasslands on Mount Tamalpais
HIGHLIGHTS: The Marin Municipal Water District oversees 21,000 acres of woodlands and grasslands on Mount Tamalpais and the hills of western Marin County. The primary purpose of this stewardship is to ensure pure water for Marin residents and to protect the county’s robust biodiversity. But recreation also is a major component of the agency’s management plan, and district lands host tens of thousands of hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians, birders and nature lovers annually.
ACTIVITIES: Hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, picnicking, and birding are among the most popular activities. The district’s management policy states that watershed lands are reserved for “passive recreation,” which is defined as “…activities that are based on nature and require little or no development and facilities…”
VISITOR CENTER: None.
TRAILS: There are 130 miles of trails and fire roads on district lands; many connect to trail networks on adjacent parks and preserves. Rules are strictly enforced on use and access to protect water quality, native plants and wildlife. The various routes are far too numerous to detail here, but the Kent Trail at Alpine Lake is particularly beautiful as it wends past the lake, near waterfalls and through deep forest. The Kent Trail is accessed at the Bon Tempe Lake parking lot; Alpine Lake is about 2 miles down the trail. The hike can be extended into a 6-mile loop by hiking past the lake through redwood groves and hardwood forest to the Rocky Ridge Fire Road, which affords splendid views of the East Bay. Follow the road down to the Bon Tempe parking lot.
MUST-SEE UNIQUE FEATURE OR SEASONAL HIGHLIGHT: The Lake Lagunitas Loop is an easy hike on wide trails that is especially enjoyable in the spring. The trail traverses redwood groves and oak woodlands, and passes through meadows that are thick with wildflowers.
HIDDEN GEM: The west peak of Mount Tamalpais was once the mountain’s highest point, but it was razed 60 years ago for the construction of a radar station intended to provide an early warning in the event of a nuclear attack. Today, the 106-acre plateau stands littered with the detritus of the Cold War: A mute and fascinating testament to an era when the world seemed to teeter on nuclear oblivion. Plans are now under way to restore the peak to a natural state.
FEATURES ACCESSIBLE TO PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: Some parking areas, restrooms, picnic tables and one cabin at West Point Inn are accessible. Parking fees are waived for vehicles with the appropriate placards.
DOGS: Allowed on-leash.
ENTRANCE FEE: An $8 fee is charged for each vehicle parking along Sky Oaks Road and in the Sky Oaks, Bon Tempe and Lagunitas parking lots.
SPECIAL EVENTS: The district supports numerous volunteer and educational programs. Go to The district’s volunteering page for details.
PLACE TO EAT: The Iron Springs Pub & Brewery in Fairfax is close to district lands, and serves delicious made-from-scratch comfort food and handcrafted beers and ales.
MORE INFORMATION: Call 415-945-1180 or go to the district’s webpage for directions and trail maps.
- The Secrets of Castle Rock
- Coffee Talk and Crafts
- Hike to Buzzard’s Roost
- Guided Redwood Walks
- Living History Demonstrations and Ranch Tours
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