Old-growth redwoods without the crowds
HIGHLIGHTS: Halfway between San Rafael and Point Reyes, Roy’s Redwoods is a small, county-run preserve with lots to admire. It’s easy to get to, right off Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in western Marin County. It has old-growth redwoods without the crowds of a place like Muir Woods.
ACTIVITIES: Hiking, jogging, picnicking, botanizing, birdwatching, mountain biking, horseback riding and dog walking (leash required).
VISITOR CENTER: None. Maps and other information are available on the Marin County Parks and Open Space District website (external link). Park about half a mile north of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard on Nicasio Valley Road. Look for cars parked along the side of the road. The park is closed from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m.
TRAILS: The Roy’s Redwoods Loop Trail makes a satisfying, 2.5-mile circle around a hill in the middle of the preserve. Or you may want to head north to the top of Dickson Ridge Fire Road-a steep climb up 780 vertical feet. On a clear day you’ll be rewarded with views of the region’s highest peaks: Mount Saint Helena, Mount Tamalpais, Mount Diablo and Mount Wittenberg.
MUST-SEE UNIQUE FEATURE OR SEASONAL HIGHLIGHT: Just wandering through the main coast redwood grove can be deeply satisfying. At the north end of the meadow, the oldest trees have been around for four or five centuries. Some are as wide as the average car is long! The tallest one is as high as a 24-floor building. Not bad, considering that the tallest tree in world-famous Muir Woods National Monument, also in Marin County, is only one story higher.
“There’s an immense ring of trees surrounding an open space of several hundred square feet,” says Marin County Interpretive Naturalist David Herlocker. Because redwoods tend to sprout in a circle around their parent, “standing in that ring will give you an idea of how big the progenitors of this grove must have been,” he said.
HIDDEN GEMS: You’ll find interesting birdlife here, including pileated woodpeckers and black-throated gray warblers. Naturalist Herlocker recommends sitting in the redwood ring in the summer at dusk to watch barn owls and great horned owls hunting. If you’re lucky, you might even hear the calls of their young, begging for food.
MORE INFORMATION: Visit Marin County Parks and Open Space District (external link). Or call the parks’ administrative office at (415) 499-6387.
EAT: Susan Ingersoll, former Education Program Manager, says “If you are driving through Fairfax on the way out to Roy’s Redwoods stop at Perry’s Deli (external link) and pick up some great sandwiches! This is my fav sandwich shop of all time. It’s been honored by the Pacific Sun (local newspaper) for quite a few years.”
FAVORITE HIKE: Roy’s boasts a loop trail (external link) that parallels Nicasio Valley Road (and a golf course), then turns and runs along Sir Francis Drake, and finally cuts north and into mixed woodland, before returning to Nicasio Valley Road through a grove of redwoods.
You can also choose to climb the Dickson Ridge Fire Road to enjoy sweeping views that stretch from Mt. Tamalpais in the east to Mt Wittenberg in the west.
FAVORITE PARK ATTRACTION: Roy’s is a great place for children as the trails are easy.
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