Giant Trees within Easy Reach
HIGHLIGHTS: Less than a one-hour drive from San Francisco, this park’s giant redwoods are easily accessible: You can picnic, hike, bike and camp right among them. A panoramic view of the rolling countryside is a reward for a hike to the top of Barnabe Peak. Bicyclists can follow a partly paved path along the creek. Nearby, the extraordinary Point Reyes National Seashore is ready for you to explore.
ACTIVITIES: Camping, biking, hiking, picnicking, riding horses.
Most of the park’s ranger- or docent-led programs (including campfire talks, forest walks, and Junior Ranger programs) start on Memorial Day weekend and end after Labor Day. Check the schedule for days and times. Aimed at kids age 7 through 12, these programs offer games, crafts, hiking, and exploring with other children.
VISITOR CENTER: There’s no visitor center, but you can get information at the ranger station and entrance kiosk when staffing permits.
CAMPGROUNDS: The park has 61 family and two group sites and a horse camp along Lagunitas Creek. Drinking water, coin-operated hot showers, and restrooms are provided. To reserve a site, call (800) 444-7275 or visit the park’s website (external link).
TRAILS: The Pioneer Tree Trail was named for an impressive single redwood that stands beside this easy, 2-mile-long trail. But the best old redwoods lie in a separate grove along the same route. If you’re interested in views and more exercise, try the 9-mile round-trip to 1,466-foot Mount Barnabe. The park also can provide a good night’s rest for backpackers en route to Point Reyes National Seashore, Mount Tamalpais State Park and Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The park brochure (see link above) provides a helpful map.
MUST-SEE UNIQUE FEATURE OR SEASONAL HIGHLIGHT: Look for the oversized leaves and fireworks-shaped flowers of elk clover (Aralia californica), as well as an ever-changing parade of other wildflowers in the spring and summer. The bright yellow leaves of bigleaf maples add fire in the fall.
HIDDEN GEMS: Lagunitas Creek is still wild enough to support a 2-inch-long endangered freshwater shrimp (Syncaris pacifica), as well as a run of coho salmon and steelhead.
MORE INFORMATION: Go to the park’s website (external link) or call (415) 488-9897.
STOP: Point Reyes Station is a fun place to stop. While you’re there, check out the Cowgirl Creamery (external link), which offers decently expensive, awesome-tasting cheese.
FAVORITE HIKE: The Pioneer Tree Trail (external link) includes the sort of climb that gives you a large sense of achievement for comparatively little effort.
FAVORITE PARK ATTRACTION: Spending half the day on the Devil’s Gulch trail or hiking to Barnabe Peak (external link), which has one of the best viewpoints in Marin County.
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