Girls Run Wild

Archive for the ‘Bay Area Hiking’ Category

Bay Area Hiker.com is my go-to website for finding a great new hike to try out in the local area.  Looking for something active for the long weekend?  Check out the website today.  Each hike includes turn by turn hiking and driving directions, hike lengths, level of difficulty, and what to expect/look for along each hike.

I log most of my outside running mileage within the City limits.  However, every so often I am reminded that vast areas of pure nature exist when you pass the City’s limits.  Marin County is an excellent destination for outdoor running – especially on trails.  If you’re new to the area and aren’t very familiar with our neighbors to the North (or you grew up in the City and really only know how to get to Stinson Beach) head on over the GGB this weekend and check out a new running trail.

Phoenix Lake, located on the outskirts of the town of Kentfield, is managed by the Marin Municipal Water District.  A series of trails follow around the lake and cover about 2.7 miles.  The route has a good amount of shade.  However, there are a good number of trails that veer off from the actual lake and provide a more challenging and longer distance for running.  Bay Area Hiker.com has a great description of a 4.7 mile hike that can easily turned up a notch as a run.

Directions: From 101, take the San Anselmo/Sir Francis Drake Blvd Exit.  Follow Sir Francis Drake for about 3.5 miles and make a left onto Lagunitas Rd (right by the Marin Art & Garden Center).  The parking lot is about a mile up this road.  The parking lot is small, however, and fills up quickly on the weekends.  For more parking options, try parking in the town of Kentfield near Ross Common Park.  Run along Lagunitas Rd. to get to the Phoenix Lake trail head.

For a 2.7 mile run around the lake, hike uphill to the lake and then combine Bill Williams Trail, Gertrude Orr Trail, and Phoenix Lake Trail.  Study a map before hand (there are no paper maps available at the trail head) or print out the directions from Bay Area Hiker.com.  Yes, it’s annoying to run with a map.  However, it’s probably less annoying than running 5 miles longer than you expected to because you got lost…

Once you’re done with your hike, check out Kentfield on your way home.  Woodland’s Market is a great place to refuel or try M&G’s in Larkspur for a quick and easy burger.

A couple of weeks ago I shared my favorite Bay Area hike in the small West Marin town of Inverness.  Hiking is a great weekend activity and is an excellent excuse to ditch the nasty City weather and head elsewhere for some real summer heat.  If you keep a decent pace, aren’t afraid of hills, and have enough time for a 5-10 mile hike, hiking can prove to be a great workout.  Or, if you really want to push yourself, run a hiking route instead.

If you’re new to the Bay Area or just haven’t spent much time exploring the natural areas outside of the City, there are several hiking areas and resources for hikers within just minutes of the City’s borders.  Bay Area Hiker.com is one of the best websites I have found for discovering hikes.  Each hike is detailed with driving directions, trailhead information, difficulty rating, and any additional must-knows.  You can also find books devoted to hikes in the Bay Area – however, be aware that trails can change after a book has gone to print with different weather and erosion patterns.

Looking for a fun hike for this weekend?  Try the Muir Woods-Mountain Home 4.7 mile loop.  This hike begins at the top of Mill Valley along Panoramic Highway (parking is available on the side of the road here) and brings you down to the base of Muir Woods.  You’ll follow the redwoods back up to Panoramic.  And when you’ve made it back to the top, The Mountain Home Inn’s back deck is the perfect spot for a post-hike beer and snack.  This hike is a great excuse to see Muir Woods without having to deal with the parking lot (and lack of parking).  Complete details of this hike can be found here.

Muir Woods

What to bring on a hike: I know you’re probably thinking, how hard is it to go on a 5 mile hike?  Well, you never know what the wilderness might bring, so it’s always best to err on the side of preparation.  Wear good shoes AND socks.  Flip flops are really dumb for hikes.  Not only do you open yourself up to injury (stepping on a rock, a twig, stubbing a toe), but your feet are bound to hurt afterwards.  Bring water with you.  Unlike working out at the gym or going for a walk in the City, there’s no corner store or water fountain on wilderness trails.  Bring your phone with you AND make sure it’s charged.  Even though cell phone reception might not exist where you are, it’s always best to have your phone just in case.  Bring a snack.  Eat breakfast (or lunch) before your hike, but if you’re going for more than 5 miles it doesn’t hurt to bring an energy bar or a pack of trail mix with you.  Watch out for poison oak and check for ticks.

A Tick

Poison Oak: "Leaves of Three Let Them Be"

And finally…Wear layers – and sunscreen!  This is still the Bay Area, after all.  Even Marin County gets fog in the summer months.  And even though the skies are overcast, you can still get sunburned.

Have a favorite hike in Northern California?  Please share!  Happy Hiking!

I know you’re looking out the window right now going f this! More rain in the forecast and no summer days in sight.  When is it going to end!  Well, I don’t think a meterologist can predict the rain at this point, but don’t let this freakish weather get you down.  Assuming a monsoon doesn’t keep us drenched for the next 3 months, we should get some sun (I’ll even take fog!) one of these days.

With that said, it’s so easy to forget, as you stand in the middle of San Francisco’s financial district, that calm, peace, and a little bit of country can be found just a stone’s throw away.  Give yourself a car (or a bike – but don’t even get me started on the latter) and about 45 minutes and you’ve got a plethora of open space for one of my favorite activities: hiking.

Downtown Inverness

Nestled on the north-western edge of Marin County, Inverness is a sleepy town that is bordered by Tomales Bay and the Point Reyes National Seashore.  Named by Scottish settlers because the geography reminded them so much of home (Inverness, Scotland), the area retains its beauty from a dearth of over-development.  The town itself contains 2 restaurants, a grocery store, and a post office.  Traditionally, Inverness has been a place for retirees, artists, and second home owners.  Weekends bring city dwellers to its beaches and B&B’s.  One of the best things about Inverness is its geography – the combination of hills, valleys, ridges, and shores invites a chance for pedestrian discovery along varied terrain, flora, and fauna.  One of my favorite hikes extends from the edge of Inverness proper and into Tomales Bay State Park.  The hike leads you from one beach (Shell) to another (Shell II) and then four miles of ups and downs under the natural shade of the trees to your final destination: Hearts Desire Beach.  After a swim and a snack you snake your way back to the trail head – with maybe enough time for one last crawl through the bay.

Getting there:  Look up directions to Camino Del Mar, Inverness, CA.  This street dead ends at a parking lot/trail head.  You can also start in the reverse direction by driving to Hearts Desire Beach.  However, this starting point requires that you pay for parking and is a much busier beach on the weekend.

Trail Head: Johnson Trail

Directions: Follow the Johnson Trail to Shell Beach.  Once at the beach, follow the sand to a small wooden bridge and continue on the trail up and over the cliff.  This will bring you down into Shell II.  Again continue on the sand until you get to the woodsy area up ahead.  Follow the signs to the Johnson Trail.  Avoid heading down to Pebble Beach and continue on with the Johnson Trail.  This will end in a parking lot/BBQ area just above Hearts Desire Beach.  Follow the beach sounds to the water’s edge.  Obviously, go in the reverse direction to get back to your car.

Hearts Desire Beach

The total round trip distance is about 9 miles and can take over 3 hours, depending on walking speed and dawdle time at the beaches.  Shell Beach has an outhouse but no formal bathroom facilities.  Hearts Desire has a full bathroom and outdoor showers for washing off sand.  Water, a towel, a snack, GOOD walking shoes, and sunscreen are recommended.  Going for 9 miles in flip flops is not advisable.  Also, watch out for poison oak (leaves of three, let them be) while on the trail and always check yourself for ticks.

Don’t forget to check out Pt. Reyes Station on your way home – Tomales Bay Foods houses a retail outlet for the Cowgirl Creamery, The Bovine Bakery’s croissants are a dream, Toby’s Feed Barn features an espresso bar, The Old Western Saloon treated Prince Charles and Camilla to a pint of local IPA on their tour in 2005, and the various shops the line Highway 1 welcome your arrival.  Or better yet – make a weekend of it!

The Bovine Bakery


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