Beauty in the Bay: exploring the best trails in Marin

Kaelin Kragh

As the spring returns, and the sun reappears, for many, so does the incentive to get outside and explore. One of the easiest, most accessible ways to enjoy Marin’s beautiful landscapes and weather is to hike. The Bark ventured off on the trails in order to find the best spots to hike in Marin.

OVERLOOKING THE SAN Francisco Bay, Ring Mountain offers beautiful views and landscape and is more suited for beginning hikers.
OVERLOOKING THE SAN Francisco Bay, Ring Mountain offers beautiful views and landscape and is more suited for beginning hikers.

Mount Tam

Mount Tamalpais is arguably one of the most iconic hiking locations in Marin County. Its breathtaking panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay are only part of the reason why it is considered the best hiking location in our community. The mountain is made up of several routes that accommodate the levels of all hikers– beginner to advanced. The length of the trails range from one to seven miles. From Mount Tamalpais’ 2571-foot peak, you can see a range of views including the Farallon Islands, Marin County suburbs and Mount Diablo. Its serene atmosphere at the top of the mountain is the perfect place to relieve any stress while admiring the true beauty of the county we live in. In addition to hiking, Mount Tam can serve any activity your average, outdoorsy Marinite would be intrigued by: from picnicking, to mountain biking, to just taking in the stunning views. If you’re interested in hikes with sights so beautiful that they almost don’t seem real, then Mount Tam is the place to hike. If you’re planning on hiking at Mount Tam, it’s least busy on weekdays. Considering Mount Tam is a Marin County landmark, weekends are congested with rowdy teens and obnoxious tourists. If you want to avoid the big crowds, there are trails and lookouts at Bolinas Ridge where you can find seclusion.

Ring Mountain (Corte Madera) 

Although it may not be as prominent of a location as Mount Tam, Ring Mountain is the perfect trail for beginning hikers. The terrain is mostly uphill causing occasional segments of difficulty. The trail has a breathtaking view of the San Francisco Bay, distracting your mind from feeling out of shape. The unique geology and proximity to water of Ring Mountain provide a home for an abundance of flowers going through their spring bloom. An aspect that makes Ring Mountain especially unique is Petroglyph Rock, which is near the peak of the small mountain and is adorned with rock carvings from Native American tribes. The entire two-mile route takes approximately 90 minutes, but there are various short cuts that most people take. It’s a perfect neighborhood hiking spot, as parents walking dogs or kids going on mountain bike rides tend to be seen at Ring Mountain. Due to the closeby neighborhood, it isn’t the hiking spot to go to if you’re looking for peace and quiet.

Tennessee Valley (Mill Valley)

Tennessee Valley is a quality hiking trail that suits the whole family. The Tennessee Valley Trail is mostly level, providing a relatively easy hike that’s best for all hiker levels. The hike itself is 3.4 miles to Tennessee Beach and back. For more skilled hikers, however, there are a number of other trails that guide you to the breathtaking views above the valley. Tennessee Valley is better suited for picnic hikes, where you can relax on the beach taking in the beautiful scenery of the ocean. During the hike itself, it lacks views that stray away from a field of grass and dirt paths. Although the 30-minute hike to the beach may not wow you, once you get closer to shore you can smell the salt water and feel the breeze against your cheek. This location is definitely more of a destination hike, as opposed to a scenic route. If you’re the type of hiker that likes to work towards the view, then this is the perfect hike. However, the hike is a bit strenuous to reach a view that’s nice to look at for all of about five minutes before you’re ready to turn back. Due to its location near downtown Mill Valley, it’s a fairly crowded trail. Unless you’re hiking near sunset, this trail tends to be congested with tourists. If you’re looking for a place to get away from reality, this would not be the spot to venture off to.

Phoenix Lake (Ross) 

Phoenix Lake Trail is a 2.8-mile trail located in the heart of Ross, and loops around Phoenix Lake. Primarily a flat stroll, this hike is suitable for any hiker. Due to its extensive land and routes, there isn’t much hiking traffic. Phoenix Lake is one of the most peaceful hikes in Marin County. Besides the faint chirps of birds permeating through the air, the atmosphere is peaceful and serene. For all you dogs lovers, dogs are also allowed on this trail. It’s a great place for a family hike or bike ride with small children. The trails lead to the beautiful lake, with gentle slopes and short distances that are manageable by most. However, parking spots are limited and difficult to find, so Phoenix Lake is hard to access on weekends. There are also numerous more challenging trails accessible from Phoenix Lake that can accommodate the more adventurous hikers or mountain bikers.