Seek the great outdoors: best Marin hikes

Camille Ray


Hiking outdoors has lots of perks: nice views, fresh air and the calming sounds of nature. Whether you find yourself scrambling up a steep incline or walking along a winding dirt trail, hiking is the perfect opportunity to get a workout. With countless hiking trails here in Marin, it is often difficult to decide which one to go on. Here are my top four local hiking spots. 

Tennessee Valley Trail Loop 

Approx. 3 miles

Following the Coyote Ridge Summit trail, a horse rider heads for Tennessee Cove Beach

Tucked away in the Marin Headlands, Tennessee Valley is a family-friendly hike with a clear path to the ocean, following a small creek towards the shoreline.

The trail is open to hikers, bicyclists and equestrians, but unfortunately not pets. Accessing the trail is relatively easy since the 20 car parking lot is located directly in front of the trailhead. For bikers, the trail is also accessible via the Golden Gate Public Transit system. 

The loop is the perfect hike for young kids, with its low elevation trail and immaculate coastal views. A walk-in campground 0.3 miles up the gravel road accommodates a half dozen tables and several animal-proof waste bins, making it the ideal spot for an afternoon picnic.

For more ambitious hikers, take the Coyote Ridge Summit trail for a significant elevation gain of several hundred feet and an additional 3.9 miles. The top

of the loop can give either panoramic views of the shoreline or an eerie sensation of being lost in the coastal fog, depending on the weather. 


Lake Lagunitas Reservoir

Approx. 2.8 miles

Providing potable water to the Marin Municipal Water District, Lake Lagunitas is one of seven reservoirs

Located in Ross at the base of Mt. Tamalpais, the Lake Lagunitas Reservoir is a heavily trafficked loop trail suitable for all skill levels. Dogs are allowed, but are required to be kept on leash.

The trail is an excellent place for a family hike or smooth bike ride with smaller children, as the short trails are made up of gentle slopes that are manageable for most. For more advanced hikers, there are also numerous challenging trails off the main pathway that are less trafficked and substantially more difficult with steep terrain.

Before parking, be sure to buy a pass for $8.00 at the kiosk on the right side of the entrance booth. Parking can be difficult on hot days, so either arrive around 10:00 a.m., or be prepared to parallel park along the road. On weekdays parking is less challenging.


Muir Woods National Monument

Approx. 6 miles

Federally protected as a National Monument since 1908, Muir Woods serves as both a refuge and laboratory for thousands of animals and plants

Under the canopy of stunning hundred-year-old Redwood trees, the Muir Woods National Monument in Mill Valley is part of the Golden Gate National Park and is one of Marin’s most popular hiking excursions for locals and tourists alike. 

The hike is great for kids; however, no animals or bicycles are allowed. For an easier route, you can choose between a half-hour, hour or hour and a half loop. For more advanced hikers, 10.5 miles of trails branching off of the main trail towards Mt. Tamalpais offer a chance to witness more wildlife and stunning views overlooking Larkspur and the San Francisco Bay. 

Muir Woods is open every day of the year, including holidays. It opens at 8:00 a.m. and closes at sunset. An entrance fee of $15.00 is required for people 16 years and older and a parking reservation is $8.50 per vehicle. For a cheaper alternative, use the Marin Transit. Routes 66 (Pohono Park and Ride) and 66F (Sausalito Ferry and Marin City Hub) run every weekend for $1.00 per way and bring hikers straight to the base of the trail. 


Baltimore Canyon Preserve 

Approx. 2.1 miles

Photo Courtesy of Marin County Parks                                                Lush trees line the path as a morning dew hangs over the trail

Baltimore Canyon is a loop trail located in Larkspur, featuring a waterfall and beautiful views of the bay. It is an excellent route for beginner-level hikers and families looking for an outside activity. Even though the trail is initially wide and level, bicycles are prohibited on this hiking and equestrian path. Dogs are allowed on trails but must be kept on a leash. 

Those looking for a more advanced trail can also branch off to the Dawn’s Fall Loop. With a touch of elevation and a side of scenic waterfall views, it is the perfect weekend activity for outdoor junkies. 

The trailhead consists of a few parking spaces squeezed onto the roadside at the edge of a residential neighborhood. It can be extremely difficult to find parking in such tight roads, so be prepared to make due with the tiny spots available. Try to arrive before 10:00 a.m. to beat the afternoon family rush.