The Bolinas Ridge hike has been on our list for quite some time and with the weather changing we wanted to check it out while it was still green! 11 miles of quiet time with the hubs on the hike…We actually ran out of things to talk about, or it could have been the fact that by the end we were tired and overheated! The hike starts in the lush and shaded Samuel P Taylor State Park and climbs 1,200 feet to Bolinas Ridge and gently slopes down with views of Olema Valley and San Geronimo Valley. Take lots of water and snacks!
Samuel P Taylor State Park
We love this park! You can camp, hike, bike, day picnic and watch salmon spawn (seasonal of course) all in the shade of the mighty redwoods. Start in the day-use parking lot and cross the creek with the salmon crossing signs. The Lagunitas Creek was still flowing when we were there giving us the calming sounds of water flowing through the forest. Head left on the Cross Marin trail and pass the cutoff for Pioneer Trail. This would be a fun extra part of the hike if you would like to make it longer as it loops back with the Cross Marin Trail. A walking bridge crosses over Sir Francis Drake without you really realizing it and continues on. The trail is a nice and wide dirt trail with small wood footbridges over the seasonal streams. Unless it is high noon you will be in the shade here.
Continue on Cross Marin trail until you hit the Inkwells Bridge and cross Lagunitas Creek. Take a moment to look down! This is a beautiful spot with deep pools of water in the rocks below. After crossing the bridge, carefully dodge the cars cruising along Sir Francis Drake. Go to the right just a bit and cross the auto bridge to the Leo T Cronin fish viewing area. At some point near here, you cross over from Samuel P Taylor SP to Marin Municipal Water District. Enjoy the shade and level ground as you walk through the fish viewing area toward Shafter Grade trail.
Do your stretches before heading up! The hubs and I took a moment to stretch since we had read on www.redwoodhikes.com this is the steep part. The trail sign read 2 miles to Bolinas Ridge…so 2 miles of elevation gain with little relief. It was a beautiful road and the grade wasn’t too terrible but it did feel like it would never end. The winding wide fire road was deceiving as to how high we were! Just keep going and enjoy the shade of the trees! We paused several times to catch our breath and enjoy the views.
Grasses, trees, poison oak, ferns, and butterflies. These were the only things we saw on this part of the trail. It’s as if no one else was in the park! We followed the trail description to do the hike clockwise so we could get the steep part done first and enjoy the leisurely downhill with views. We highly recommend doing this! Around the last bend, we started feeling a nice breeze. This was our tip we were near the top! Yay!
At the T-intersection, smile at the nature camera and go to the right and begin your slow descent on Bolinas Ridge.
The fire road that stretches from Mt Tamalpais down to Olema is a nice wide dirt trail ducking in and out of shade but is mostly sunny. Where Shafter Grade and Bolinas Ridge meet it is already pretty low and we could not see much past Inverness Ridge until reaching the first picnic spot. Then the views of the valleys below open up!
After a bit of walking, you’ll come across your first cattle gate with a picnic table just beyond it. We stopped here to take our backpacks off and let our backs air dry a little and had our snacks. There’s a rock outcropping here that we explored a little. The lizards weren’t happy about it but we didn’t stay long since there was also poison oak growing out of it. I swear that plant is everywhere! Next to the picnic table was a little mole or gopher grabbing grass and taking it down into the hole. So cute! Done with our break we kept going down through the grassy meadow.
Bolinas Ridge is like those slides at the fair that you slide down on a burlap bag (wait, do they have those still?). The ridgeline rolls down then levels a bit and continues rolling down very gently. The wildflowers were still in bloom and the grass was mostly green! The rolling hills were nice but it seriously felt like it would never end. We were hot. We were tired. We ran out of things to talk about and no one else was on the trail until we got close to the cutoff for the Jewell trail. That sounded a bit whiny. I was hoping for some cows to entertain us but none were out there with us. Sort of thankful so we didn’t have to jump over cow pies!
Once we started seeing people we knew we were near the trailhead. Then the views of San Geronimo Valley opened up and were amazing! They definitely were doing the best part of the ridge hike! The hills were changing from the green grass of spring to the lovely golden California hills. The sign for the Jewell trail was so very welcome at this point. The hubs was sneezing from the grasses and I was brushing salt off my arms from all the sweating I was doing.
Jewell trail is not as well-traveled as Bolinas Ridge so we were tromping through the grasses crossing our fingers the ticks did not find us tasty. As we wound down, the trail went through some eucalyptus trees and dropped us back down onto the Cross Marin Trail. Hitting pavement may not have felt good on my tootsies but mentally I knew we were close to Samuel P Taylor again and nearing the end of the hike.
Cross Marin Trail
Back in the shade of the forest, we plugged along the trail listening to the cars on Sir Francis Drake and the sounds of Lagunitas Creek. There are a couple of historical markers to check out along this part of the trail. The old paper mill that was along the creek is a great stop to pause and stretch and learn a little history.
Once we started seeing signs of the campground our pace picked up a little. Campers were out riding their bikes and probably wondering why we looked so exhausted! 🙂
This was a beautiful hike and we are happy we checked it off our bucket list while it was still green and lush with wildflowers! Have you been on this hike? What was your favorite part? I think ours was Samuel P Taylor. The forest there is so nice!
Samuel P Taylor SP parking $8, flushing toilets at the picnic area, a mix of sun and shade, go on a cooler day, 10.91 miles with 1,200 ft elevation gain/loss, no dogs on some of the trails, moderate to strenuous (more due to the length of the hike). The nearest town is Olema. It was super busy so we went up to Point Reyes Station for our usual stops. We used the trail description from Redwood Hikes which recommended doing the hike clockwise and we totally agree!
Things We Love:
When you have a ton of food allergies (wheat, nuts, eggs, legumes, and many more) it is difficult to find trail snacks that give you energy. Clif Bloks are our go-to item on longer more strenuous hikes. They have different flavors that provide various energy boosts, electrolytes, and carbs. Our flavor of choice on this hike was Margarita. It has extra sodium to replenish all of the salt lost while sweating! There are some with added caffeine also that are helpful on early morning hikes. Do you take snacks while you hike? Leave your favorite hiking snack in the comments below!
Where else can you find us?
Don’t forget to check out the video of the hike on our Hike Then Wine YouTube channel!