Some plans just don’t work out the way you would like. Last weekend we showed up at the Natalie Coffin Greene Park parking lot in Ross a few minutes too late. The tiny parking lot was already full at 8:30 am! The hubs and I had to figure out another way to hike around Phoenix Lake with little cell reception. I do a little research before we hike and this time it paid off, especially having the maps printed, and we found our way to the Harry Allen Trail off of Crown Road. Have you been to the town of Ross? It’s our form of picture-perfect. People take pride in their homes and live at the base of the gorgeous Mount Tamalpais with easy access to all the trails.
Hike Phoenix Lake
Winding our way up the neighborhood streets we found the trailhead for Harry Allen Trail. We quietly parked alongside the road and as we were getting our gear on a deer walked out of the woods, crossed the street about 20 feet away from us, and seemed to give a slight nod to his head like he was saying good morning. A happy deer is a good sign of a good hike! The beginning of the trail was a staircase made from tree roots. I love how mother nature creates her own paths. We walked for about a half mile through a narrow densely wooded trail until we met up with the other end of Crown Road. Note to self, park over here where there is a little more street parking and cuts off a bit of the distance. I must say the first half mile of the hike was lovely and foggy so I am not sure I want to leave this part out.
Follow Crown Road down to the Bill Wilms cut off and head down toward Phoenix Lake. The switchbacks down the hill crisscross a small canyon and stream. We were a little early in the season to experience much water flow but the meadow to the trees was a nice touch. You also get to see the entire scope of the canyon Phoenix Lake is in from this vantage point. The pops of yellow mixed here and there in the pines was beautiful with the low hanging fog hovering over the treetops. Take a breath here and enjoy the place you are in. Once we dropped onto the main trail around Phoenix Lake we opted to go to the left and follow the lake clockwise. This gave us more forest and just an arm of the lake. The path is wide and a multi-use trail. Several of the trees had already changed to their golden hues and were dropping their giant colorful leaves all over the path showing off their fall decor.
My back had been bothering me a little so we opted to keep to the shorter version of the hike instead of taking the long winding fire road with tons of mountain bikers and hung a right on Gertrude Trail. We had hiked the longer hike around Pheonix Lake a while back (check out our old site here) and enjoyed it but we like to see all parts of this beautiful area we live in and Gertrude Trail did not disappoint! The trail is for hikers only and is narrow. We hiked along up stairs, in between trees, up-down and around on the narrow dirt trail and always near the lake. The fall colors were popping and the tree canopy gave you the sense you were in the middle of nowhere…then you would run into a fellow hiker and realize you were not the first explorers out there.
The trail winds through an area where it might get flooded during the winter, there is an alternate trail but we took advantage of the dry stream bed and walked across. There was just enough water in the creek to give some nice reflections of the redwoods surrounding us. Hop onto the main trail around Phoenix Lake and keep to the side and out of the way of the flying mountain bikers. Off to the left, you will see the old log house the park is trying to restore while the acorn woodpeckers try and take it over. The hubs and I stood admiring the fall colors of orange and yellows reflecting on the water and could hear the acorn woodpeckers hard at work. Knock, knock, knock, knock.
Don’t forget to look in the water to see the ducks and turtles cruising around. I especially love the turtles! There were a lot more people near the entrance to the lake. Families with their kids, groups of runners, mountain bikers galore, and a couple of fishermen. My only wish here is for more parking. There are plenty of benches placed perfectly for the best views of the lake and the forested hills above. Take time to enjoy the peacefulness of the lake. Once you are ready, head on around the main trail and head back up the cutoff trail you came down. We loved that this trail had ups, downs, and some flat. It really loosened up my back! Heading back down the hill through the town of Ross is so wonderful. It is one of the few places I wish we could live (if we ever win the lottery it is in our top 5!).
We had plans to hit the REI in Corte Madera and grab some lunch at the mall. I am craving the Sonoma Salad at the Counter in the mall there. A delicious burger patty smothered with herbed goat cheese on a bed of greens and grilled onions…might have to go back again this weekend! We hike for cheeseburgers!!
Parking=free on the residential street or $8 at the mini parking lot, portable potties at the main parking lot, mostly shaded, 5.2 miles, 712 ft elevation gain, easy hike, dogs on leash. Nearest food area was the cute town of Ross. As usual we followed the trail description from Bay Area Hiker with just the added detour to find parking.
Map My Walk Stats (no laughing! We enjoy the hikes, we don’t speed hike)