Lake Lagunitas is the smallest and oldest lake in the Mount Tamalpais watershed and also has one of the best jumping off points to hike up the back side of Mount Tam! The watershed has so many trails that interconnect and provide some amazing views! We opted to go wide around Lake Lagunitas and explore some trails that we heard were amazing…Pilot Knob, oh my gosh the views of the lakes, the bay and Mt Tam were gorgeous! Eldridge fire road was busy but the views of the bay were unbelievable and Colier trail may have been very steep but it was gorgeous to slide down! Of course, Lake Lagunitas was beautiful with ducks floating through the lake, trees touching the lake and Mount Tamalpais looming overhead. We could not have asked for a better day for our hike!
The drive up to Lake Lagunitas is beautiful. It’s a narrow winding road that leads you past Bon Tempe Lake and through the oak woodlands to another small lake. Lake Lagunitas. The parking is plentiful. There’s a great place to picnic in the shade of the trees. So many trails go in so many directions from the parking lot! It took us a moment to orient our selves and figure out where the start of Pilot Knob trail was. Hint, it’s at the southwest end of the parking lot and up a steep hill. If your calves start screaming at you because they aren’t warmed up then you are on the correct trail! Don’t worry, it isn’t steep for very long.
Keep cruising along the oak and madrone lined Pilot Knob trail until you see a small trail off to your right. Take it!! Oh my goodness! The best views!! Ok, the best views until you get to the next spot with the best views. 🙂 We made our way up a narrow trail with little anticipation. Just thought we would have views of Lake Lagunitas below. Boy were we wrong! We reached the top of Pilot Knob where the land became just a wide open meadow. No shade. Just views! The first thing we noticed was views of the east peak of Tam. Then you see the gorgeous views (on a clear day) of the bay. Follow the trail around and oh there is Lake Lagunitas below you and Bon Tempe Lake in the distance. We probably spent a good 15 minutes just soaking in the views from all directions! It was stunning. The only other souls up there were lizards sunning themselves on the small outcrop of serpentine rock. Next time, we pack a picnic and just go here.
After thoroughly enjoying the views, we headed back down Pilot Knob stub trail and hopped back on Pilot Knob until we reached Eldridge fire road. Hang a left and start a nice gentle climb on a wide open fire road.
Eldridge Fire Road
Eldridge fire road is loved by mountain bikers. It is really a perfect trail for them. Marin mountain bikers are some of the nicest we have had the pleasure of jumping out of their way for! They usually have bells on and say thank you for moving out of their way. We were strolling along on this nice gentle ascent and then boom! There were views of Mt Diablo and the Richmond Bridge. Clear as day. It was so gorgeous to see! We stopped multiple times along the way to take in the views, snap a few pics and say hello to fellow hikers and mountain bikers. We were in the wide open with no shade, the sun was beating down and neither of us complained. As we climbed higher toward the east peak of Tam we started to see the blanket of fog covering the city below. It was so lovely. Like you could just lay on the layer of fog and take a nap.
There were bits where we were shaded by trees as we turned on the switchbacks and went around the fire road. East peak was so close. We could see it, almost touch it but opted to stay on course instead of going the extra mile up to summit the peak. It was a warm fall day and we weren’t sure what lay ahead of us. It was smart to conserve our energy!
North Side Trail
We hopped off Eldridge fire road and took the north side trail. Finally some shade! It was a short stint on this trail that was for hiking only and mostly shaded. The temps must have dropped at least 5 degrees in the shade. Not having to worry about mountain bikers having fun and speeding downhill was nice. When we saw Lake Lagunitas from this trail it looked so far away! It was great to see how far we had gone. Got a little confused that we were over halfway through the hike and still needed to go back down the 1,600 feet we had climbed in the previous 4 miles.
North side trail was pretty level and shaded which gave us a good break from climbing and cooled us off. We entered a wonderful grove of trees and experienced our first signs of water on Tam. It was a small trickle of water flowing through the trees, just enough to keep them happy.
At a small foot bridge we saw the trail marker for Colier trail. This was one of the best forested spots on the hike. Take a moment to pause at the bench and enjoy the large trees, the calm, the quiet and then head on down Colier trail.
Colier trail started off beautiful and gentle. The trail follows and criss crosses Colier creek several times. It probably wouldn’t be the best trail to be on after a heavy rain as it looked like it would have spots that wouldn’t be passable. We were in awe of the beauty of the trees, the ruggedness of the narrow trail and sort of wondered where everyone else was. Eldridge fire road was so busy but on Colier we only saw 1 other person. He was heading uphill and struggling. We were heading downhill and struggling. I think he had it right, head up the steep part in the shade and cruise down the easy fire road.
The bosslady only slipped once. Ok, she slipped a few times but only went down once! The trail was super steep and rocky and covered in pine needles. There were parts where you had to slowly go over and down boulders sticking out and climb over downed trees. Thank you mother nature for making us slow down and take in the full beauty of where we were! It helped us to be more present and focused than if we were just on a fire road distracted by incredible views. We had incredible views of the forest here! It was quiet except for branches breaking in the distance. We wondered which critter was causing that since there was no wind.
As we got closer to Lake Lagunitas, Colier trail started to level off in spots. This caused the creek water to pool and was apparently a perfect spot for screaming frogs. Yes, you read that correctly. Screaming frogs. The bosslady saw something moving quickly in the water so we stopped and looked around in the water. Frogs! Lots of frogs! They were so cute! Then they jumped and did this crazy little scream when they jumped. So weird and so cute at the same time! We tried to capture it on video but they wouldn’t do it while we had the camera on. Just like our cat. She only does funny things when we can’t record her.
We started seeing signs of more people and knew we were close to Lake Lagunitas. The trail that goes around the lake is great! It is nice and level and perfect for families. We saw many families riding or hiking together. Always love seeing parents getting their kids out into nature!
The acorn woodpeckers had been busy along the Lagunitas trail. There were several trees filled with acorns in their cracks and woodpecker-made holes. Someone is eating good this winter! Back at our truck the parking lot was full and people were heading out in all different directions. We often wonder which trails they are taking and why. We love to explore new places and were so excited to be able to find this wonderful wide loop around Lake Lagunitas. Might even be one of our new favorites in the Mount Tampalpais watershed! Let us know in the comments if you have a favorite hike int he Mount Tamalpais watershed!
Parking is $8 and you can pay with either cash or card at the kiosk entrance. Dogs on leash. Portable potty at the entrance and parking lots. 50% sun, 7.3 miles with 1,634 elevation gain over 4 miles and that much elevation loss in about 1.5 miles, moderate to strenuous (mostly due to Colier trail). Fairfax has some adorable restaurants and shopping at the bottom of the hill!!
Things We Love:
The bosslady doesn’t eat breakfast. She has some bone broth and collagen before we leave and takes her green tea to go. Sound bizarre? Maybe to some. It helps her body by not having something to digest first thing in the morning. This might also be why she’s a morning person. Nothing weighing her down! Since we often leave sort of early in the morning to head out to our hiking destination, we both take snacks with us for on the trail. The snack the bosslady eats most often (have we mentioned she has a ton of food allergies too?) is the buffalo and cranberries Tanka Bar. This gives her a little sugar from the cranberries to replenish her energy and protein for her muscles. This is how she makes it through until we have our late lunch picnic or get home. Check them out on Amazon and see the 400+ other positive reviews of this product!
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