Some of the most amazing views of Marin are experienced on King Mountain Open Space Preserve! At only 650 ft high, hiking around the King Mountain loop trail you have gorgeous valley views of Larkspur below and the bay in the distance to the south, Mount Tamalpais looms overhead to the northwest, and the rolling hills and dipping valleys between Marin and Sonoma County. Go during the spring and you have the added beauty of wildflowers lining the trails!
King Mountain Loop
The hubs and I parked on a neighborhood street in Larkspur and walked up to Citron Fire Road to the trailhead and were greeted by a large oak showing off her spring colors. The trail was wide and sun exposed with houses dotting the hillside. Oh to live in this canyon…it would be so lovely! The birds were out singing, the wildflowers were soaking up the morning dew and we had the trail mostly to ourselves.
Citron Fire Road starts off with a gentle incline where you can stretch your muscles. Then you start climbing and turn a sharp corner and the views of the bay start to come into view! Keep climbing! It’s a great way to get your body warmed up and your heart excited with all the views of the bay! As you reach the top of Citron fire road, beautiful views east toward Sonoma County are all you see from the trail. Shortly after this you get to hop on King Mountain loop and are tucked away in the shade for most of the rest of the hike.
The Northbay had some rains just before the hike and our destination was Dawn Falls so we hung a right to do King Mountain loop counter-clockwise and see the falls before the crowds got there. Water was draining off the mountain everywhere! The small streams in the mini canyons were flowing nicely providing soothing sounds as we hiked along. Bays were arching over the trail. Redwoods were lining the stairs. Ferns were holding the hillside steady. Grasses and wildflowers were hiding the poison oak along the trail. Definitely wear long pants on this hike! The poison oak and stinging nettles were crazy!
Once you reach the top of King Mountain the views of Mount Tamalpais make you feel super small!! Catch your breath and head down the trail and enjoy the switchbacks!
To reach Dawn Falls, take the Lady Bug trail cutoff and really watch the sides of the trail for the dreaded poison oak and stinging nettles. Yikes! There were times we slowed to a snail’s pace to carefully avoid it all. So tempting to stop and enjoy the wildflowers that were mixed in!
There was a newly fallen tree blocking a narrow part of the trail. It was a mini comedy show watching me try to straddle and somehow maneuver over the fallen tree while not sliding down the trunk to the next switchback. Going under wasn’t an option. I need to work on my upper body strength so I can swing myself over next time! 🙂
You will start to hear the sounds of Larkspur Creek flowing before you see it. I got a little giddy when we saw how much the creek was flowing! We heard other people saying they hadn’t seen it this full in a long time. Woohoo! And this is why I love the rain! If we could just convince these weather systems to only rain during the week and not on the weekends it would be perfect.
Dropping down into Baltimore Canyon you really start to realize you are at the base of Mount Tamalpais. The redwoods lining the creek and all the lushness the full shade brings was just gorgeous to walk through. Of course, they had some nice bridges for us to cross the creek. We enjoyed watching dogs run through the creek chasing sticks and hearing everyone be so excited about how good it was flowing.
The trail was a bit more muddy down here than up on King Mountain but not so bad that my clumsy self fell. It’s always a good hike when I make it through without falling! The redwoods on the Dawn Falls trail were not old but were looked really healthy! This part of the trail only has views of the trail and they rival the views on top of King Mountain!
Enjoy the small ups and downs along the trail as you hop over the small streams flowing into the creek. You will know you are nearing Dawn Falls when the trail narrows to a single track and starts winding uphill. Careful not to get too excited when you see Dawn Falls! It’s a bit of a drop!
There were a few people at the falls enjoying their destination. The area is wide and sturdy so you can relax and have a snack in between snapping pics!
After a good rest, we retraced our steps back to the Ladybug trail and headed back up…and yes, going over the fallen tree uphill is even harder than going downhill! Good thing the hubs wasn’t filming me!
King Mountain Loop
At the top of Ladybug trail hang a right on King Mountain loop and follow it around. The dense trees will keep you in the shade with pockets of full sun and full views of the bay and the city beyond! This side of King Mountain was not as wet and lush as the other side and had less poison oak. Thank goodness!
By the time we reached Citron fire road to head back down the weather had warmed up quite a bit. Being out in the full sun the poppies were fully open and dancing around in the breeze. The steep downhill didn’t seem near as bad as going up. The clouds had cleared and the views seemed even more spectacular!
We would highly recommend doing this hike after a good rain and during the spring so you can see all the wildflowers!!
Parking=free on the neighborhood streets (be kind to the locals!), no facilities, 90% shade, 6.6 miles, 600 ft elevation gain/loss then gain/loss, dogs on leash. The nearest food area was the tiny town of Larkspur. We used the Bay Area Hiker trail description and took the extra trail to Dawn Falls. A map of the trails can be found on the Marin County Parks site.
Map My Walk Stats (no laughing! No speed hiking here!)
Things We Love:
If you couldn’t already tell, we love taking pictures of pretty much everything we see on the trails! 🙂 Our Nikon cameras came with a standard camera strap but to be honest those aren’t super comfortable when you are hiking for hours and have a heavy camera draped around your neck. The hubs and the bosslady both use the Peak Design Slide camera strap and love it! It is padded around the part that hits your neck, there’s a rubber strip on one side if you want it to slide less and the quick-adjust handles are super easy to use 1 handed. We both hike with these straps and have never felt like they weren’t durable enough to handle our cameras. The quick release anchors are great for when you want to switch out to the Peak Design wrist strap which the hubs uses sometimes (depending on his mood) or for when you want to remove the strap and not have it flapping in the wind when the camera is on the tripod.
Where else can you find us?
Don’t forget to check out the video of the hike on our Hike Then Wine YouTube channel!