Lucas Valley Preserve is 1,271 acres of rolling green hills dotted with wildflowers, oaks, bays, and cow pies (cows too!). Along the curvy Lucas Valley Road that leads you from the city of Marinwood and Highway 101, the homes become more dispersed, the road curves a little tighter, cyclists enjoy themselves as they climb uphill or speed downhill and you end up at Big Rock. It is literally a big rock on the side of the road. A huge rock just sitting there along the road waiting to be admired and photographed. Spring is an amazing time to visit! The hills are so beautifully green!
You can choose to go up Big Rock trail (which we accidentally did…more on that later) or you can head up Loma Alta Fire Road and follow the path for our 5.4 mile 1,119 elevation gain/loss hike. This was our hike for the day. Both are at the same small off the road parking area.
Loma Alta Fire Road Part 1
With all the rain, sunshine, and moderate temps we have been experiencing here in the North Bay lately we decided to choose a hike where wildflowers would be showing off. The bosslady was the navigator and drifted over to the Big Rock trail. We were only 1+ miles into the wrong hike when we figured it out but it was sort of worth it since the poppies were covering the hills on the Big Rock trail! Once we figured out we were on the wrong trail, we decided to go back and do the planned hike.
Loma Alta Fire Road is just that. A fire road…with cow pies dotting it causing you to walk around all of them. We are 99% sure we stepped in cow poop at some point along the trail! We made our way up the nice wide and gentle grade up Loma Alta Fire Road with a ton of stops! The lupine, poppies, and yellow wildflowers were along the trail and so distracting. The views of Mt Diablo and the San Pablo Bay didn’t help us to climb very fast either. The wind was blocked by the hill above us and we were able to enjoy the views of Lucas Valley below and beautiful clouds hanging over Mt Diablo.
Pausing often to admire the wildflowers we made our way to the top of the road. Some cows mooed at us, some of them just kept grazing and a few gave us some crazy dirty looks! Giggling at our audience we made our way to the top of Loma Alta Fire Road. THE VIEWS! The views were incredible! At 1,592 feet high, Loma Alta is one of the highest points in Marin. We could see Mt Tamalpais. We could see Mt Diablo. We could see all the hills and valleys between us and the ocean. And it was all to ourselves!
This part of the hike is included in the Bay Area Ridge Trail. Being up on the ridges in the bay area is so incredible! Seriously can’t get over how much open space surrounds us and yet we are so close to the big metropolitan city of San Francisco.
Once we reached the top, we took in the views all while the wind was trying to carry us out to the bay. Breathtaking.
Loma Alta Fire Road Part 2
Loma Alta Fire Road slopes gently down to meet a slew of other trails. You can go in so many directions from here! Our original hike was to follow the 680 trail. We will do this again another time to check on some volunteer trail work we did in that area. For this hike, we decided to shorten it a bit since we had done a total of 2.3 miles on the wrong trail. At the junction with Smith Ridge Fire Road, we continued on Loma Alta Fire Road to make this into a balloon hike.
The first part of the fire road was out in the wide-open with no trees for shade or blocking the wind. Down in the valley on the backside, we were guarded against the wind and experienced some shade. We were cruising along enjoying the change of scenery of rolling green hills with wildflowers to rolling green hills with trees AND wildflowers when we came upon some muddy patches. Have you been on muddy trails where the cows have been? Just checking. Their hoof prints make it a little difficult to walk on after the mud had dried and their hoof prints make the trail look a little deceiving when the mud is still wet. The bosslady went first and ended up with her feet sinking into the mud while squealing and trying to move as fast as possible. Did you know that cows poop wherever they want? There was more than likely poop mixed in that mud! Hope you weren’t eating anything chocolate while reading this! 😉
We made it through the muddy parts without falling in and considered ourselves lucky! The views were still incredible and totally worth what we had to go through to get back around the ridge. As we turned a corner we came across a cow napping on the trail ahead of us. She heard us coming and got herself up and gave us a super dirty look. She stood in the middle of the trail and didn’t look like she wanted to move. Then her friends that were napping just off the trail started getting up like they had her back! Cows are big! No offense. They are large animals and a little intimidating when they don’t really want to move. She snorted and bowed her head then moved just off the trail as we got closer to her. Clapping his hands, the hubs encouraged her to move a little more off the trail so we could pass. She was not amused but moved a little further and glared at us as we passed. Need to take some lessons from her on giving dirty looks!
The rest of the balloon part of the hike was pretty uneventful until we came across an area of grass that was covered in yellow flowers! The green grass, serpentine rock, wildflowers, and trees on the next ridge made for a gorgeous hike! We paused to take it all in and enjoy a few more minutes without the crazy wind and kept going. When we reached the junction with the Bay Area Ridge Trail section of Loma Alta Fire Road we headed back the way we came.
Strolling down the fire road we took in the views of the bay and began to see more people than cows. A lot of other people decided it was a great day to be on the trails too!
Lucas Valley is gorgeous all year but definitely love it during spring! Do you have a favorite spring spot to hike? Let us know in the comments below!
Since we have been working on our patio, we enjoyed a nice bottle of rosé with dinner out on the patio. The perfect ending to the weekend!
Parking is free but very limited so get there early! It is just a pullout on the side of the road. There are no restrooms anywhere along here so don’t drink too much coffee! Easy to moderate 5.4-mile hike with 1,119 ft elevation gain/loss. Very little shade, can be very windy on the ridge top!
Things We Love
When we first started hiking we carried around 2 lenses with us. One for closer up (18-50) and one for zoom (100-300). We had found these Tamron lenses that go from 16-300 pretty much eliminating the need to carry any other lens! While the price is a little high, it is the only one we bought for each of our newer Nikon DSLR’s. Now when we want to take photos of something in the distance we don’t have to choose between switching out the lens and not taking the photo at all. This has been so helpful for us on our hiking adventures! Do you have a favorite lens to use? When we win the lottery, or when one of our cameras break we do want to upgrade to the mirror-less…one can dream, right? Check out the lenses below and see if they are right for you!