5 Awesome Marin Hikes For Everyone

In Marin, Mother Nature has gifted us easy access to some truly magnificent landscapes. What better way to start 2016 then to spend quality time with your family enjoying the outdoors. Amble along a nature trail, listen to the water flow, smell the coastal sage, observe the varieties of wildlife, and look up at a vast blue sky. So I asked Park Ranger and amazing photographer, Craig Solin, with Marin County Parks, for his top five hikes for all ages and abilities.

Rush Creek

Enjoy vast wetlands that host thousands of shorebirds and waterfowl every fall and winter. This is one of the best birding locations in the North Bay.

Upcoming Events:

Birds and History at Rush Creek, February 21, 9am-12pm, Meet Rangers Christin Lopez and Craig Solin and learn about the birds and animals that live in the area as well as the colorful history of the preserve. Questions: Contact Ranger Christin Lopez at (415) 473-2816.

Directions: Exit Highway 101 at the San Marin/Atherton exit. Follow Atherton Avenue briefly, and then turn left onto Binford Road. Parking along the street is available near the Open Space gate. Level 2 mile round trip hike around the marsh.

🐢 Dogs must keep owners on a leash or have voice control over them.

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Indian Valley

This preserve wraps around the Indian Valley campus of the College of Marin. There are a variety of trails, mostly through shaded forests of oak and bay trees that leads to a beautiful seasonal waterfall. There is also a small pond that is home to an array of freshwater animals, including western toads, tree frogs, newts and an assortment of insects. Ample parking in the lot at the west end of the Indian Valley College campus, but remember that this is a fee lot.

Directions: From US 101 in Marin County, exit Ignacio Blvd. Drive west on Ignacio Blvd. about 2.2 miles, through the gate into the Indian Valley campus of the College of Marin. Continue about 0.4 mile to parking lot 7, on the left side of the road (the campus is small, so you can park and walk from elsewhere, if need be). 

🐢 Dogs are allowed but keep dogs out of the small pond and nearby Pacheco Pond. This is a sensitive wildlife area.

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Mount Burdell

Gorgeous bay and oak-studded mountain offering breathtaking views of the entire Bay Area. With its unique serpentine soils you may stumble across some rare and unusual plants, as well as fertile grasslands punctuated with spring colors during wildflower season. Hidden Lake, a seasonal pond located about halfway to the top, is home to an assortment of rare plants and is swarming with frogs, salamanders and other creatures during the wet season. Please be sure to close all gates you encounter to keep the cattle in their proper pastures.

Directions: From US 101 in Novato (Marin County) exit #463 (San Marin Drive/Atherton Avenue). Head west on San Marin Drive for about 2.5 miles. Turn north (right) unto San Andreas Drive, and continue about 0.5 mile. Look for and park near the Open Space gate.

🐢 Dogs are allowed.

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Old St. Hillary’s

One of only two places to see the extremely rare Tiburon jewelflower. These flowers may usually be seen from mid-May to mid-June along the Vistazo Fire Road, which traverses the lower portion of the preserve. Stay off of the small trails that lead uphill from this fire road, all of these paths are causing damage to this fragile habitat and the unique plants found here. Views from the top of the hill (where the preserve adjoins the Tiburon Uplands County Park) are fabulous. See Wildflower Walks.

Directions: From US 101 in Marin County, exit Tiburon Boulevard. Drive east about 3.5 miles, and turn left on Lyford Drive. Drive about 0.8 mile uphill, and bear left on Sugarloaf (Lyford ends to the right, and another access gate to the preserve is visible). Drive 0.1 mile more, and turn right onto Heathcliff. Continue a short distance to the end of the road. This 1 mile loop hike is easy, with about 75 feet in elevation change.

🐢 Dogs are allowed.

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Hamilton Wetlands

Enjoy approximately 2,600 acres of this recently restored wetlands on the former Hamilton Army Airfield located approximately 25 miles north of San Francisco, along San Pablo Bay, in Novato.

Directions: To get there, take Highway 101 to the Ignacio Boulevard/Bel Marin Keys exit. If you're coming from the south, turn right onto Nave Drive; from the north, cross the freeway overpass and then turn right onto Nave. Follow Nave Drive to Main Gate Drive where you'll turn left into Hamilton. Continue on Main Gate Drive which will become Palm Drive. Turn right on Hangar Drive and follow it to the end to get to airport park, or turn into Hamilton Landing. There's a parking area near the sports fields before the end of the road. 2 mile long Flat Levee Trail.

🐢 Dogs must keep owners on a leash or have voice control over them.

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Craig Solin has been a nature and wildlife photographer for the past 20 years. Born and raised in Northern California, he has spent countless hours in the Marin and Sonoma hills studying the change of seasons in ways most people never see. Craig is an Open Space Ranger for the County of Marin and spends his days protecting the natural environment so that we will have these beautiful scenes for years to come.