In Fort Cronkhite
Starting from the southernmost part of the county, the Marin Headlands offers countless long and short loops and trails. These two dog-on-leash-friendly routes both start from the Rodeo Beach parking lot at Fort Cronkhite.
Old Bunker Road Loop (1.5 miles)
This is a scenic, mostly paved road that circles the Rodeo Beach area. Start at the Coastal Trail trailhead at the north end of the Rodeo Beach parking lot. Wind up the fairly steep fire road, staying to your right. The trail flattens out and intersects with Old Bunker Road. Keep right on Old Bunker as it circles back toward the buildings via a metal gate. Continue on the paved road to Kirkpatrick Road, which leads back to the parking lot. The road has been damaged by erosion and earthquakes but can still be navigated by a “sport utility” (jogging) stroller, though not by a wheelchair.
Hill 88 Loop—Coastal Trail to Wolf Ridge to Miwok Fire Road (5.1 miles)
This longer, more strenuous hike circumnavigates Hill 88 above Rodeo Beach. Start at the Coastal Trail trailhead at the north end of the Rodeo Beach parking lot. Wind up the fairly steep fire road, staying to your right. Where the trail intersects with Old Bunker Road, veer to the left and look for the continuation of the trail on the right, in the middle of a small grove of cypress trees. The ascent is steep, with a rocky staircase. Veer right at the top and continue on the paved road to your left.
Just before the summit, go right onto the Wolf Ridge trail, which continues across the back side of Hill 88, and right again on Miwok Fire Road. Head down to the floor of Gerbode Valley, and keep to the right. Miwok eventually hits Bunker Road. Cross the road, and walk along Rodeo Lagoon back to the parking lot.
South on Hwy 101 to the Sausalito exit. Left onto Lateral Rd, right on Conzelman Rd, right at McCullough Rd, left on Bunker Rd. Veer left toward Fort Cronkhite. Park at the Rodeo Beach parking lot; trailhead is at the north end.
In Tennessee Valley
Known for the easy and gentle two-mile jaunt (popular with the stroller set) to the sandy shore of Tennessee Cove, this trailhead provides access to many scenic loops for hikers of all ages. Most trails are not dog friendly. This hike is rigorous and rewarded with city and ocean views:
Marincello Loop (6.5 miles)
The Marincello trailhead is at the southeast corner of the parking lot located just to the right of the Miwok Stables sign. There’s a steady grade (often shared with bikes and horses) 1.2 miles up to the peak. At the top of the trail, take a sharp right onto Bobcat Trail, which quickly runs into the Miwok Trail. Continue on the Miwok Trail and take a right onto Old Springs Trail, which starts off by crossing a wooden bridge and continues as a narrow and scenic return to the stables and parking lot.
Hwy 101 exit at Hwy 1 in Mill Valley. Left onto Tennessee Valley Rd to parking lot.
In Mill Valley
Dipsea Steps to Sun Trail, Tenderfoot Loop (6.5 miles)
Start at the base of the Dipsea Steps. Pace yourself as you climb—there are three sets of stairs, totaling over 670 steps. At the top of the first set, turn right and then left, and reconnect with the stairs on the right side of the road. At the top of the second set, turn left; the stairs will continue a few yards later on the right side of the road.
At the top of the third set, cross Edgewood Avenue and take the trail across the street that goes along the road leading to Walsh Drive. Continue past the houses on Walsh Drive and through the trail at the end of the paved road to Bay View. At the top of Bay View, turn right along Panoramic Highway and the trail will pick up across the street. Head down the steps, and keep to the right to merge onto the Sun Trail.
The trail continues until you cross a paved road, which connects to the German Tourist Club (a spot to stop for a drink or picnic if you like). Continue across the bridge, where the route becomes the Redwood Trail. Great views of the Pacific abound. As you head north the trail becomes the Panoramic Trail.
When you reach the Panoramic Highway, cross at Mountain Home Inn and veer down Edgewood Avenue until it dead-ends. Tenderfoot Trailhead is a small, unmarked path off to the left at a fire hydrant just before one of the last homes on the road. Zigzag your way back down the mountain until you reach Cascade Avenue. Keep right along the residential street to Old Mill Park. Dogs OK on leash.
From downtown Mill Valley, head west on Throckmorton Ave to Old Mill Park on the left (park on street). Turn left on Cascade. Stairs are alongside a driveway, at the intersection of Cascade Ave, Molino Ave and Cascade Way.
Blithedale Ridge Fire Road (2.3 miles one way)
Although a bit tricky to access, the Blithedale Ridge Fire Road is a great trail, with many options for offshoots and other trails. The fire road itself runs along the two-mile Blithedale Ridge with dramatic views. From the gate at the base of Via Vandyke, veer right, up and around the water tank at the end of the paved road. From here the path is a veritable roller coaster of ups and downs. At just under one mile there is a wide clearing (known as Judy’s Corners) where the Corte Madera Fire Road merges from the right; continue straight on the fire road to begin a major descent down the ridge. The fire road technically ends at the junction with the Indian Tree Fire Road (although you can continue up to the Eldridge Grade to the left, or down to Kent Woodlands on the right). Dogs OK on leash.
From Mill Valley, take East Blithedale Ave to West Blithedale Ave. Go right on Oakdale Ave and left on Elinor Ave to Via Vandyke.
Dias Ridge Trial (3.1 mile loop)
This new trail, reconstructed to protect the area’s ecosystem, offers breathtaking coastal views for hikers, bikers and horseback riders. Connecting State Route 1 to the Panoramic Highway, the 3.1-mile loop curves through rock gardens and connects to the ridge. Scale Mount Tamalpais, descend to Muir Beach and reward yourself after with sustenance at the Pelican Inn restaurant and pub. Or if you’re feeling ambitious, increase the distance by continuing on the Miwok or the Coastal Trail.
As part of an effort to restore the ecosystem at the 8.9-square-mile Redwood Creek watershed and improve its sustainability, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy has repaired approximately 500 linear feet of erosion on the Coastal Trail, which lines the Pacific Ocean west of Muir Woods.
The restoration of the Rodeo Valley Trail will be almost complete when work that began in 2011 is finished this fall. The riparian habitat has been restored, trail flooding has been reduced and pedestrian, bicycle and equestrian access from Fort Baker and Sausalito has been improved. This new alternative to Bunker Road is now safer and more picturesque.
Bay Trail at Fort Baker
In 2009, improvements were made along the East Road Bay Trail near Sausalito. In the near future, other changes to the Bay Trail alignment on the Fort Baker waterfront will allow easier access to the historic army post and Marin coast.
Mount Livermore, Angel Island; 1,400 feet; 11-mile loop
The hike up Mount Livermore is easy for all skill levels and there are picnic tables at the top. Combined with a walk along Perimeter Road that encircles the island, this hike reveals the best of Angel Island.
Hill 88; 1,500 feet; 4-mile loop
Bring your camera for this hike to a former Nike missile site. Park in Sausalito’s Rodeo Beach lot, find the trail to your right and continue up.