Marin County is one of the greatest places to live if you love the outdoors, and particularly if you love hiking or biking. There are so many trails to choose from and the vast majority of the year brings mild enough weather to allow for weekends spent outside. For years we have dedicated hiking as our weekend workouts, and even more so now that the puppies are an ever-present part of our lives. I could easily list dozens of great places to explore, but for now, here are three of my most frequented trails.
Baltimore Canyon (Larkspur, CA) – Easy – 3.9 mile loop
During the few years that we lived in Corte Madera, this little loop became a Sunday tradition. It’s a quick and easy hike with just a little incline so it’s a perfect casual Sunday activity. Like Cataract Falls, the portion along the creek is heavily shaded and gets chilly, but the bulk of the hike gives you some sun. You’ll find plenty of families and lots of dogs here on the weekends, so parking can be a real challenge on Madrone unless you get there early. Bonus: there’s plenty of post-hike brunch or lunch options in downtown Larkspur, so bring friends!
Bald Hill (San Anselmo, CA) – Moderate – 6.6 mile loop
A variation of this loop up to the top of Bald Hill has been our standard weekend hike for as long as I can remember. It’s not too difficult, but you get a good uphill climb at the beginning, and it’s not so long that you use up your entire day. Mostly we frequent this one so much because it’s the closest to us and has mostly open fire roads which are great for the dogs. Once you get comfortable with the surrounding trails, there are a million different loops (of varying lengths) that you can do to switch up the routine. We typically walk from my parents house in San Anselmo, and if you’re looking to add a little more challenge, I’d recommend parking closer to downtown and walking the hilly streets up to the trailhead as well.
Cataract Falls (Fairfax, CA) – Difficult – 7.7 mile loop
This loop is a favorite of mine when we’re looking to do a bigger excursion and get more of a workout in. Particularly in the winter, the waterfalls create beautiful scenery. Despite what many online resources indicate, I consider this a pretty difficult hike (and I’m a decent hiker), mostly due to the incredible number of stairs at the start. It’s basically like kicking off on a StairMaster. Much of this loop is in the shade, so wear layers since the temperature will vary greatly. The easiest way to stay on track is by referencing the map below, checking for posted signs with trail names, and asking those around you when all else fails. It’s fairly easy to navigate and is a well-populated area, so your fellow Marin hikers should be able to point you in the right direction if you get lost.