Ring Mountain
Tiburon Peninsula P500
Belvedere Island
Corte Madera Ridge
Blithedale Ridge
Knob Hill
Palm Hill
King Mountain
Pams Blue Ridge
Blue Ridge
White Hill
Cascade Peak

Tue, Jan 31, 2017
Etymology
Corte Madera Ridge
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPXs: 1 2 3 4 5 6 Profiles: 1 2 3

After spending Saturday hiking around the Marin Headlands with my pal Steve, I went home and started looking at other peaks in Marin County, surprised out how many peaks are listed there and how few days I'd spent chasing them down. The primary detraction is its location at the opposite end of the Bay Area from where I live in San Jose. There's no getting around the unpleasantness of driving more than hour through urban areas on one side of the bay or the other, something I avoid if possible - like driving through LA County on I-5 or I-405. It location also makes it one of the more scenic areas of the Bay Area, and for this I needed to make a return visit. To minimize the traffic concern, I planned to leave San Jose around 10p the night before and sleep at the van near the first summit in the morning. This worked so nicely that I wondered why I hadn't thought of it before. Most of the day's summits are located in various open space areas in the southeast part of the county. A few others are located in heavily developed neighborhoods with homes occupying the highest point. In these cases it was a silly exercise in driving up to someone's home, taking a picture and driving away. It was not by chance that these happened to have been first visited by Laura Newman. If I was going to have any chance to catch her, I'd have to play by her rules...

Ring Mountain

Though surrounded by development, the Ring Mountain OSP occupies much of the actual mountain with numerous access trails from five directions. I picked the shortest option, from Taylor Rd to the north. Though a suburban neighborhood, it was quiet and dark where I parked for the night. I was up shortly after sunrise, which was a bit muted this morning thanks to low and high clouds that seemed to hang about everywhere. It would not be a good day for sunny vistas. I followed the paved driveway from the cul-de-sac to the start of the OSP trails, really just old ranch roads that criss-cross the mountain. It took a little over ten minutes to find my way to the highpoint among some large oaks overlooking Richardson Bay to the south. I spent all of 20min on the hike, not nearly as much as the place really deserves.

Tiburon Peninsula

The peninsula highpoint is saddled in an old neighborhood atop the ridgeline between a couple of homes. A few report a use trail between two properties that lets you get close to the highpoint. That seemed a little too creepy for me. I took a picture of the watertanks atop the ridge and called it good. Better was the nearby Old St. Hilarys OSP to the south that can be accessed by either Heathcliff Dr or Lyford Dr. A short trail takes you out along the southern portion of Tiburon Peninsula for views overlooking SF Bay, Angel Island, and Belvedere Island, among other places. The gently rolling hills were covered in new green grass with unobstructed viewing. Way better than a use trail between two homes.

Belvedere Island

I used Google Maps to get me to the end of Crest Rd atop Belvedere Island. The cul-de-sac at the end makes as good a highpoint as any in this high-end neighborhood. As boring as it gets.

Corte Madera Ridge / Blithedale Ridge / Knob Hill

These three can be combined in a single 4-6mi outing, the distance depending on the starting point. I drove to the top of Summit Drive in Corte Madera, as high as one can drive. The winding, one-lane paved road is ridiculously steep. One gains an immense appreciation for the power of the internal combustion engine going up such roads. Going past each house along the way, I wondered how they manage to make this a daily drive. I guess you can get used to anything. Once at the parking area (enough for about two cars off the pavement), it is a nice hike through the open space areas east of Mt. Tamalpais. The highpoint of Corte Madera Ridge is found just 5min past the TH, a use trail going from the fire road conveniently up to the highpoint. Down the other side, the use trail rejoins the fireroad and continues northwest where it merges with Bithesdale Ridge. The LoJ highpoint is found where the two ridges merge, facilitated by another use trail. Though the summit itself has poor views, there are nice views from along the fire road atop the ridgeline, especially west to Mt. Tamalpais. More ups and downs continue northwest for another mile, leading to Knob Hill, the highest of the three. This one is a little trickier because the firebreak that once ran over the summit is badly overgrown. The easiest way to reach the top is to follow the fire road around to the west side and push through the brush from there. I tried to follow the firebreak down the east side but soon ran into poison oak which forced a retreat. Weak views from this summit as well. There are many trail junctions along the way and one can continue up to Mt. Tamalpais as well, but I headed back the way I'd come, returning shortly before 11a.

Palm Hill

A drive-up in Corte Madera found at the end of Elm Ave. The highpoint sits somewhere under someone's house. Not so much fun, this one.

King Mountain

West of Palm Hill in Larkspur is King Mtn Open Space. I found no real parking where I started from the end of Cedar Ave. It would seem that this entrance is intended for local foot traffic only. There are a few spaces available off the side of the dirt road near the TH. The real problem here is that the entire summit area, many acres of it, is fenced off as private property. The King Mtn Loop Trail circumnavigates the summit, a nice, well-maintained single track trail through lovely second-growth redwoods. I found an alternate use trail on the north side of the summit that parallels the Loop Trail closer to the unfriendly fence, but it offers no advantages (as in, a way through the fence) over the maintained trail, requires some modest bushwhacking and was generally a mistake. The Loop Trail intersects a fire road northwest of the summit where the locked and video-enhanced gate to the property is found. The only structures actually on the property are a couple of shipping containers used for storage and large water tanks. There is no evidence that a home or other building has yet been built, and little to suggest one is coming any time soon. Maybe they're locked in protracted negotiations with the county to sell it for additional open space - one can only hope.

Cascade Canyon OSP

The last four summits I visited were all located in, or on the boundary of this nice open space area found north of the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed and the Bolinas-Fairfax Rd. Immediately north of the OSP is the BSA's Camp Tamarancho with its own set of trails not generally open to the public. I found upon my return that it was possible to visit all four summits without stepping foot in the BSA camp, but didn't know this ahead of time. My starting point was near the end of Toyon Dr, another super-steep, narrow road winding through the adjacent neighborhood. There is no parking at the end of the road but some spots are available off the side of the road just down from the TH.

Pams Blue Ridge HP is reached within 15min of starting out, about 2/3mi to the north. A delightful trail goes over the summit through a forest of oaks and madrones, eventually reconnecting with the Toyon Fire Rd I had started on. At the boundary with Camp Tamarancho, there are signs indicating that visitors are required to carry annual or day-use permits issued by the Marin BSA Council. Without such travel papers I was undoubtedly trespassing as I plied the main road through the camp, but I didn't think my discovery would cause much concern. The camp is used primarily in the summer months and all was quiet today, almost. As I was walking along a path by the archery range, I heard a dog backing in the distance behind me. I could see it up the hill where some vehicles were parked at what looked like the camp workshop or similar. I didn't watch long enough to see if anyone came out to see what Sparky was barking at, but I heard no one shouting to me and better, the dog never took more interest than from a distance. I soon enough found my way to the west side of camp and a road leading up to Blue Ridge and the camp boundary.

Once at the boundary atop Blue Ridge, I turned northwest and headed for White Hill, about a mile in that direction. The Blue Ridge Fire Road follows along the ridge nicely (going over the highpoint of Blue Ridge along the way), descending some to a saddle before climbing up and over White Hill. Unlike the other hills in the area that are all, or partially covered in forest, grassy White Hill is completely open on all sides with few trees of any kind. A use trail goes more directly to the summit up the southeast side, bypassing a portion of the fire road. I used this to good advantage going up and down. Views from the summit take in Loma Alta to the north (one can also reach White Hill from the north starting in the Loma Alta OSP) and south to Mt. Tamalpais.

I returned back along Blue Ridge and the fire road, making my way to Cascade Peak at the far southeast end of the ridge, a little over a mile from White Hill. Lichen-covered rocks form the highpoint at the end of a use trail that forks off the fire road. It was here I learned the Burnt Tree Trail makes for a much faster return, bypassing the BSA camp by dropping to a 4-way junction at a stream crossing between Blue Ridge and Pams Blue Ridge. An easy climb back up the opposite side of the creek leads up and over the latter ridge and the return to where I'd started, a little over two hours after starting out.

Done for the day, I took some time to look for a semi-private place to shower somewhere nearby. My exploration took me west along the Bolinas-Fairfax Rd where I discovered the road was closed further west due to a slide. I had planned to hike out that way the next day so I would need to find other options. I ended up driving into Lake Lagunitas within the Marin County MWD Watershed to find a place in an empty overflow lot to rinse off. I spent the early evening in a Starbucks in downtown San Rafael looking over maps to find enough stuff to keep me busy the next day. Afterwards I drove up into the nearby suburban neighborhood around San Rafael Hill where I found a dark place to spend the night. I decided watching a movie or reading inside might draw the attention and ire of the neighbors, so I hit the sack early.


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