High on the Ridge

Marin Headlands - Part 3

Bicyclists begin at the same trailhead that equestrians use off Bunker Road. You ride west on the Rodeo Valley Trail (multi-use going west only) to the Bobcat Trail junction and turn northeast here. (Bicyclists can also park at the Miwok trailhead at the east end of Rodeo Lagoon near the Headlands Institute.)

As you start your two-mile trip up Gerbode Valley, blue bush lupines bloom by the trailside in spring. Ahead is the site of the old Sam Silva dairy, one of the many dairies along this coast owned by Portuguese who came to these shores in the mid-1800s. Now, all that remains is the groves of eucalyptus and Monterey cypress and a few persistent fruit trees and rose bushes. You can make out the cistern that supplied water to the dairy, high on the hill above.

Past the ranch the trail begins its climb up a hillside that looks out over the floor of the valley, where you'd see the City of Marincello, had it not been for the efforts of Martha Gerbode and other staunch conservationists who succeeded in turning the Headlands over to The Nature Conservancy and then to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, thus preventing the building of the planned city.

For about a mile the Bobcat Trail winds in and out of canyons to finally reach the ridge above at what is known as Five Comers, where hikers, equestrians, and bicyclists meet to share the Bobcat and Marincello trails to Tennessee Valley.

From Five Corners, all trail users follow the Bobcat Trail due west up a slight incline to a spectacular view: Mount Tamalpais to the northwest, Richardson Bay to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. At the top of the incline you pass a little meadow fenced for"Resource Protection" against footsteps, hoof prints, and wheel tracks, where buttercups, poppies, brodiaea, scarlet Indian paintbrush, and native grasses now flourish. After a small dip and rise, you see the trail that goes southwest a half mile downhill to primitive Hawk Camp. Pause here to look back for a last glimpse of San Francisco's skyline and the tip of the Golden Gate Bridge tower. Above these heights hawks soar watching for field mice and voles in open grasslands and wary rabbits as they scurry across the road to the cover of chaparral.

Continuing on the Bobcat Trail, bear right along the rocky, rutted, main fire road. In less than a quarter mile you reach the Marincello/Bobcat trails junction. The Bobcat Trail veers left (southwest) uphill, and the wide, signed, Marincello Trail, the Bay Area Ridge Trail route to Tennessee Valley, stays right (east of the Bobcat Trail) in the lee of the hills. It winds 1.7 miles down the road laid out in the 1960s to that once-proposed city, Marincello. At the top of the steep road banks, there are modest stands of Monterey pines, cypresses, and a few eucalyptus, which were planted by the would-be developers of this city. Here and there by the roadside are clumps of willows and tall woodwardia ferns watered by seeping springs.

The hillside falls off steeply east into Oakwood Valley, beyond which lie Richardson Bay and Belvedere. As you drop down into Tennessee Valley, the trail makes a wide curve west. The Miwok stables and corrals, part of an old dairy ranch, are in sight as you near the trailhead at the road below.

At the Tennessee Valley trailhead you will find pleasant picnic tables under a grove of pines. The next segment of the Ridge Trail route continues north from here on the Miwok Trail to Shoreline Highway and Mount Tamalpais State Park beyond.

For an easy four-mile side trip from Tennessee Valley, follow a two-mile trail that leads down to Tennessee Cove.


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