Bolinas Lagoon Preserve,
Audubon Canyon Ranch,
Marin County
In brief:
2.6 mile loop through the wildlife sanctuary with fantastic bird watching.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
Although this 2.6 mile hike is a short loop, two of the trails are moderately steep. Trailhead elevation is about 35 feet. The ranch's highest (trail) elevation is about 1440 feet. The featured hike climbs from the trailhead to about 720 feet, then descends back to the trailhead -- total elevation change is about 800 feet.

Exposure:
Mostly shaded.

Trail traffic:
Moderate-heavy.

Trail surfaces:
Dirt trails.

Hiking time:
1 1/2 hours.

Season:
The ranch is only open from mid-March to mid-July. Visit from 10-4 Saturday and Sunday (and holidays), or Tuesday-Friday 2-4 (by appointment only).

Getting there:
From US 101 in Marin County, exit CA 1/Mill Valley/Stinson Beach and drive on Shoreline Highway to the junction with Almonte, about 1 mile. Turn left and drive about 2.5 miles to the junction with Panoramic Highway. Turn right on Panoramic and drive about 1 mile to the junction with Muir Woods Road; stay straight on Panoramic (right lane). Continue about 7.5 miles (past Pantoll) to the junction with CA 1, just before the town of Stinson Beach. Turn right, drive about 3.6 miles, then turn right into the preserve. Follow the ranch road around the buildings, then park in the dirt lot.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
http://www.transitandtrails.org/trailheads/438

GPS coordinates* for trailhead:
Latitude 3755'48.67"N
Longitude
12240'53.44"W
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Pay phone, stores, and restaurants in Stinson Beach. Gas north in Point Reyes Station, or back in Mill Valley. No camping in the preserve. The nearest camping options are at Point Reyes and Pantoll.

Trailhead details:
Lots of parking in a dirt lot. There is designated handicapped parking, but trails are not wheelchair accessible. No parking or entrance fees, but donations are requested. Drinking water, maps, and restrooms at trailhead. This trailhead is accessible by public transit. Visit 511.org for details.

Rules:
The ranch is only open from mid-March to mid-July. Visit from 10-4 Saturday and Sunday (and holidays), or Tuesday-Friday 2-4 (by appointment only). Trails are open to hikers only. No bikes, horses, or dogs.

The Official Story:
Audubon Canyon Ranch website
Ranch office 415-868-9244

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
• Olmsted Brothers' map, A Rambler's Guide to the Trails of Mt. Tamalpais and the Marin Headlands (order this map from Amazon.com) is useful, although some of the trails are named differently from the preserve maps.
• Point Reyes by Jessica Lage (order this book from Amazon.com) has a good map and descriptions of this hike.
• Hiking Marin by Don and Kay Martin (order this book from Amazon.com) has a good map and descriptions of this hike.
• 101 Great Hikes of the San Francisco Bay Area,
by Ann Marie Brown (order this book from Amazon.com) has a simple map and descriptions of a featured hike.
Trail Map of Point Reyes National Seashore, by Tom Harrison (order this map from Amazon.com) shows the trails of this preserve.

Audubon Canyon Ranch in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.

View photos from this hike.




Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page



Audubon Canyon Ranch's Bolinas Lagoon Preserve opens to the public from mid-March to mid-July, Parking lotshowcasing treetop rookeries for great egrets, great blue herons, and snowy egrets. Birds begin nesting in January, lay eggs from March to May, and baby birds hatch about one month later, from April to June. At Henderson Outlook, volunteers point viewing scopes to the nesting trees, and visitors can spy on the birds as they sit on their eggs or feed youngsters. Most people only make the short trek uphill to the outlook, but there are a few other trails on the property, suitable for a few hours of hiking. Although most of the preserve is forested with redwood, coast live oak, and California bay, there is some grassland and chaparral.Lower section of Griffin Loop Trail
     Start near the ranch buildings on Griffin Loop Trail,signed "Trails to Overlook Canyon Loop/Garden Club Canyon Nature Trail." The narrow hiking only trail starts in a mixture of buckeye, sagebrush, monkeyflower, and poison oak, but soon ascends into a woodland of coast live oak, toyon, California coffeeberry, Douglas fir, and California bay. At about 300 feet, you'll reach Clem Miller Lookout, with a view west to Bolinas Lagoon. A few steps later the trail splits, with the left fork descending. Bear right, following signs to overlook.
     Griffin Loop Trail leans left at a reroute, ascending easily through shaded woods where yerba buena is common. At 0.20 mile, Cutoff Trail breaks off to the left. Continue right on Griffin Loop Trail, again following the sign for the overlook. View from Henderson Outlook
     Look just off the left side of the trail for a bulbous California bay. The grade picks up a bit, as the trail climbs through an area with lots of coffeeberry, as well as snowberry, Douglas fir, coast live oak, hazelnut, and California bay. Poison oak crowds the path in places. At 0.40 mile, the path to the overlook departs on the right. Turn right, and make note of the "Quiet: birds nesting" sign.
     After a few steps downhill, you'll reach Henderson Outlook. A forested ridge blocks most of the western view, but the attraction here is the birds. When I visited in late June volunteers helped me pick out a nest of great blue herons, and the egrets were impossible to miss: dozens of the white birds were plainly visible in two tall redwood trees. With binoculars or scopes you can get a good look, perhaps catching egrets arriving back at the nest with a snack for their offspring. Griffin Loop TrailWhen you're ready to continue, retrace your steps back to the previous junction, then turn right, continuing uphill on Griffin Loop Trail. (If you're ready to call it a day at the outlook, take the path downhill, Kent Trail, which ends at the ranch's picnic area.)
      The path narrows, and if you're wearing shorts prepare to conduct a vigilance campaign against wandering poison oak tendrils. Griffin Loop Trail ascends at a steady, moderately steep pace. In sunny stretches you might see ceanothus, buckeye, and monkeyflower, while in the shade hazelnut is a nearly constant understory companion to coast live oak and Douglas fir. The upper reaches of the trail travel through pockets of huckleberry and redwood, with some of the trees formed into perfect fairy circles. At 1.00 mile you'll reach a signed junction with Zumie Loop Trail. Turn right, continuing on Griffin Loop Trail.Griffin Loop Trail
      Griffin Loop Trail levels out and widens a bit. Along with a blend of redwood, hazelnut, huckleberry, Douglas fir, and California bay, you may notice some tanoak. At 1.31 miles you'll reach Picher Canyon Creek and a rest bench on the left. Elk clover and ferns thrive along the creek, which runs year round, although you won't see much water in summer and autumn. The trail persists through almost total tree cover, with a few big-leaf maple and some creambush mixed through redwood and California bay. Griffin Loop Trail steps out into a sunny spot, where coyote brush is common, then reaches an unsigned junction at 1.85 miles. Turn right.View from Devine Bench
      The grassy trail, which may be overgrown in late spring, weaves through some Douglas fir, then emerges in a clearing, in the upper reaches of a sloping meadow. Douglas fir block most of the view northwest, but southwest there are sweeping views of Bolinas Lagoon, Stinson Beach, and the ocean. Devine Bench sits on the left, a perfect place for lunch on a clear day. When you're ready continue, now downhill, on the cutoff, which ends at an unsigned junction at 1.95 miles. Turn right, back onto Griffin Loop Trail.Descending on Griffin Loop Trail
     Widened to fire road width here, the trail begins a moderately steep descent. Coyote brush dominates the landscape, but orange-blossomed sticky monkeyflower is conspicuous in late spring and early summer. Douglas fir seem to be overtaking the hillside in fits and starts. By late June the grasses were dry and golden, but there were a few lingering flax and brodiaea blooming along the trail. At 2.33 miles dead-end Spring Trail sets off on the right. Continue straight. At 2.40 miles Olive-Hyde Trail breaks off on the left (signed as closed in June 2002). Continue straight on Griffin Loop Trail. Savor the last of the views west, for the trail soon arches right, returning to a coast live oak woodland. At about 2.59 miles, Griffin Loop Trail crosses a bridge and ends, back at the ranch area.

Total distance: 2.59 miles
Last hiked: Saturday, June 29, 2002