2.1 mile out and back hike on fire roads above the College of Marin Indian
Valley campus. Some sections of trail are incredibly steep.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
Can a 2.1 mile out and back hike really be considered moderate? If
it's possible, this hike is a contender. Although much of the out-and-back
hike is easy, there are 2 very steep sections that must be navigated coming
and going. Total elevation change is about 600 feet. If you've got a trekking
pole, take it.
Dirt trails and fire roads.
Hot in summer, but otherwise nice any time.
From US 101 in Novato, Marin County, exit Ignacio Boulevard. Drive west
about 1.3 miles, then turn left onto Country Club Drive. Drive about 0.3
mile, then turn right onto Eagle Drive. Continue uphill about 0.4 mile,
to the end of the road.
Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS coordinates* for trailhead:
(* based on Google Earth
data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
Stores, gas, pay phones, and restaurants off Ignacio Boulevard in Novato.
No parking or entrance fees. Side of the road parking at the edge of a residential
neighborhood. No drinking water, restrooms, designated handicapped parking,
or maps. No wheelchair access. There is no direct public transportation
to this trailhead. Golden Gate Transit bus #1 runs along Ignacio Boulevard.
Visit the Transit
Info website for details.
Preserve has one trail closed to cyclists, and a multi-use fire road. Dogs
are permitted on leash on the trail; off leash under voice command on the
fire road. Dog owners must have a leash for each dog.
The Official Story:
MCOSD office 415-499-6387
Download the pdf
map from the MCOSD website.
Trails of Northeast Marin County is my favorite map (available
from Pease Press).
Barry Spitz's Open Spaces has a good map and trail descriptions
this book from Amazon.com).
Valley in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured
photos from this hike.
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
I named this 450 acre Novato preserve it would go by
Ignacio Ridge rather than Ignacio Valley. Although the property curves
around Ignacio Valley, the preserve trails are strictly ascending routes
to and along ridgelines. One short path, Halloween Trail, climbs to Big
Rock Ridge and Pacheco Valle Open Space Preserve,
and the other two trails, a footpath and fire road, traverse a ridge above
the College of Marin and Indian Valley Open Space
Preserve. Since there are merely three trails, and the only access
is through Novato neighborhoods, Ignacio Valley is one of the least visited
Marin Open Space Preserves. On this featured hike cyclist and equestrian
encounters are especially rare, since the solitary trail departing from
the trailhead is a hiking-only route.
For a hike on Eagle Trail and Montura Fire Road,
come prepared for a few dramatic elevation changes. Even though the hike
is a little more than 2 miles round
trip, there are two extremely steep sections of slippery fire road which
present a challenge to descend. The ridgetop fire road offers good views,
particularly to the east, and a pleasant variety of madrone, manzanita,
and oak woodlands with a grassy understory. If you're deciding when to
visit, the cool temperatures of spring, autumn, and late winter are preferable
to the sweltering heat of a Novato summer. In autumn valley and black
oak leaves are pretty, but the most stunning season may be mid-winter,
when early wildflowers and manzanitas are in bloom.
Start at the end of Eagle Drive, on hiking-only
Eagle Trail. At first domestic noise from nearby houses is strong,
but as the narrow trail ascends things quiet down a bit. Trailside vegetation is
grassland with valley and coast live oaks, manzanita, monkeyflower, and
toyon. After a short moderate climb, the trail sweeps left through a little
patch of grassland and levels out a bit. Then a woodland of California
bay, coast live oak, madrone, and manzanita closes in on the trail. I
saw a deer in the woods on both legs of my hikes, in the exact same location
both times. At 0.21 mile, Eagle Trail ends at an unsigned junction with
a fire road. A gate (marking private property) is visible to the right.
Turn left onto Montura Fire Road.
Massive, tree-size manzanitas are conspicuous
along the broad, multi-use fire road as it winds uphill at a moderate
grade. As Montura Fire Road climbs along the ridgeline, it steepens considerably.
Coast live oak, madrone, black oak, and California bay shade the trail.The grade
is steep, but not too bad, and as the trail reaches a crest at 0.35 mile
there's a well-worn viewpoint on the left side of the trail, where you
can stop and catch your breath. Look to the southwest for a view of the
forested slopes of Big Rock Ridge, and east past Novato neighborhoods
all the way to Contra Costa and Solano counties. On a clear day, the towers
of the Carquinez Bridge are visible. The fire road continues uphill, now
at an easy grade. Coast live oak, madrone, black oak, and manzanita continue
to dominant the landscape, but in occasional sunny patches on the left
chamise grows in nearly pure stands. Since the fire road gets light use
by humans, look for animal tracks. On my hike deer prints were common,
but I also picked out skunk and raccoon, and coyote scat was particularly
abundant where animal paths crossed the fire road. There
are good views of Big Rock Ridge near the highest point along the trail,
about 670 feet. The fire road begins to drift downhill, and it's easy
going until you reach the first steep stretch of the rollercoaster section.
On my hike I found this descent the worst, since the trail was covered
with loose dirt and small stones. I made it part of the way down by stepping
sideways -- tedious, but better than falling. At the bottom of the hill
the fire road climbs moderately, continuing along the ridge. Then you'll
reach the second steep descent. This one was easier, since there was a
"racing line" on one side; a smooth, hard surface than gave
my boots good grip. The trail climbs again and passes beneath a power
line crossing the mountain. Montura Fire Road continues uphill, then reaches
an unsigned junction at 0.91 mile. The fire road on the right descends
sharply to the College of Marin campus. Continue straight.
Road climbs again, but any ascent seems easy after those nasty hills.
Running slightly downslope to the right of the ridgeline, the trail emerges
on the upper flank of a sloping meadow, at 1.03 miles. Coyote brush and
coast live oaks punctuate pretty grassland. If there were a bench along
the trail, this would a perfect rest stop, but you might find a nice place
in the grass. The Indian Valley campus is visible, along with Mount Burdell and in the distance to the northeast, Sonoma Mountain. A tiny path heads
downhill to Pacheco Pond, but it's steep going in both directions -- this
could be an optional add-on to this hike if you'd like to explore the
southern corner of Indian Valley Open Space Preserve. Montura Fire Road
does officially continue another 0.10 mile. A rough path best suited to
deer continues to the preserve's boundary. When you're ready, retrace
your steps back to the trailhead.
Total distance: 2.06 miles
Last hiked: Thursday, October 31, 2002