Lucas Valley Open Space Preserve,
Marin County Open Space District,
Marin County

In brief:
3.7 mile out and back hike from the edge of Novato residential development to Big Rock Ridge. Although the hike is short, there are some very steep sections.

Distance, category, and difficulty
:
This 3.7 mile out and back hike is moderate, but at least it's fairly short. Trailhead elevation is about 200 feet. The trail climbs to 1640 feet in less than 2 miles, an average 15% grade. Total elevation change is about 1400 feet. It's a harsh ascent, and if you have weak knees, you might find the descent painful.

Exposure
:
Full sun throughout.

Trail traffic
:
Light-moderate.

Trail surfaces
:
Dirt fire road.

Hiking time
:
1 1/2 hours.

Season
:
Nice any time, but probably best in spring.

Getting there
:
From US 101 in Marin County, exit Lucas Valley Road. Drive about 3.4 miles west on Lucas Valley Road, then turn right onto Westgate Road. Drive about 0.1 mile, and turn right onto Creekside Road. Drive about 0.2 mile, and park along the side of the road, near the white open space gate.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
http://www.transitandtrails.org/trailheads/485

GPS coordinates* for trailhead:
Latitude 38 2'14.67"N
Longitude
12235'31.65"W
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, pay phones, stores, and restaurants a short distance either to the north or south on 101. No camping.

Trailhead details:
Side of street parking at the edge of a residential neighborhood. No entrance or parking fees. No maps or restrooms on site. There's a water fountain across the street near the tennis courts. No services in the immediate area, but there's a mini mart back towards US 101 on Lucas Valley Road. There is no designated handicapped parking, and trails are not well suited to wheelchairs. During commute hours, you can take Golden Gate Transit bus #41 or 44 to Lucas Valley Road and Westgate. From there it's an easy walk to the preserve.

Rules:
Trails are multi-use. Dogs are permitted on leash on trails; off leash under voice command on fire roads. Dog owners must have a leash for each dog.

The Official Story:
MCOSD's Lucas Valley page.
MCOSD field office 415-499-6405

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
• Download the pdf map from the MCOSD website.
• Trails of Northeast Marin County is my favorite map (available from Pease Press).
• Don and Kay Martin's Hiking Marin has a great map (order this book from Amazon.com).
• Barry Spitz's Open Spaces has a simple map and descriptions of trails (order this book from Amazon.com).

Lucas Valley Open Space Preserve in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.

  View 16 photos from the hike (foggy day)
 View 34 photos from the hike (sunny day)




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Hiking to one of Marin County's most beautiful viewpoints on a clear winter or spring day is a no-brainer. TrailheadMaking the trek in the fog is another story. Your thoughts may turn inward when you can see only a few feet in front of you. Without expansive vistas, you might notice different animal scats, tiny plants, and unusual pebbles. Muffled noises filter through the fog, prompting questions that can't be answered. Is that the sound of water dripping from an oak, invisible in a white cloud? Like Brigadoon, mystery and adventure seem to loom in the mist. After my first experience at Lucas Valley, on a foggy day, I had no idea what I had missed until I came back a second time on a clear day. Then I was stunned: the view from the summit may be Marin County's best.
      The handful of trails at Lucas Valley Open Space Preserve climb to Big Rock Ridge. You can create a loop by hiking along some streets in a pretty residential neighborhood, but otherwise all hikes are out and back treks. Spring is a nice time to visit, for wildflowers, and the climbs are easier in cool autumn and winter weather, although the trails can get muddy. Luiz Fire Road is a quick and short trail to the ridge, but it's a steep, tough climb (and then descent) that may have your hips, knees, and legs aching at the end of the hike (and maybe even the next day).Luiz Fire Road
     Start at the white open space gate on Creekside Road. Begin walking uphill on Luiz Fire Road, which is initially paved. Oaks dot the grassy hillsides along this wide multi-use trail. Evergreen coast live oaks are the most common, but you might also see interior live oak and deciduous white oaks. Once past a water tank, the trail turns to dirt. A steep grade sets the tone for the trek to the ridge. After one straight stretch, the trail settles on a course of long, wide switchbacks. Sagebrush and monkeyflower occasionally punctuate the grassland, but coast live oaks and a few California bays prevail. Traffic noise from Lucas Valley Road fades a bit, but can be heard way up the hill. As you climb, trees fade back from the trail, and grassland takes over. After crossing from the south to the north side of the ridge, there's a short stretch mercifully easy bit, then trail heads straight toward the ridge. Coast live oak seen through the fog on Luiz Fire RoadA group of coast live oaks gracefully make an appearance on the left side of the trail. Luiz Fire Road has one more pretty steep bit in store for you, and then you'll reach the end of the trail, at an unmarked junction at 1.54 miles. Turn left onto Big Rock Ridge Fire Road (you could explore Big Rock Ridge Fire Road to the right, but you'll face a descent and then more climbing to return to the junction).
     There's a sign posted on the left, reminding visitors that the trail heads into private property, and passage is permitted by an easement. If you hike here in July and August, take note that the trail may be closed during deer hunting season. Big Rock Ridge Fire Road, a wide multi-use trail, proceeds uphill, angling around the summit (there's a rough path to the right, but stay on the fire road for now). Descending just a bit, Big Rock Ridge Fire Road reaches a gate at 1.84 miles. The rolling hills of H Ranch sprawl northwest, and the continuation of the fire road is visible. You can continue on the trail (1.7 more miles; don't stray from the fire road) and turn around when you feel like it, but this is the turn around point for this hike. Turn back and pick up an unsigned but obvious path heading uphill to the summit. View east from the summitFrom here, at 1640 feet, there are amazing views in every direction. On a clear day, the view spans from Mount St. Helena south to Montara Mountain, east to Mount Diablo and west beyond Mount Wittenberg to the Pacific Ocean. Of course, there are unparalleled views to closer publicly held lands, including Mount Tamalpais, Deer Island, Loma Alta, and Mount Burdell. On a cold day after a snowstorm in January 2002, there were patches of snow on the north side of the hill. When you're ready, continue on the path, pick up Big Rock Ridge Fire Road again, and return to the junction with Luiz Fire Road. Turn right and retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Total distance: 3.68 miles
Last hiked: Tuesday, January 29, 2002