3.3 mile out and back from the edge of residential neighborhood near the
Marin Civic Center to the top of San Pedro Mountain.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 3.3 mile out and back hike is moderately easy. This is a short
hike, but Woodoaks Trail is very steep. Trailhead elevation is about 120
feet. The out-and-back hike climbs steeply to 950 feet (in less than a mile),
drops to 750 feet, climbs to about 1000 feet, then returns to the trailhead.
Total elevation change is about 1030 feet.
Mix of sun and shade.
Dirt fire roads and trails.
Hot in summer, nice in spring.
From US 101 in Marin County, exit North San Pedro Road. Drive east on North
San Pedro Road, to the junction with San Pablo Road (the turnoff for Civic
Center). Continue on North San Pedro Road about 0.5 mile, then turn right
onto Wood Oaks Drive. Drive less than 0.1 mile, and park at the end of the
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:
Gas, pay phone, stores, and restaurants back near San Pablo Road. No camping.
Side of street parking at the end of a road, at the edge of a residential
neighborhood. No parking or entrance fees. No restrooms, drinking water,
or maps. No designated handicapped parking, and the trail is not suitable
to wheelchairs or strollers. There is no direct public transportation to
this trailhead, but it's a level 0.6 mile walk from a bus stop. Visit the
Transit Info website
Dogs are permitted on leash on trails; off leash under voice command on
fire roads. Dog owners must have a leash for each dog (dogs are not allowed
in adjacent China Camp State Park). The preserve's fire road are multi-use,
but the single trail departing from the trailhead is signed closed to bikes.
The Official Story:
Pedro Mountain page
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Download the park
map pdf from MCOSD.
Trails of Northeast Marin County is a great guide to San Pedro
Mountain (available from Pease
Open Spaces: Lands of the Marin County Open Space District,
by Barry Spitz (order
this book from Amazon.com) has a simple map and detailed trail descriptions.
Don and Kay Martin's Hiking Marin has a useful map of the
preserve and the surrounding area (order
this book from Amazon.com).
photos from this hike.
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
Pedro Mountain is shared by three different public agencies. San Rafael's Barbier
Park offers access from the south, China
Camp State Park sprawls on the mountain's northeast slopes, and the
Marin County Open Space District manages a small chunk on San Pedro's
northwest side. Barbier Park's trails (all fire roads) begin at the edge
of residential neighborhoods in San Rafael, and you may spend more time
than you'd like trying to find the trailheads. China Camp is a popular
destination -- with a handful of trails all leading to Ridge Fire Road,
you'll share even the narrow trails with cyclists. The open space preserve
offers easy access and free parking about 1 mile from US 101, and a hiking
only route to the ridge. The only catch is that Woodoaks Trail is steep.
A trekking pole is recommended.
Begin at the end of Wood Oaks Drive.
Hiking-only Woodoaks Trail starts to the right of the barricade at the
end of the street, marked by a MCOSD sign. The first steps on this narrow
path ascend easily, through a sparse assortment of broom, toyon, manzanita,
madrone, coast live and white oak, and California bay. On my hike I surprised
a family of four deer bedded down in some grass on the right. You'll step
across a tiny seasonal creek, then the trail curves left and crosses a
more substantial stream. There was little water in May, but the rocky
creekbed may feature a small waterfall in the wet months. Woodoaks Trail
begins a steep climb along a the west-facing slope of a canyon. Although
the ascent is broken up a bit by a few switchbacks, even they are incredibly
steep, some treacherously so. Madrone are common, and along with black
oak the trail is mostly shaded, with some grassy stretches where you might
see zigadene blooming in early spring, iris in late spring, and soap plant
in summer. Honeysuckle vines dangle from trees, showing off pretty red
berries in autumn. Traffic noise from San Pedro Road and US 101 is constant,
although it does fade a bit as the trail climbs. One pretty half-charred
madrone arches over the trail, and in May the last of the season's urn-shaped
flowers spilled down like an arbor in a fragrant garden. As Woodoaks Trail
crosses to the eastern slope of the hillside, you'll pass into an area
where manzanitas are replaced with coyote
brush. Madrone, coast live oak, and California bay line the trail as it
ascends straight up. Look for a grove of redwoods off the trail to the
left. The climb seems relentless, although there are a few brief stretches
where the grade eases up. Woodoaks Trail crests, still under heavy tree
cover. The trail forks at a signpost -- take either branch, as
the paths loop around a few short coast live oaks and rejoin on the other
side. As the trail veers west, look for a well-worn path on the
left, which ends after a few feet at a dramatic lookout. Continue on Woodoaks
Trail through a landscape dominated by manzanita. The vegetation pulls
back for a few feet, and you'll have sweeping views north
of the civic center area and Big Rock Ridge. The trail descends, ending
at an undersigned junction at 0.89 mile. Turn right.
San Pedro Mountain Fire Road, a multi-use
trail, climbs a bit, to a broad clearing at 0.93 mile.The views southwest
Tamalpais are irresistible. Turn around and head back east on the fire
road, passing Woodoaks Trail.
Slightly downslope of the ridge, the fire
road descends at a moderate grade, through monkeyflower, coyote brush,
sagebrush, and chamise, which puts forth a froth of sweet-smelling blossoms
in May. There are views south, past another arm of the mountain, to the
bay. Look for clarkia in bloom in late spring along the wide trail. Coast
live oak and California bay trees close in on the trail and at 1.24 miles
you'll reach a saddle, with a trail (not on the map) marked with a "no
bikes" sign departing to the left. Continue uphill on the fire
Ignore the shortcut trails that break off on both
sides of the trail. The grade stiffens as it ascends through a thick mixture
of coast live oak, chamise, manzanita, madrone, and California bay. Look for mule ear sunflowers in late spring. San Pedro
Mountain Fire Road levels out a bit, although the trend is still an upward
one. Views are blocked by tree cover. The trail takes a sudden dive downhill,
then ends at a gate, at 1.65 miles. Turn right.
A large sign on the left marks the entrance
into Barbier Park. Paved Bay Hills Fire Road ascends slightly, then reaches
the Nike missile site at 1.73 miles. There are knockout views of Mount
Tam to the south, and the shoreline of China Camp and San Pablo Bay to
the north. If it's lunch time, make use of the nearby picnic tables. When
you're ready, retrace your steps back to the trailhead. Be careful
hiking downhill on Woodoaks Trail, as it is so steep the descent is a
Total distance: 3.38 miles
Last hiked: Monday, May 20, 2002