San Pedro Mountain Open Space Preserve,
Marin County Open Space District,
Marin County
In brief:
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.

Exposure:
Mix of sun and shade.

Trail traffic
:
Light.

Trail surfaces
:
Dirt fire roads and trails.

Hiking time
:
2 hours.

Season
:
Hot in summer, nice in spring.

Getting there:
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 road.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
http://www.transitandtrails.org/trailheads/483

GPS coordinates* for trailhead:
Latitude 38 0'5.35"N
Longitude
12231'13.19"W
(* 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.

Trailhead details:
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 for details.

Rules:
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:
MCOSD's San Pedro Mountain page
MCOSD 415-499-6387

Map Choices:
• 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 Press).
• 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).

View photos from this hike.




Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page



San Pedro Mountain is shared by three different public agencies. TrailheadSan 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.Woodoaks Trail
     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. Upper section of Woodoaks Trail, with a view to Mount TamAlthough 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. San Pedro Mountain Fire RoadLook 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 to Mount Tamalpais are irresistible. Turn around and head back east on the fire road, passing Woodoaks Trail.Nike missile site
     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 road.
    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. Returning on San Pedro Mountain Fire RoadViews 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 rough one.

Total distance: 3.38 miles
Last hiked: Monday, May 20, 2002