5 mile out and back from the side of Lucas Valley Road to the shoulder of
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 5 mile out and back hike is on the moderate side of easy, with
about 1100 feet in elevation change. Trailhead elevation is about 650 feet.
The hike climbs to 1592 feet, descends to 1310 feet, then returns to the
Dirt fire roads.
2 1/2 hours.
Hot in summer, nice in spring.
From US 101 in Marin County, exit Lucas Valley Road. Drive about 5.3 miles
west on Lucas Valley Road. When you pass Big Rock on the right, continue
west, find a place to safely turn around, then park on the side of Lucas
Valley Road, just past the 25 MPH right curve road sign.
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:
No services in the immediate area, but there's a mini mart back towards
US 101 on Lucas Valley Road. Gas, pay phones, stores, and restaurants a
short distance either to the north or south on 101. No camping.
Room for 3-4 cars in a tiny pullout along Lucas Valley Road. Be very careful
along the side of the road here, for the pullout is just past a blind corner.
No entrance or parking fees. No maps, drinking water, or restrooms on site.
There is no designated handicapped parking, and trails are not well suited
to wheelchairs. There is no direct public transportation to this trailhead.
Golden Gate Transit buses #41 and 44 only travel as far as the junction
of Westgate and Lucas Valley Road.
Trail is multi-use (although there is no equestrian access from this trailhead,
and cyclists will have to lift their bikes over the fence). No rules are
posted regarding dogs or hours of access.
The Official Story:
MCOSD field office 415-499-6405
MCOSD's home page
(there is no specific info about the easement at this time)
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Download Loma Alta's pdf
map from the MCOSD website.
Don and Kay Martin's Hiking Marin has a useful map of the
preserve and the surrounding area (order
this book from Amazon.com).
The Bay Area Ridge Trail, by Jean Rusmore (order
this book from Amazon.com) has a simple map and trail descriptions.
Easement in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured
photos from this hike.
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
Skywalker Easement closes a gap in the Bay Area Ridge Trail, and
permits passage from Lucas Valley Road to the top of Loma Alta and into
Loma Alta Open Space Preserve. Although the
land on both sides of the easement's fire road is simply average pastured
grassland, there are (perhaps literally) million dollar views from the
highest elevations. Other than the views, the most unique natural feature
is a sweep of serpentine rock near the trailhead, host to a stunning display
of common and rare wildflowers during spring.
All trail users should note that the terms
of this easement demand that visitors stay on the fire road. Do not travel
cross country or go exploring here, as the easement could easily be revoked.
A deal between Lucas Films and Marin County permits trail use in exchange
for Lucas's development on the north side of Lucas Valley Road, just west
of Big Rock.
The easement is probably at its best in spring, when the wildflowers are blooming,
but I'd like to visit again on a clear winter day, to see how far
the views stretch from the top of Loma Alta. Like neighboring
Lucas Valley Open Space Preserve, the easement
fire road has almost no shade, and is ill-suited to a hot summer
Start at the double entrance stile.
Once you squeeze through, a signpost is the sole assurance that you're
in the right place. Walk to the right a few steps, then turn left onto
the fire road. In May when I visited, there were carpets of flowers blooming
on the hillside to the right. Although appearing to be a single
plant from a distance, the display was a combination of tidytips, creamsacs,
and a tarweed-type of flower (madia or layia). The broad fire road begins
to ascend at a moderate grade, through grassland.Thanks to the
serpentine soil along the trail through here you might see some unusual
spring flowers such as Douglas' sandwort and blue
field gilia, as well as more common blossoms including California poppy,
Ithuriel's spear, creamcups, clarkia, checkerbloom, yarrow, mule ear sunflowers,
and bellardia. Cattle graze this ranch and although there were cow patties
on the trail, I saw no bovines on my visit. After an initial climb the
trail levels out a bit, and at 0.68 mile, you'll reach a junction with
a gated fire road, on the right. Continue straight.
The grade picks up again, and a few small
coast live oaks and California bays provide scarce shade. Poison oak,
coyote brush, and blue elderberry are occasional along the trail. In spring,
more flowers sprawl on the sloping hillside to the right, and you might
see a stunning collection of linanthus, paintbrush, bluedicks, tarweed,
goldenfields, creamcups, columbine, blue larkspur, popcorn flower, fiddlenecks,
seep monkeyflower, and false lupine. The fire road sweeps right around
the curve of the hillside and the ascent stiffens slightly. As the trail
reaches the ridgeline, finally you'll be able to look ahead and see the
course of the fire road. Grassland still dominates, and there are unobstructed
views west downhill that include a gorgeous valley. In May there was so
much narrow-leaf flax blooming that the grass was tinged light blue in
sections. Patches of goldenfields provided a cheerful yellow contrast.
At 1.31 miles, you'll reach a cattle gate. Be sure to close the gate behind
you, or instead squeeze through the stile. The fire road continues to
climb, here taking a moderately paced direct tack uphill. At 1.46 miles,
another private fire road departs to the right. Continue straight.
As I climbed the hill, I wondered what to
call this apparently unnamed fire road. Since it's the Skywalker Easement,
a Star Wars related theme is tempting. Tatooine Trail? Princess Leia Lane?
This was a good distraction on the final somewhat sharp stretch to the
summit. Some flowers persist in May, and blue-eyed grass, checkerbloom,
yarrow, and mule ear sunflowers mix through invasive thistles. A
few rock outcrops interrupt an expanse of grassy rolling hills. The fire
road crests at the top of Loma Alta, and there are magnificent 360 degree
views. To the east Lucas Valley opens to San Pablo Bay and reveals a look
all the way to Mount Diablo. Big Rock Ridge and the steep course of Lucas
Valley Open Space Preserve's Luiz Fire Road is visible to the north.The
entire ridge of Mount Tamalpais looms over White's Hill to the south,
and sharp-eyed hikers gazing west might be able to make out the fire lookout
at the top of Samuel P. Taylor's Barnabe Peak. (If you are ready to end
your hike, this is a logical turnaround point; continue to the end of
the segment and you'll face more climbing on the return leg.) The summit
is treeless and when it's windy you probably won't want to linger. Continue
downhill a few feet to a junction with yet another private fire road,
at 2.07 miles. Continue to the right.
The fire road ascends briefly, then begins
a long moderately steep descent to the left of a wide grassy gulch. As
the trail heads downhill, you'll have views on the left, of Loma Alta
Open Space Preserve and Sir Francis Drake (the road). At 2.49 miles, you'll
reach a junction with 2 private fire roads, and the signed gated entrance
to Loma Alta Open Space Preserve. This is the turnaround point for the
hike, and the end of the easement. Retrace your steps back to the trailhead.
Total distance: 4.98 miles
Last hiked: Thursday, May 16, 2002