Santa Margarita Open Space Preserve,
Marin County Open Space District,
Marin County
In brief:
1/4 mile nearly flat loop hike on a tiny oak-dotted island.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 0.4 mile loop hike is very easy. This is a small preserve with a flat perimeter trail and a brief path that climbs to a short hill.

Exposure:
Some sun, some shade.

Trail traffic
:
Light-moderate.

Trail surfaces
:
Dirt trails.

Hiking time
:
Less than 1 hour.

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 about 1 mile, then turn left on Meadow Drive. Drive on Meadow about 0.2 mile, to the roadside parking near the end of the street.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
http://www.transitandtrails.org/trailheads/482

GPS coordinates* for trailhead:
Latitude 38 0'30.32"N
Longitude
12231'24.30"W
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Stores, pay phones, restaurants and gas back toward US 101 on North San Pedro Road. No camping.

Trailhead details:
Side of the road parking at the edge of a residential neighborhood. No parking or entrance fees. No drinking water, restrooms, maps, or designated handicapped parking. The single trail is flat, but is not well-suited to wheelchairs. Golden Gate Transit bus #34 stops at nearby North San Pedro Road, a short distance from this trailhead.

Rules:
No bikes or dogs. Horses are permitted, but you are not likely to encounter equestrians at Santa Margarita.

The Official Story:
MCOSD's Santa Margarita 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 Santa Margarita (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 trail descriptions.

View photos from this hike.




Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page




Santa Margarita Open Space Preserve seems lifted from the pages of a fairytale. TrailheadThis tiny island, surrounded by a thin ribbon of water, is accessed by a massive bridge. Once you reach the island, you'll find a gorgeous oak woodland, towering boulders, and a diminutive wooded hill, where rocks and spooky coast live oaks screen all views. It takes just 0.3 mile to circuit the island, but it truly feels like a private getaway. Winter can be muddy, spring boasts flowers, and there's plenty of shade in summer. In autumn the deciduous oaks toss their leaves to the ground, and by winter only a litter of dead leaves provides clues to identify the bare branched trees.
     Start at the open space gate at the end of Meadow Drive. This bridge was constructed to facilitate entry to a development, and it still stands, despite the island's open space status. Santa Margarita Island and Las Gallinas Creek, from the trailheadWhen I visited in January, as soon as I reached the bridge a flock of seagulls descended in a cloud around me, hoping no doubt for a snack. At the far side of the bridge a pair of valley oaks stand sentry to the right and left. A trail splits, and another well-worn path heads straight, to the left of a cluster of pale white boulders. Turn right.
     The narrow trail, open to equestrians and hikers only, keeps a level pace. Coast live oaks and California bays huddle together on the left, while to the right deciduous oaks sprawl far apart in grassland, permitting views across Las Gallinas Creek to the surrounding neighborhoods. Practically every house has a dock, and many sport boats as well. Santa Margarita Island strikes a balance between woodland and marsh, and unless you visit during the rainiest months of the year, the trees seem to be winning. Santa Margarita Island trail In winter and spring though, you are bound to tread through some very sticky muddy. The trail curves left, revealing views to a newer housing development across the channel to the west. On my visit, a grassy nook on the left was like a little spring preview, with dozens of white milkmaids fluttering in the breeze (watch out for poison oak along the trail through here). The trail draws close to the shoreline, but then drifts back toward the trees. Much too soon, the trail runs out of real estate, and you'll find yourself back at the bridge at 0.30 mile. You can return to the trailhead, or turn left and ascend the obvious path uphill. Hilltop woods
      After just a few steps you'll enter a dappled forest of California bay and coast live oak, with a few other oaks mixed through the woods. One very gnarled coast live oak is adjacent to a swath of boulders. As I walked uphill a silently hawk flew out of its treetop hiding place, escaping to the north. The path easily ascends to the crest of the hill, where there are some grassy patches, but beware of poison oak. The trees block all views. When you're ready, retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Total distance: 0.37 mile
Last hiked: Wednesday, January 16, 2002