This easy 2 mile hike above San Rafael neighborhoods is great for locals
but there are plenty of bigger, more scenic trails just a few miles away.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 2 mile loop hike is easy. Trailhead elevation is around
150 feet and the preserve's high point is about 650 feet; total elevation
change for the hike is about 450 feet. There is one very steep fire road,
but most trails are well-graded.
Dirt fire roads and trails.
From US 101 in Marin County, exit San Anselmo/Sir Francis Drake. Drive west
on Sir Francis Drake about 3.5 miles, to the junction with Red Hill. Turn
left to remain on Sir Francis Drake, and continue west about 0.5 mile, to
San Francisco Boulevard. Turn right on San Francisco Boulevard and drive
about 0.7 mile to the trailhead at the end of the road.
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:
Pay phone, gas, restaurants, and stores about 1 mile away on Sir Francis
Drake. No camping.
Parking at a lot on the edge of San Anselmo's Sorich Park. A dirt lot provides
room for about 12 vehicles, with more side of street parking nearby in a
residential neighborhood. No parking or entrance fees. No restrooms or maps.
There's a drinking fountain and picnic tables in Sorich Park. No designated
handicapped parking, and trails are not wheelchair suitable. There is no
direct public transportation, but several Golden Gate Transit buses service
Sir Francis Drake, and it's a short and easy walk from there to the trailhead.
Most trails are multi-use. One trail is closed to cyclists. 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 field office 415-499-6405
Terra Linda/Sleepy Hollow Divide page
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Download the pdf
map from the MCOSD website.
Trails of Northeast Marin County has a detailed map of the
preserve (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.
Hiking Marin by Don and Kay Martin (order
this book from Amazon.com) has a detailed map and brief preserve descriptions.
View photos from the featured
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
great to visit the top
of Mount Tamalpais, but where do you go when you desire to look at, rather
than from Tam? The hilly preserves of the Marin County Open Space District
provide miles of trail access to grassland and oak savanna, as well as
excellent views of the north bay's tallest peaks and ridges. From the
rolling hillsides of Terra Linda/Sleepy Hollow Divide Open Space Preserve,
a hiker has many opportunities to admire Tam (to the south) and Big Rock
Ridge (to the north). You can also catch glimpses of Giacomini Open Space
Preserve (Pine Mountain), San Pedro Mountain, the bay, and Mount Diablo.
Terra Linda/Sleepy Hollow Divide Open Space
Preserve has a northern and southern section.
Although you can walk from one parcel to the other, you must do so (briefly)
on the street, for the two sections are not connected by trails. The northern
section is larger, but offers no substantial loop
hikes. Hikers can start at trailheads at the end of Manuel Frietas Parkway
or Lucas Valley Road, and trek out-and-back on Terra Linda Ridge Fire
Road. In the southern section, you can take advantage of neighboring Sorich
Ranch Park, and hike a pleasant but short two mile loop through Terra
Linda/Sleepy Hollow Divide Open Space Preserve and the primitive San Anselmo
The preserve's characteristic oak-studded
grassland makes it enjoyable in all seasons. In the hot days of summer
frequently breezes carry cool air east from the ocean to the ridgetops.
The eucalyptus forests in the preserve's lowlands are particularly scenic
in August, when those woods are lit up with flaming red-tinged poison
oak leaves. Visit in late winter and spring for lush green hillsides
Start at the edge of the parking lot
and walk east, through a bare flat zone to the signed start of Sorich
Park Trail (although the name is not shown on the trail post). Open
to hikers and equestrians only, the narrow path angles along a hillside,
and begins to gently ascend up the side of a eucalyptus-lined canyon.
Poison oak is common in the understory. Ignore the many shortcut trails
that head straight uphill to the left. A small footbridge crosses a seasonal
creek where lizards scamper in dry months. Blackened tree trunks are evidence
of a past fire. At 0.32 mile, Sorich Park Trail ends at an unsigned (in
this direction) junction. To the right the gated fire road leaves the
preserve, heading through Mt. Tamalpais Cemetery and ending at 5th Street.
Turn left onto Cemetery Fire Road.
The broad multi-use trail climbs
easily through eucalyptus, California bay, coast live oak, toyon, and
poison oak. Switchbacks make the climb nearly effortless on this uncharacteristic
fire road. As you gain elevation, you'll have sweeping views south to
Mount Tamalpais. At 0.71 mile, you'll reach a multi-trail junction only
partially signed. Sun Valley Trail (the first path to the right) sets
off through grassland to the south, while a path continues straight (to
the right of the water tanks), heading to Ridgewood Drive. The fire road
curves left but is unsigned. Bear left to remain on Cemetery Fire Road.
After a few feet (at 0.72 mile) an unsigned
connector path to Ridgewood Fire Road breaks off to the right. You can
continue on Cemetery Fire Road or take Ridgewood Fire Road (Cemetery Fire
Road feeds into Ridgewood before long), but Cemetery
is lined on both sides with eucalyptus, while Ridgewood offers northern
views. Turn right on the connector and then turn left onto Ridgewood
Level Ridgewood Fire Road, open to hikers,
equestrians, and cyclists, heads northwest. The last of the eucalyptus
forest blocks views to the left, but on the right there are unobstructed
views north to Big Rock Ridge, and east to San Pedro Mountain, the blue-roofed
Marin Civic Center, and the bay. Some coyote brush and a few shrubby oaks
dot the grassland, which is scored with deerpaths and a trail that drifts
downhill and out of the preserve. Cemetery Fire Road enters from the left
at 0.92 mile, and soon after, at 1.00 mile, a trail shoots uphill to the
right at an unsigned junction. Stay to the left on Ridgewood Fire Road.
Ridgewood Fire Road undulates gently, then
flattens out again. The hillside
drops away on the left, and some paths have been worn into the grassland,
creating short but steep (and unsanctioned) routes back to the trailhead
at Sorich Ranch Park. Continue on Ridgewood Fire Road to an unsigned junction
with a legal shortcut path on the left, at 1.23 miles. Turn left.
The unnamed path skirts the hilltop as
it runs between Ridgewood and Tomahawk Fire Roads. Coast live oak, as
well as clumps of sagebrush and yellow star thistle line the moderately
steep narrow trail. Watch your step, but take the time to enjoy views
of Mount Tamalpais and Pine Mountain. At 1.42 miles, the trail ends at
an unsigned junction with Tomahawk Fire Road. Turn left and
after just a few steps (at 1.47 miles), turn left again, onto
officially unnamed) Sorich Fire Road.
The multi-use fire road plummets downhill
to the south, leaving the open space preserve and returning to San Anselmo's
Sorich Ranch Park. Coyote brush gives way to graceful coast live and valley
oak. The parking lot is visible downslope to the left, as well as the
eucalyptus swathed hillsides visited via Sorich Park Trail, Cemetery Fire
Road, and Ridgewood Fire Road. The descent is over quickly, as you return
to residential San Anselmo. Sorich Fire Road adopts a more forgiving pace,
turns sharply left, and dissolves into a narrow footpath. Bear right
at an unsigned junction with pavement (private property) and descend
to San Francisco Boulevard on a short stretch of steps. At the bottom
(at 1.86 miles), turn left and walk on San Francisco Boulevard through
Sorich Ranch Park to the trailhead parking lot.
Total distance: 1.95 miles
Last hiked: Friday, July 27, 2001