Terra Linda/Sleepy Hollow Divide
Open Space Preserve (north section),
Marin County Open Space District,
Marin County
In brief:
Traveling trails tucked between residential neighborhoods, this under 5 mile hike makes for good exercise if you live close by.

Distance, category, and difficulty
This 4.4 mile out and back hike is easy, with about 900 feet in elevation change. Trailhead elevation is about 180 feet. The featured hike climbs to about 540 feet, descends to 480 feet, climbs to a high point of 880 feet, then returns on the same route back to the trailhead.

Mostly exposed.

Trail traffic

Trail surfaces
Dirt fire roads and a paved fire road.

Hiking time
2 hours.

Good anytime.

Getting there
From US 101 in Marin County, exit #455 (Freitas Parkway). Drive west on Freitas Parkway about 1.2 miles, to the open space gate at the end of the road.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:

GPS coordinates* for trailhead:
Latitude 38 0'26.04"N
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Pay phone, gas, restaurants, and stores in Terra Linda. No camping.

Trailhead details:
Lots of side of street parking at the edge of a residential neighborhood. No parking or entrance fees. No restrooms, drinking water, or maps. No designated handicapped parking, and trails are not wheelchair suitable. There is no direct public transportation to the preserve, but Golden Gate Transit buses 37 and 38 run along Freitas Parkway.

Most trails are multi-use. Some trails are 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
MCOSD's Terra Linda/Sleepy Hollow Divide page

Map Choices:
• 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 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.
• Hiking Marin by Don and Kay Martin (order this book from Amazon.com) has a detailed map and brief preserve descriptions.

Terra Linda/Sleepy Hollow Divide (north) in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.

View photos from this hike.

Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

Terra Linda/Sleepy Hollow Divide Open Space Preserve is a series of rolling hills arched around San Rafael's Terra Linda neighborhood. Trailhead A short stretch of road prevents a continuity between the northern and southern segments, which accentuates the differences between with sections. The southern parcel abuts Sorich Park, and features a few trails and 3 main fire roads. Since the area is surrounded by houses, and the trails are short, hiking options are limited. The northern area is bigger and has an expansive feel, perhaps because the far reaches of the preserve border large private ranches.
     The preserve is a great daily destination for locals seeking a place to run or walk their dogs. Except for a very brief 0.7 mile mini loop there aren't any loop possibilities, but the out-and-back options are pleasing, especially in late winter and spring when wildflowers abound.
     Begin at the open space gate, on Mission Pass Bike Path. Bike pathThis wide paved fire road provides an outstanding cycling connection between Terra Linda and Sleepy Hollow. Initially flat, the bike path winds through coast live oak, California bay, toyon, young valley oak, coyote brush, and buckeye. Shortcuts, which are common throughout this preserve, depart off the sides of the trail, but please stick to the pavement. The multi-use trail takes a sharp turn left and climbs to a crest and junction at 0.14 mile. Turn right.
     Terra Linda Ridge Fire Road ascends briefly on pavement, which tapers off at a little hilltop. Plum and other planted trees mark an old settlement on the left. Now a broad dirt route, the multi-use fire road follows the ridgeline through grassland dotted with fennel and yellow star thistle. Terra Linda Ridge Fire RoadTraffic noise from US 101 and the racket of buzzing chainsaws, leaf blowers, and lawn mowers from surrounding neighborhoods are omnipresent. There are nice views south to Mount Tam on the left. As the grade picks up slightly, ascending downslope from a coast live oak-topped hillside, the trail becomes rocky. Look for an outcrop on the right, which sheds rocks like a stone waterfall. Coyote brush, poison oak, valley oak, California bay, and coast live oak are common along the trail, but you might also notice a few clumps of sagebrush and monkeyflower. Buckwheat blooms in this part of the preserve in summer. At 0.61 mile, just past a commemorative plaque, you'll reach an unsigned Y junction. Bear right to remain on Terra Linda Ridge Fire Road.
     The trail climbs easily, skirting a hill. Stands of coast live oak, California bay, and valley oak huddle together on both sides of the trail. A descent on Terra Linda Ridge Fire RoadSeveral native plants produce red berries in this pocket of woods throughout the year-- you might see marble-sized madrone berries in late winter, little jewel-like berries dangling from honeysuckle vines in autumn, and masses of festive bright toyon berries around Christmas.One non-native shrub, cotoneaster, puts forth red berries as well, trying to blend in. Emerging from the tree cover, the trail levels out on the ridge again. At 0.92 mile, unsigned Irving Fire Road veers off to the left. Continue straight.
     On a clear day, you can enjoy views north of Big Rock Ridge, and west to Loma Alta. The trail takes a little dip, climbs slightly, then plummets downhill at a moderate grade.At 1.20 miles, a fire road heads out of the preserve on the left, and a shortcut path breaks off to the right. Continue straight downhill.Luiz Ranch Fire Road
     The descent tapers off quickly, and the fire road curves around a small hill and level out. At 1.33 miles you'll reach yet another unsigned junction. From here Terra Linda Ridge Fire Road heads downhill to its terminus at Lucas Valley Road. On a breezy day you might understand why I think of this spot as "Windy Gap." Turn left.
     Luiz Ranch Fire Road begins a moderate ascent. A fire through here in 2002 was thankfully extinguished while still fairly small, but quite a few oaks and shrubs are charred on both sides of the trail.The fire road, open to hikers, equestrians, and cyclists, climbs steadily through grassland along the ridge. A few rocky outcrops just off the left side of this dead-end, lightly used trail make nice, peaceful rest stops. Woods on Irving Fire RoadUnfortunately the surrounding low-lying hills fail to muffle noise from adjacent neighborhoods. Look for California poppy, wild mint, and California fuchsia blooming in summer. At 2.08 miles the trail ends at the fenced preserve boundary. If you make it this far, this is the turnaround point. Retrace your steps back to the junction with Irving Fire Road, at 3.25 miles, then turn right.
     Another multi-use fire road, the trail ascends through grassland to an oak-topped hill, then bends left and descends. Look for deer, coyote, and bobcat prints on the trail. A number of shortcuts depart on the left, but since none of them are as wide as the fire road it's easy to follow the correct route. After a pass through a little section shaded by California bay and coast live oak, the trail emerges in grassland, then reaches an unsigned junction at 3.54 miles. Turn left.Sleepy Hollow Fire Road
     Still descending at an easy pace, the fire road drifts through coyote-brush dotted grassland where you might see scrub jays. At 3.65 miles, this spur fire road ends at an unsigned junction with a fire road and several paths. Turn left.
     Since the multi-use trail traverses property running above the Sleepy Hollow neighborhood, it's fittingly named Sleepy Hollow Fire Road. The trail drops through grassland, looping around the western side of a hilltop you will have bypassed earlier on Terra Linda Ridge Fire Road. At 3.74 miles, the fire road ends at a previously encountered junction. Turn right onto Terra Linda Ridge Fire Road and retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Total distance: 4.43 miles
Last hiked: Thursday, December 5, 2002