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Angel Island Perimeter Hike

May 8, 2010 Leave a comment

View of San Francisco from Battery Drew -- by Joe Reifer
View of San Francisco from Battery Drew — by Joe Reifer

This hike circles the perimeter of Angel Island State Park, visiting many historical and natural points of interest, including the Angel Island Immigration Station, abandoned forts and batteries, and coves and beaches. Despite being a popular tourist destination, the trails and paths on Angel Island are usually not overcrowded, as many visitors spend their time on the island picnicking near the ferry cove or taking the tram tours. On clear days, you will have amazing views of San Francisco from the island.

Places visited: Angel Island State Park
Approximate length:
6 miles (see notes for variations)
Hiking time:
4-6 hours
Map:
Angel Island
Terrain:
Mostly flat with a couple of moderate hills; paved and dirt trails
Transit schedule:
Angel Island Tiburon Ferry, Blue & Gold Fleet Angel Island Ferry
Start and end point:
Ayala Cove Ferry Dock, Angel Island

Getting to the start point:

From San Francisco, take the Blue & Gold Fleet Angel Island Ferry from Pier 41 and the Embarcadero to Angel Island. You can take the Muni F-Market to Pier 41 or (my preference) walk from Embarcadero BART/Muni north on the Embarcadero to Pier 41.

From the Peninsula and South Bay, take Caltrain to Millbrae station. Transfer to BART, and take the San Francisco/East Bay train to Embarcadero station. From here, take the Muni F-Market to Pier 41 or (my preference) walk from Embarcadero BART/Muni north on the Embarcadero to Pier 41. Take the Blue & Gold Fleet Angel Island Ferry from Pier 41 and the Embarcadero to Angel Island.

From the East Bay, take BART to Embarcadero station. From here, take the Muni F-Market to Pier 41 or (my preference) walk from Embarcadero BART/Muni north on the Embarcadero to Pier 41. Take the Blue & Gold Fleet Angel Island Ferry from Pier 41 and the Embarcadero to Angel Island.

From the North Bay, take Golden Gate Transit 19 to the Tiburon Ferry Terminal. (Major transfer points for the 19 are Marin City, Strawberry Village, and the Seminary Drive Bus Pad.) Take the Angel Island Tiburon Ferry to Angel Island.

Notes:

  • Note that you will be taking the Angel Island Tiburon Ferry if you are traveling from Marin, and the Blue & Gold Fleet Angel Island Ferry if you are traveling from all other destinations. The Angel Island Tiburon Ferry operates more frequently, but it is inconvenient for car-free travelers coming from destinations other than Marin. If you are coming from San Francisco, it is possible take the Golden Gate Transit 10 or 70/80 and transfer at Marin City to the 19 to get to Angel Island Tiburon Ferry. If you are taking the Angel Island Tiburon Ferry, note that cash and checks only (no credit cards) are accepted; make sure to check the current fares ahead of time and bring enough cash.
  • This route is designed for those who want to avoid crowded trails, by taking the steep stairs to the perimeter road and doing a clockwise loop around the island. Taking the first ferry in the morning is also a great way to avoid the crowds and will allow you to explore the island without feeling rushed to make it back for the last ferry. The Angel Island ferries run on a more limited schedule from November through April; May-October will give you more options for your length of stay on the island.
  • You can vary this route in a few places by taking alternate trails or roads. From the Immigration Station, the East Bay View Trail connects with Fort McDowell; it could be muddy in the winter or after heavy rains. A steeper hike is the loop to Mt. Livermore at the center of the island. Although it would be possible to do this hike in combination with the perimeter loop, I recommend doing these as separate hikes so that you have plenty of time to explore along the way and stop to enjoy the views.
  • This route includes many great locations for lunch with a view. I recommend bringing a bag lunch, but you can also eat at the snack bar near the ferry.

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Bayside Marin: Las Gallinas Wildlife Ponds and McInnis County Park

February 19, 2010 2 comments

This bayside Marin hike is a nice option for winter, with plenty of birds and little mud, and also a great summer outing when the temperatures rise at inland parks. A variety of land uses can be observed on this tour, which passes wildlife ponds, sanitary district facilities, remnants of a Nike missile site, an old Air Force base, hunting blinds, an air strip, a skate park, golf course, and other recreational facilities.

Places visited: Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District Wildlife Ponds, McInnis County Park
Approximate Length: 9.5 miles
Hiking time: 5 hours
Map: None online; see Google Map below
Terrain: Mostly flat with a couple of easy climbs, dirt and gravel paths
Transit schedule: Golden Gate Transit 70/80
Start and end point: Lucas Valley Bus Pad

Getting to the start point:

  • From San Francisco, take Golden Gate Transit Route 70 or 80 bus from Mission Street and 1st Street (stop is right in front of the Walgreens on Mission). You can also pick up Route 70/80 at different points along its route along Mission, up Van Ness, and west on Lombard to the Golden Gate Bridge. Check the current San Francisco System map to see if there is a stop closer to you. Take the Route 70/80 to the Lucas Valley Bus Pad.
  • From the Peninsula and South Bay, take Caltrain to the final San Francisco stop. Walk on 3rd Street towards Market, turn right on Mission, to the Golden Gate Transit stop at Mission and 1st. Or, from BART, take a San Francisco BART train to Montgomery Street station. Exit the station, walk Market Street towards the water/ferry building, turn right on 1st Street, and walk one block to the corner of Mission and 1st. Take the Golden Gate Transit Route 70 or 80 bus from here (stop is right in front of the Walgreens on Mission) to the Lucas Valley Bus Pad.
  • From the East Bay, take a San Francisco BART train to Embarcadero station. Walk on Market Street away from the water/ferry building to 1st Street, turn left on 1st Street and walk one block to the corner of Mission and 1st. Take the Golden Gate Transit Route 70 or 80 bus from here (stop is right in front of the Walgreens on Mission) to the Lucas Valley Bus Pad.
  • From the North Bay: Take Golden Gate Transit Route 70, 71 or 80 from any of the stops along its route. If you are coming from Petaluma/Cotati/Rohnert Park/Santa Rosa, you will be taking Route 80. From locations in Novato, San Rafael, and Marin City, you can take any of the three buses. Get off at the Lucas Valley Bus Pad.

Notes:

  • This trip includes a full tour of Las Gallinas and McInnis Park. If you enjoy bird watching, you a may want to return and try different routes around the ponds. If you end up spending a lot of time at the ponds, you may with to skip the loop through McInnis Park. To do this after exiting McInnis across the stone bridge, just reverse the beginning of the directions and head back the way you came instead of turning in at the Bay Trail.
  • This hike can be done year-round, with winter being especially good for bird watching. There is one short section at the start of the Bay Trail around McInnis that can be muddy after heavy rains. However, the rest of the route is on graveled and/or raised levee paths that stay relatively dry.
  • This is a good hike for a picnic lunch; there are plenty of benches and picnic tables at different points in this route. There are a couple of restaurants on Smith Ranch Road, but otherwise not too many food options along the route.
  • Getting to the southbound Lucas Valley Bus Pad is a bit confusing due to poor signage. Be sure to read the end of the directions for this route so that you do not make any dangerous crossing of freeway on-ramps.

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Larkspur Loop: King Mountain, Dawn Falls Trail, Paths and Stairways

January 8, 2010 Leave a comment

This tour of Larkspur trails and open space offers plenty of variety, from paved bike and pedestrian paths, to a mostly flat and shady walk on the beautiful Dawn Falls Trail (in Blithedale Summit and Baltimore Canyon Open Space Preserves), to an invigorating climb up King Mountain. You will also travel through downtown Larkspur and climb a couple of Larkspur’s stairways.

Places visited: King Mountain, Blithedale Canyon, and Baltimore Canyon Open Space Preserves, Larkspur paths and stairways
Approximate Length: 9.25 miles (10 miles total with optional side trip)
Hiking Time: 5-6 hours
Map: Baltimore Canyon, Blithedale Summit and King Mountain Open Space Preserves (PDF), Larkspur Walk Bike path map (PDF)
Terrain: Mix of flat sections and moderate to challenging climbs, dirt trails and paved pathways and stairways.
Transit schedule: Golden Gate Transit Route 70/80, Larkspur Ferry
Start point: Golden Gate Transit 70/80 stop at Lucky Drive, Larkspur
End point: Larkspur Ferry Terminal

Getting to the starting point:

  • From San Francisco, take Golden Gate Transit Route 70 or 80 bus from Mission Street and 1st Street (stop is right in front of the Walgreens on Mission). You can also pick up Route 70/80 at different points along its route along Mission, up Van Ness, and west on Lombard to the Golden Gate Bridge. Check the current San Francisco System map to see if there is a stop closer to you. Take the Route 70/80 to the Lucky Drive Bus Pad in Larkspur.
  • From the Peninsula and South Bay, take Caltrain to the final San Francisco stop. Walk on 3rd Street towards Market, turn right on Mission, to the Golden Gate Transit stop at Mission and 1st. Or, from BART, take a San Francisco BART train to Montgomery Street station. Exit the station, walk Market Street towards the water/ferry building, turn right on 1st Street, and walk one block to the corner of Mission and 1st. Take the Golden Gate Transit Route 70 or 80 bus from here (stop is right in front of the Walgreens on Mission) to the Lucky Drive Bus Pad in Larkspur.
  • From the East Bay, take a San Francisco BART train to Embarcadero station. Walk on Market Street away from the water/ferry building to 1st Street, turn left on 1st Street and walk one block to the corner of Mission and 1st. Take the Golden Gate Transit Route 70 or 80 bus from here (stop is right in front of the Walgreens on Mission) to the Lucky Drive Bus Pad in Larkspur.
  • From the North Bay: Take Golden Gate Transit Route 70, 71 or 80 from any of the stops along its route. If you are coming from Petaluma/Cotati/Rohnert Park/Santa Rosa, you will be taking Route 80. From locations in Novato, San Rafael, and Marin City, you can take any of the three buses.

Notes:

  • The open space trail map for this hike is useful, but also somewhat confusing due to missing street-trail connections on the map. Likely these details are not shown because of limited or non-existent street parking in the surrounding neighborhoods. I recommend printing and bringing the two maps listed above, and using them in conjunction with the directions and Google Map below.
  • Food is available in downtown Larkspur along Magnolia. You will be on sections of Magnolia at two points in your route, so feel free to wander further down the street and then return to the route. Restaurants can also be found at the Larkspur Landing shopping center across from the ferry terminal (take the overpass to reach the center). The shady Dawn Falls Trail has some spots to stop and eat a bag lunch, particularly along the optional sidetrip section.
  • While most ferries from Larkspur go directly to San Francisco’s Ferry Building, note that the final ferry on the weekends (at 5:30 pm) makes a stop to pick up passengers in Sausalito. This ferry trip is quite a bit longer than the others, so you may wish to plan your outing so that you can catch an earlier ferry. If you miss the final ferry or would prefer to take Golden Gate Transit on the return trip as well, you can make the short walk back to the Lucky Drive Bus Pad. The path you want is marked in purple as “18” on the Larkspur path map; you will see a sign for the turn along the final path to the Larkspur Ferry.

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Headlands for the Holidays (and Sundays): Rodeo Beach to Tennessee Beach

November 20, 2009 1 comment

This hike takes advantage of the Muni 76 bus, which runs from San Francisco to the Marin Headlands on major holidays and on Sundays. Starting at Rodeo Beach and Fort Cronkhite, this hike’s route travels up and out of the Rodeo Valley on the Coastal Trail and down into Tennessee Valley to Tennessee Beach and back. Optional side trips offer additional views on this scenic coastal hike.

Places visited: Rodeo Beach, Tennessee Beach (both part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area)
Approximate Length: 7.5 miles (8-8.5 with optional side trips to the SF-88 site and to Tennessee Point)
Hiking Time: 4-5 hours
Map: Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Marin Headlands
Terrain: Paved and dirt trails, some steep sections
Transit schedule: Muni 76 Marin Headlands
Start and end point: Muni 76 stop, Fort Cronkhite
Getting to the start point:

  • From San Francisco, catch Muni 76 anywhere along its route through San Francisco. The 76 route map shows the connections with numerous other Muni bus and Metro lines. Get off at the final stop in the Marin Headlands, which is in the Fort Cronkhite parking lot.
  • From the Peninsula and South Bay, take Caltrain north to its final stop at Fourth Street and King Street in San Francisco. Catch the Muni 76 bus outside the Caltrain depot. Get off at the final stop in the Marin Headlands, which is in the Fort Cronkhite parking lot.
  • From the East Bay, take a San Francisco BART train to Embarcadero station. Exit the station on the south side of Market Street. Turn left at Fremont Street, and cross the street to the Muni bus island to catch Muni 76. Get off at the final Muni 76 stop in the Marin Headlands, which is in the Fort Cronkhite parking lot.
  • From North Bay, take Golden Gate Transit 10 or 70/80 southbound over the Golden Gate Bridge. Get off at the toll plaza stop. Head down and underneath the toll plaza, and up to the transit stop on the east side of the bridge. Take the Muni 76 to its final stop in the Marin Headlands, which is in the Fort Cronkhite parking lot. If you want to avoid going over the bridge and back, another option for Golden Gate Transit 10 riders or those in south part of Sausalito would be to walk through Fort Baker and take the trail underneath the bridge to the west-side parking lot, then continue a short distance to the Muni 76 stop at Conzelman Road.

Notes:

  • The Muni 76 line runs only on Sundays and on the following holidays: New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, July Fourth, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I recommend taking one of the first two buses (arriving around 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.) so that you have plenty of time to spend exploring and relaxing at the beaches. The last bus leaves at 6:30 p.m.; there are no other nearby transit options, so plan on being back in time if you do not want a long hike back to San Francisco or Sausalito! Also note that based on my experience and that of other frequent Muni 76 riders, this bus may not be running on schedule. Luckily, it is probably one of the most scenic places you’ll have to wait for the bus; but be prepared to wait awhile and remember to bring warm layers on this trip.
  • Bring food with you on this hike, as there is nowhere to buy food near the trailhead. If you are connecting to the Muni 76 from BART, you could walk to the Ferry Building first for some food; many of the other take-out restaurants in the Financial District are closed on the weekends. If you are connecting to Muni 76 from Caltrain, there is a Safeway half a block east on King Street.
  • This hike can be done year-round, but if it has rained expect some mud on the Coastal Trail between Wolf Ridge and the Tennessee Valley Trail. On sunny days, the views are excellent on this hike. On the other hand, the beaches will be less crowded on colder and foggier days.
  • This is a well-signed hike. Despite the posted warning signs and the past injuries and deaths, you may see hikers off the trail in the cliff-side areas between Tennessee Point and the Fort Cronkhite. I highly recommend staying on the main trails here and heeding the warning signs.
  • If you are interested in military history, you may wish to plan your trip on the first Sunday of the month when Battery Townsley is open to the public. On other days, you can use the National Park Service’s Fort Cronkhite History Walk brochure to take a self-guided tour of the grounds near the bus stop.

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Categories: Hike, Muni, North Bay

Tiburon Tour: Ring Mountain and the Tiburon Peninsula

October 16, 2009 Leave a comment

Ring Mountain by Jennifer English

This route takes you through Ring Mountain Open Space Preserve (part of the Marin County Open Space District) and adjacent Tiburon open space for unique views of Angel Island, San Francisco, and the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. After a hike up and down Ring Mountain, the route flattens out and travels along the Tiburon bicycle/pedestrian path past Blackie’s Pasture and Richardson Bay Park to its end point at the Tiburon ferry terminal. Along the route, you will also have a chance to sample a couple of the stairways in Tiburon’s city path system.

Places visited: Ring Mountain Open Space Preserve, Tiburon bicycle-pedestrian path, Tiburon town paths
Approximate Length: 6.75 miles (8 miles total with optional side trip)
Hiking Time: 3-4 hours (4-5 hours with optional side trip)
Map: Ring Mountain Open Space Preserve
Terrain: Uphill climb on road and trail to Ring Mountain; flat, paved route along the Tiburon Peninsula.
Transit schedule: Golden Gate Transit Route 10, Blue & Gold Fleet Tiburon ferry
Start point: Golden Gate Transit stop at Strawberry Village (Reed and Belvedere)
End point: Tiburon Ferry Terminal
Getting to the starting point:

  • From San Francisco, take Golden Gate Transit Route 10 bus from Mission Street and 1st Street (stop is right in front of the Walgreens on Mission). You can also pick up Route 10 at different points along its route along Mission, up Van Ness, and west on Lombard to the Golden Gate Bridge. Check the current San Francisco System map to see if there is a stop closer to you. Take the Route 10 bus to its end point at Strawberry Village.
  • From¬† the Peninsula and South Bay, take Caltrain to the final San Francisco stop. Walk on 3rd Street towards Market, turn right on Mission, to the Golden Gate Transit stop at Mission and 1st. Or, from BART, take a San Francisco BART train to Montgomery Street station. Exit the station, walk Market Street towards the water/ferry building, turn right on 1st Street, and walk one block to the corner of Mission and 1st. Take the Golden Gate Transit Route 10 bus from here (stop is right in front of the Walgreens on Mission) to its end point at Strawberry Village.
  • From the East Bay, take a San Francisco BART train to Embarcadero station. Walk on Market Street away from the water/ferry building to 1st Street, turn left on 1st Street and walk one block to the corner of Mission and 1st. Take the Golden Gate Transit Route 10 bus from here (the stop is right in front of the Walgreens on Mission) to its end point at Strawberry Village.
  • From the North Bay: Coming from Sausalito and Marin City, take Golden Gate Transit Route 10 north to its end point in Strawberry Village (Reed and Belvedere). From San Rafael and Mill Valley, take Golden Gate Transit Route 17 to the Strawberry Village stop. From downtown Tiburon, take Golden Gate Transit Route 19 to Strawberry Village. From San Anselmo, Ross, Kentfield, and Larkspur, take Golden Gate Transit Route 22 south to Strawberry Village.

Notes:

  • In hot weather, get an early start for this hike. Much of Ring Mountain is open and exposed; the second part of the hike along the Tiburon Peninsula is shadier and cooler.
  • This hike, which starts at a Golden Gate Transit stop and ends at the Tiburon Ferry, allows you to hike one way without back-tracking on the same route. It is also less expensive than taking the Tiburon Ferry in both directions.
  • The start point for this hike is at Strawberry Village, which provides the opportunity for getting food before starting the hike. The options here (casual/to-go restaurants and a Safeway) are less expensive than the tourist-oriented area of Tiburon at the end of the hike. Particularly if you are on a budget, I recommend eating here or taking some food to go for the hike. Other food options (small grocery, deli, etc.) can be found along Tiburon Blvd. after you emerge from the trail and begin walking along street to the end point of the hike. Snacks and beverages are available aboard the ferry.
  • The optional side trip is scenic and not very long, but you head downhill a ways first and then have to climb back up again to fire road. If it is a hot day or you are tired, save this side trip for another day.
  • If you have the time and energy at the end of the hike, you can wander near the ferry and see a number of historical buildings. Download the Tiburon Walking Tour map ahead of time to take on this trip. On the other hand you may just wish to relax at the park near the ferry landing.
  • The Tiburon ferry ride is longer on the weekends than during the weekend commute. Discount coupon booklets cannot be used on the weekend. See the end of the route directions for instructions on getting back to San Francisco, the East Bay, and the Peninsula/South Bay from the ferry.

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Secret Sausalito Stairways to the Marin Headlands

September 11, 2009 8 comments

Marin Headlands -- by Jen English

This hike takes you from the Sausalito Ferry terminal, up some of Sausalito’s hidden stairways, and into the Marin Headlands for a loop around Gerbode Valley. This is a great route for observing the hawk migration in the Fall, and for viewing wildflowers. An optional side trip to Hill 88 provides a look at the remains of Nike missile site radar towers left over from the Cold War and — in clear weather — amazing views.

Places visited: Marin Headlands (Golden Gate National Recreation Area), Sausalito stairways
Approximate Length:
9.7 miles (11.5 miles, with the side trip to Hill 88; shorter 3.5 mile option without the Headlands loop)
Hiking Time:
5-7 hours
Map:
Sausalito stairways route, Marin Headlands
Terrain:
Stairways: steep ups and downs; trails: mix of steady uphill and downhill, with some sections of level hiking.
Transit schedule:
Golden Gate Ferry, San Francisco – Sausalito
Start and end point:
Sausalito Ferry Terminal, Humboldt and Anchor Streets, Sausalito.
Getting to the starting point:

  • From San Francisco, take any of the many Muni buses servicing downtown San Francisco and get off at its terminus at Market Street (anywhere from 1st Street to the Ferry Plaza), or take BART or Muni Metro to Embarcadero station. Depending on where you get off, walk to the Ferry Building on Embarcadero at the foot of Market Street.¬† Head through the ferry building, purchase your ticket at the terminal, and take the ferry to Sausalito. (If you live near or are staying closer to Pier 39, Blue and Gold Fleet also has a ferry service to Sausalito.)
  • From the Peninsula and South Bay, take Caltrain to the Millbrae station. Transfer to BART heading into San Francisco. Get off at Embarcadero station, exit the station, and head 3 blocks down Market Street and across the Embarcadero to the Ferry Building. Purchase your ferry ticket at the terminal, and take the ferry to Sausalito.
  • From the East Bay, take BART to San Francisco. Get off at Embarcadero station, exit the station, head down Market Street to the Ferry Building. Purchase your ferry ticket at the terminal, and take the ferry to Sausalito.
  • From the North Bay (on weekends) take Golden Gate Transit (GGT) Route 22 (starts at the San Rafael Transit Center at 3rd and Hetherton, a transfer point for other GGT routes) or Route 10 (starts at Strawberry Village at Reed and Belvedere) to the Sausalito Ferry Terminal.

Notes:

  • The San Francisco Ferry Building has many food stalls, and even more food options on Saturday mornings with its large farmer’s market. Arrive early if you would like to shop for food before taking the ferry to Sausalito. Sausalito itself has many restaurants, delis, and other places to purchase food. Snacks and (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) beverages are sold on the ferry.
  • To allow plenty of time for this hike on a weekend day, I highly recommend taking the first ferry from San Francisco to Sausalito, which (as of this writing) arrives in Sausalito at 11:10 a.m. The last ferry leaves Sausalito for San Francisco at 6:30 p.m. There is reduced ferry service on certain holidays, so be sure to check the schedule if you are planning a trip on a holiday. If you would like to get an earlier start for this hike, take the Golden Gate Transit’s Route 10 bus from San Francisco; it has arrival times at the Sausalito ferry terminal just after 8, 9, and 10 a.m. on weekends.
  • If for some reason you miss the last ferry back to San Francisco, don’t panic! You can either catch the last Route 10 bus leaving a half hour later from Bridgeway just outside the ferry terminal, or (if you’re really late or staying for dinner) GGT 70/80 leaving up until 11:50 pm on weekends.
  • There are no restrooms at the Morning Sun trailhead or along the Headlands trails on this hike. Plan on using the restroom on the ferry or a public restroom in Sausalito.
  • Sausalito has other stairways beyond the ones described in this route. I have not yet located an accurate and complete map of the stairways, but you can explore on your own very easily without getting too lost (particularly because you can spot the water from most places up in the hills). The book Exploring Sausalito’s Paths and Walkways (Dorothy Gibson) provides nice details about the paths, but is out-of-print and difficult to find.

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