What’s Best: A long contour road along the top of a lush, forested canyon; or trails to vistas from the green shoulders of Tamalpais.
Parking: From Hwy. 101, take Sir Francis Drake-San Anselmo exit and go 2 ml. to Kentfield. Turn left on College Ave. and after less than .5-mile, turn right on Woodland Ave. For Northridge hike: From Woodland turn right on Goodhill Rd, follow up for a long mile, turn left on Crown Rd. and follow to end Crown becomes Phoenix Rd. Park on street at
MCOSD gate. For Baltimore Canyon contour hikes: From Woodland turn left on Evergreen Dr, follow for about a mile, and turn left on Crown Rd. Park at end at MCOSD gate. Agency: Marin County Open Space and Marin Municipal Water districts
Northridge to Knob Hill (2.75 ml.); Baltimore Canyon to: Southern Hike: Marin Line contour (up to 5.75 ml.), or Hoo-Koo-E-Koo-Blithedale Ridge loop (3.5 ml.)
Acquired over an 11-year span, the 196-acre Baltimore Canyon Open Space Preserve includes Northridge, the forked spur of Mount Tam that separates Mill Valley from Larkspur and Corte Madera.
Northridge hike: The Knob Hill hike begins from an appealing trailhead under redwoods, already at 600-feet in elevation. You have a choice of routes, which join about .5-mile into the hike. On your left, through the MCOSD gate is the Windy Ridge Trail, more shaded and featuring a redwood forest. On your right the recommended route is the Indian Fire Road, through the MMWD gate. With steep Williams Canyon, down to your right, the Indian road rises steeply, in a series of ramps and benches. You come to the Blithedale Ridge Road after about 1.25 hard miles. For Knob Hill, with San Francisco views as well as looks into Mill Valley, go left on the Blithedale Ridge Road. The hill will be to the right of the trail within about .25-mile after the junction, just after passing the Hoo-Koo-E-Koo Road. More Stuff: You’ll see Eldridge Grade across the canyon, making a rising lateral toward Tam, as you walk up Indian Fire Road. To get to the grade, keep right at the Blithedale Road junction. Go left on Eldridge to reach Tamalpais; to the right takes you down to Phoenix Lake.
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Near Pine Mountain
Baltimore Canyon hikes: For both hikes, from the lower Crown Road parking, head through a MCOSD gate. For the Southern Marin Line contour an unflattering name for this delightful curving path through redwood, maple, and madrone forest just keep on truckin’. The 2.75-mile course of the road sweeps around the top of Baltimore Canyon and ends at Sunrise Lane in Corte Madera. In all but the driest time of the year, water ripples and spews down rocky fern gardens at several places, as the road dips in and out along the steep shoulders of the ridge.
For the Hoo-Koo-E-Koo-Blithedale Ridge loop, which takes you up and back down about 175 feet, you need to go right on the Hoo-Koo-E-Koo Trail shortly after starting out. In thick forest, the trail named after a band of Miwok notches up a bit and then contours. In about a mile, you reach the Blithedale Ridge Road, with classic looks at Tamalpais over chaparral that will be blooming in the spring. Turn left on the road, go for a little less than .5-mile, and take a left again, in a shaded saddle, on the H Line Road. This fire road makes a switchback down and joins the Southern Marin Line Road near a small pumping station. Turn left and take the meandering road back about 1.25 miles to the trailhead.
Bike: Only thunder-thighs mountain bikers can hang in the pedals heading up Indian Fire Road. You can ride to connect with Eldridge Grade and then go right down to Phoenix Lake. From Phoenix Lake, you need to go right at Ross toward the College of Marin, and then take Woodland back up to trailhead parking. The Southern Marin Line Road is an excellent family ride of almost 6 miles.