What’s Best: A wealth of flora and fauna on this 135-acre oak knoll that rises from the wetlands a quick getaway for an afternoon run or sunrise hike.
Parking: From Hwy. 101 in Novato, take the DeLong Ave. exit. Go west on De Long, toward Novato, turn right at light on Redwood Blvd. Follow Redwood .5-mile and turn right on Olive Ave. Follow Olive for 1.5 ml. and turn right on Deer Island Ln. Park at end at MCOSD gate. Agency: Marin County Open Space District
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Hike: Deer Island perimeter loop (2 ml.); Deer Island crest loop (1.75 ml.)
Deer Island truly was surrounded by water the flood plane of Novato Creek and the high tides of San Pablo Bay until the late 1800s. Novato’s marshlands were dried out by a series of dikes and canals, and made into pasturelands. Some of the old structures around the perimeter of the island date from the dairy days. A host of ground critters squirrels, raccoons, skunks, coyotes are common in the preserve, joining the island’s namesake.
For the Deer Island perimeter loop, start to your right from the MCOSD gate, which is near some unappealing warehouse buildings. Pass the De Borba Trail on the left and, after about .25-mile, pass a spur trail on your right that goes out to a knoll. The perimeter trail continues at the toe of the oak-studded hills.
For the Deer Island crest loop, start to your right from the MCOSD gate, but take De Borba Trail that goes up and to your left after a short distance. After about .5-mile you reach a junction with the Arnold Baptiste Trail a short spur to your right that runs along the crest of the island. The De Borba Trail switchbacks down to join the perimeter trail. A pond, near the eucalyptus grove at the base of the trail, is an active area for wildlife viewing,. Be Aware: Poison oak does well on Deer Island. Also, avoid unofficial trails in this small preserve, as erosion is harming flora.