What’s Best: A large marsh, where the confluence of two creeks makes for one of Marin’s best places to explore wetland ecology.

Parking: From just north of San Rafael on Hwy. 101, take the Lucas Valley Rd.-Smith Ranch Rd. exit and drive 1 ml. east on Smith Ranch Rd. to park entrance. Park at Lot 2, to your right after passing entrance sign. Agency: Marin County Department of Parks


McInnis is a 450-acre park that includes a developed area with four playing fields, a golf course, a skate park, picnic areas, and four tennis courts, all surrounded by the wetlands of San Pablo Bay. Kayakers and canoeists can use a launch and see the place from the water. The park is adjacent to additional public marshlands, which combined make more than 800 acres of open space. For both McInnis Marsh hikes, head out on the road with the golf course’s trees on your left and the creek canal on your right. After about .75-mile, you reach a creek-side bench that overlooks the confluence of Gallinas Creek with its south fork. Mount Tam rises in the background.

For the McInnis loop, continue past the bench bearing right. In less than .25-mile, you come to a fork. Go right along the creek banks toward Santa Venetia Marsh. The trail then heads toward the bay for a while, but loops back well before you get to the shore. About .5-mile later, look to your left for a return trail back toward the bench and confluence. It’s difficult to get lost, since these routes are on levees.

Bike: You’d cover more than 8 miles of marshland levee exploring McInnis Park and the Las Gallinas ponds by bicycle a good way to get to know the area. A seldom-pedaled path is the one from the Las Gallinas ponds, at the north boundary of the park, to Hamilton Field. Water birds flourish at this water reclamation project.

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