What’s Best: A grassy ridge with arm’s length looks at an astounding number of rare wildflowers, and a panorama of Tiburon.
Parking: From Hwy. 101 take Tiburon-E. Blithedale exit and proceed east on Tiburon Blvd. Follow Tiburon Blvd. for almost 3 miles and turn left on Lyford Dr, just past Needs Way. Follow Lyford up nearly to the top, jog left on Sugar Loaf Dr. and turn right on Heathcliff Dr. Park at MCOSD gate. Agency: Marin County Open Space District; Marin County Department of Parks
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Hike- Top of Old St. Hilarys Preserve (up to 1 ml.); Tiburon Uplands Nature Preserve to: nature loop (.75 ml.), or Old St. Hilarys Preserve (1.5 ml.)
From the Heathcliff Drive access, you are nearly at the Top of Old St. Hilarys, at the preserve’s northern boundary. Walk from the MCOSD gate along an undulating, grassy ridge top for about .5-mile. You’ll look down the tip of the Tiburon Peninsula toward Angel Island. The preserve hosts many species of wildflowers, two-thirds of them native to the Tiburon Peninsula, including the Tiburon Paintbrush and the rare Black Jewel, which blooms in early summer.
To Old St. Hilarys from the Tiburon Uplands Nature Preserve the best hike in this trailhead either drive through Tiburon and continue around the tip on Paradise Drive, or come in on the north, by using the Tamalpais Drive exit in Corte Madera and go east on Paradise Drive. The trailhead is near the Romberg Tiburon Center at 3150 Paradise Drive. The nonprofit center is dedicated to marine research and preserving the quality of San Francisco Bay. Park on the shoulder opposite the Romberg main gate and walk down the road less than .25-mile to a short flight of railroad-tie stairs.
The Tiburon Uplands nature loop starting out left, or clockwise takes you through a Sherwood Forest of ferns under a canopy of bay trees, gaining some 200 feet. After about .5-mile you come to a bench with a San Pablo Bay view. To the left of the bench is the trail to Old St. Hilarys, unmarked. You climb, through oak and grassland, another 250 feet and pop out near the top, not far from the Heathcliff Drive access. Backtrack down to the view bench and continue on the Nature Loop trail, on this drier-side exposure of the Tiburon Uplands Preserve.
Old St. Hilarys Church, of Carpenter Gothic design, was built as a Roman Catholic church in 1888. It is a modest structure that sits by itself on an open, 4-acre hillside a rare combination in Tiburon. To get there, head up Mar West Street, which is between Beach and Lyford off Tiburon Boulevard. Then turn left up short Esperanza Street to its end. A short trail leads from the church grounds up to the Vistazo West fire road. The Belvedere-Tiburon Landmarks Society opens the building, normally spring through early fall on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons.