What’s Best: Avoid busy weekends and feel far away at this close-in woodsy lake, tucked into the steep folds of Tamalpais a gateway for watershed hikes and bicycle rides.


Parking: From Hwy. 101, take Sir Francis Drake-San Anselmo exit and drive about 3 ml. to Lagunitas Rd. Turn left, continue 1 ml. through Ross to Phoenix Lake parking at end of Lagunitas Rd. Note: Different parking in Walk section. Agency: Marin Municipal Water District; Town of Ross

Built in 1905, Phoenix Lake is Marin’s second-oldest reservoir, some 35 years younger than Lake Lagunitas, which is just up the mountain. With an arboretumlike forest extending above it steep banks, Phoenix Lake has high aesthetic values, often appreciated by a variety of birds as well as fishermen. For all hikes, take the .25-mile road up from Natalie Greene Park, which lies at the entrance to MMWD lands; you can also take a beautiful trail that goes up the shaded creek. Both paths reach Phoenix Lake at the dam. For the Phoenix Lake shoreline loop, go left at the lake. You follow a road along the east shore for about .5-mile and then cut back to your right on the Williams Trail. This trail contours above the water amid redwoods, bay, madrone, and ferns for about 1.25 miles along the scalloped south shore of the lake. You then come to Phoenix Lake Fire Road, where you turn right and complete your circle of the shore.

To hike to Lake Lagunitas via Fish Gulch Trail a lake that can also be reached by car from Fairfax walk to your right on Phoenix Lake Road after reaching the dam. You’ll come to where Shaver Grade goes up to your right, Eldridge Grade to your left, and Fish Grade continues more-or-less straight. Go up Fish Grade, but bear right on Fish Gulch Trail that veers off it. Once you top out now more than 500 feet above Phoenix Lake pretty Lake Lagunitas is about .5-mile to your left. On the return trip, either retrace your route, or, for a loop, take Lakeview Road eastward from Lake Lagunitas. Lakeview drops to Eldridge Grade, where you can turn left and head down to Phoenix Lake. The Eldridge option will add another 1.5 miles to the hike.

The Marin Art and Garden Center is the historic 21.5-acre former estate of Ross pioneers George and Annie Worn. Parking: The entrance is across from the intersection of Sir Francis Drake and Lagunitas Road in Ross. The center’s well-known octagonal house was built in 1864. The gardens feature inviting benches surrounded by a leafy wonderland of blossoming shrubbery and a rainbow of flowers. On the grounds you’ll also find a library and museum,

Bike: Phoenix Lake is a popular biking trailhead, so much so that you should consider parking in Ross or Kentfield and biking to the lake, especially on weekends. The Corte Madera Creek bike path leads to Ross. One good loop from the lake is to Fairfax via Five Corners. This 8-mile run delivers a good slice of the Mount Tam watershed along with some pleasant Marin road biking. Head up to Phoenix Lake and bear right on Phoenix Lake Road. About .5-mile from the lake, go right on Shaver Grade, humping up several hundred feet in 1.25 miles to Five Corners. Go straight across at Five Corners, taking Deer Park Road another 1.25 miles down to Deer Park. Follow Porteous Avenue to Bolinas Road, and turn right to the town. In Fairfax, hang a right on Broadway. When you reach Center Boulevard, take Landsdale-San Anselmo Avenue to San Anselmo. Go through San Anselmo, turn right on Bolinas Avenue, and immediately left on Shady Lane, which takes you back to Lagunitas Road heading to Phoenix Lake. Lake Lagunitas loop, into the higher country above Phoenix Lake, is a 5-mile run with more than 600 feet of climbing. From Phoenix Lake parking, head up to the dam, keep right and after .5-mile take Shaver Grade up to Five Corners. At Five Corners, take Shaver, climbing to the left, until you hit Sky Oaks Road about 250 feet up over .5-mile. Go left on the paved to Southern Marin Line Road; to see the lake, continue down Sky Oaks Road and then double back. After about .25-mile down Southern Marin Line Road, veer left onto Fish Grade, which takes you very steeply down to Eldridge Grade. From Eldridge, take Phoenix Lake Road back to the lakeshore.

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