Wha’ts Best: The top of “Old Baldy,” combined with a luncheon date and a stroll of the town’s antique shops and parklike theological seminary.
Parking: From Hwy. 101, take San Anselmo-Sir Francis Drake exit and go about 4 ml, through Kentfield. Turn left at Bolinas Ave. Then make immediate right on San Anselmo Ave, drive through town and park near Tamalpais Ave. Note: Additional parking in hiking descriptions. Agency:
Hike: Bald Hill from: Redwood Road (1 ml.), or Oak Avenue (1.25 ml.)
Bald Hill Open Space, a 32-acre preserve, was acquired by the district over a three-year period, beginning in 1994, thus preventing trophy homes from overtaking San Anselmo’s landmark hill. Bald Hill can also be accessed from Phoenix Lake, TH47, and Deer Park, TH45. Below are shorter hikes from above San Anselmo.
Redwood Road provides a direct route through ferns and redwoods on a short, very steep trail. Parking: Head toward Fairfax on San Anselmo Avenue. Veer left on Center Boulevard and turn left at Redwood Road. Head up the narrow, winding road for nearly a mile. Just past 390 Redwood, on a bend, look for a MCOSD gate on your right. Begin walking up a steep hillside on a little used trail under a canopy of bay, oak, and redwoods. You emerge at Worn Springs Road and proceed left. You’ll enter MMWD lands, climbing and breaking into the open. Baldy is a 1,141-foot grassy mound either tawny or Irish green, depending on the season. Once you’ve been up Bald Hill, you’ll notice it from all over Marin.
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The Oak Avenue access is near Redwood, but via an easy, connecting road rather than the steep trail. Parking: Continue on funky Redwood Road, as described above. After rounding a couple of sharp inside bends, turn right on funkier Gerlach Road, a short connector. Then make a right on Oak Avenue. You might want to drive to the top to check out the parking, which is prohibited by private drives in places, and then double-back down and park lawfully. Then walk up Oak past homes to the unpaved MCOSD road that will bring you up to Worn Springs Road. Turn left and saunter the .5-mile to the top of Bald Hill.
Walk: San Anselmo (1.5 ml.)
Today, San Anselmo is the Hub, crossroads between San Rafael, Fairfax and the Ross Valley. To the Miwok, until early 1800s, the region was a hub for hunting and an encampment along San Anselmo Creek. In the mid-1800s, these same lands were the boundary zone between two Mexican land grants. After that, the town was literally called Junction, in the late 1800s, when trans-Marin railroad lines connected here. The railroad served rustic resorts along San Anselmo Creek. The town’s early impetus for growth was the building of the San Francisco Theological Seminary in 1892.
From the parking at San Anselmo and Tamalpais avenues, start the San Anselmo stroll by walking toward town. Jog left at bridge, crossing the creek, and turn right to walk through Center Creek Park the former camping spot for both Miwok and tourists from San Francisco. Turn right down Art Alley, crossing back over the creek, and walk left again down San Anselmo Avenue. After leaving the concentration of shops, cross over the avenue, and turn right on Mariposa Avenue. Then go left on Richmond Road, beneath the San Francisco Theological Seminary’s castlelike campus. Take a long flight of stairs up to your right. You come out at Montgomery Hall. Veer left to Geneva Hall and its big sunny entrance facing Mt. Tamalpais. The ivy-covered towers of Scott and Montgomery halls are original landmarks from 1892. Double back from Geneva Hall, coming down from Seminary Hill on Kensington Road.
From Kensington, jog left on Ross Avenue, right on Sunnyside and right on Woodside you’ll be going around Wade Thomas School. On the other side of the school, go left on Crescent Road. Proceed to 237 Crescent, to Robson-Harrington mansion, built in 1910 and now a city park and community center. Head through the historic gardens and down through brick terraces with tile inlays. From the garden’s street level picnic area, take Magnolia Avenue back to San Anselmo Avenue. Continue your stroll through the town, perhaps for a bargain among its antique stores.