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Adventures: > Hike through the Marin Headlands

   In August, 2007 I tried a few new routes through the Marin Headlands, exploring some little traveled paths and fireroads to add variety to my runs and hikes. An interesting five mile loop with about 1000 feet of climb, great on either a sunny day (expansive views) or foggy day (thrilling and mysterious), begin at the Oakwood Valley trailhead. This is about halfway up the Tennessee Valley Road from Highway One in Mill Valley. Take the signed trail option, not the fireroad. Follow the trail through the woods past a couple of bridges. You will meet the fireroad twice, once before and after passing a fast disappearing pond on your right where most hikers turn around. Go up a steep short incline and then keep to your right and follow the trail which will then begin a climb up a rutty gully before exitting onto the Alta Fireroad (FR). Turn right and follow Alta until a little ways before it reaches the Rodeo FR which will be visible on your left as it rises from the freeway.

   Look for a little path on your right. If there is no fog you will see electrical towers on the peak above you. This is much more fun than the conventional route of continuing on Alta and taking the Bobcat FR. This path will snake up and over the peak. You can't get lost, just keep going westward over the saddle. There will be a small dip on what looks like an old fireroad, then a rise, and soon you will drop to the Bobcat FR (no sign) just before its junction with the Marincello FR a little ways up to the right. You will see the white FAA tower that stands atop a peak ahead of you in the near distance. Turn LEFT on Bobcat for maybe 200 yards and look for the turn that says "to Hawk Camp". Ignore the warning that say "no access to Miwok trail" - there ARE two ways out of this secluded area!) If there is no fog you will easily see that this fireroad goes about a half mile to a port-o-san, where it continues fifty yards steeply up to the actual campground - a nice remote place, considering how close it is to civilization. I have passed here three times in the last month, even on weekends, and saw no people. There are three tent sites with picnic benches and food lockers but no water; camping free with reservations required through GGNRA (Golden Gate National Recreation Area). If you are hiking, this is a good place for lunch.

   After or before checking out the campsite, look for the small deer path behind the fence to the left of the port-o-san. This unoffical route is my favorite part of the trip. Follow it up a little ways to the crest of a ridge and savor the marvelous view of Gerbode and Rodeo Valleys that lies at yout feet. Continue on this little trail through the chapparral, watching out for the occasional strand of poison oak. It will go westward, then left round a bend and begin a long southwestward course, finally exitting on the Miwok FR just before its junction with Wolf Ridge FR (just before the Miwok begins its descent to Rodeo Lagoon). [There is a minor peak, more of a look-out, slightly to your left with a path to the top that is a worth a quick detour]. On the Miwok FR you will turn RIGHT and seemingly backtrack one hundred yards or so northwards to its junction with Old Springs Trail. Turn left here and follow it one mile down and past the stables to the parking area at Tennessee Valley. Cross the road and look for the signed trail on the right. This is the continuation of Miwok. Within a few yards the trail will dip and Miwok goes left. You, however, will go RIGHT on the unsigned (at this end) Rhubarb trail and follow it one mile back to your car. This lovely trail is in the woods and gently descends, parallelling the Tennessee Valley road.

   [The other option out of Hawk Camp is to skirt through the campground to the right and follow a small path steeply upwards for maybe a quarter mile. You will exit on the FR halfway between the junction of Marincello/Bobcat FR and the FAA tower at the top of the hill. Here you can either turn right and go down, then left on Marincello FR back to Tennessee Valley, or go up, left around the closed off FAA area, left again down the Miwok FR, then right on Old Springs and continue as described above. If you choose the latter route, be sure to check out the little path directly ahead of you after skirting the FAA area and just before the Miwok turns left beginning its steep descent. This path goes a short ways up to an open area with great views and a sacred presence]

   On this run/hike you will notice numerous unnamed paths lacing the surrounding peaks which you can explore another time.