Marin County: Four Backpacking Trips

Introduction

Marin County, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, offers excellent backpacking. There are a half dozen public land agencies that manage adjacent properties and together they provide a very extensive trail network. Marin is scenically beautiful and ecologically diverse. The Mediterranean climate is moderate and backpacking is viable year round. It is well served by public transit, making car-free trips possible for Bay Area residents. Finally, campsites, hostels, and inns provide opportunities for all types of trips.

Your Guide to Marin County’s Public Lands (pdf file) from the NPS shows how the lands managed by various agencies abut. The majority of Marin’s 260,000 residents live in the eastern corridor, between the coastal mountains and bay. Outside of the urban corridor, the county is a mix of public land and agriculture. Of the private agricultural lands, nearly half of is permanently protected by the Marin Agricultural Land Trust.

We have taken many multi-day hikes in the region, and in this article we provide route and transit information for four trips. These hikes are a sample of a wide range of possible itineraries. For example, a hiker could combine various legs from these four hikes with the Point Reyes Circumambulation to form a long, fun, diverse ~200 mile loop from the city of San Francisco, using the Sausalito ferry at one end and walking across the bridge and along the city’s waterfront at the other end. On the other hand, one could shorten Hike #2 from ~40 miles down to ~12-15 miles by heading directly from Sausalito to either Hawk, Haypress, Kirby Cove, or Bicentennial Camp, or the Marin Headlands Hostel. The permutations are endless.

We have stealth camped on all our trips. Stealth camping does not suit everybody and some people do not practice the meticulous leave-no-trace approach that is required. The good news is that there are designated legal campsites and hostels. Accommodations and food are available in each small town, so inn-to-inn hiking is also a viable alternative.

Accommodations and Campsites

All campsites and hostels are shown on the CalTopo maps.

Backpacking campsites:

Campsites accessible by car:

Hostels:

Accommodations:

  • Each of the towns in West Marin (Inverness, Inverness Park, Point Reyes Station, Olema, Bolinas, Stinson Beach, and Muir Beach) has at least one motel, inn, or B&B. Be aware that much of the region has no cell service. The West Marin Chamber of Commerce and AirBnB are good sources of information.
  • The Green Gulch Zen Center is near Muir Beach and offers accommodation.

Maps

There are several publishers of Marin County hiking maps.

  • Map Adventures North Bay Map Bundle. The three map set is waterproof and very comprehensive and is the only publisher to mark bus stops. This reasonably priced map set covers nearly the entire area. These are the maps we prefer. They do not include any coverage of the northeast region, so if planning to hike in that area you would need to add the Pease Press map listed below.
  • Tom Harrison Maps series: South Marin, Mt. Tam, San Rafael-Central Marin, Pine Mountain, Big Rock Ridge, Novato, Point Reyes National Seashore. These are excellent, waterproof, detailed maps from the only publisher offering a set that covers the entire region. For shoppers who are not price sensitive these would be the best choice.
  • Trails Illustrated Mount Tamalpais Point Reyes. This is convenient because one map covers most of the region. Although not as clear as those published by Harrison or Map Adventure, it is certainly sufficient.
  • Pease Press: Trails of Northeast Marin County fills the gap left by the Map Adventures and Trails Illustrated maps.
  • Wilderness Press Point Reyes National Seashore: and West Marin Parklands. This is a good map for the region it covers, however it has not been updated since 2007. Since agencies are acquiring new preserves and trail alignments are changing, we prefer other publishers at least until this map is updated.
  • We also provide a single CalTopo map that shows all four routes. It is slightly busy but might be useful if you are planning to mix and match pieces from the four trips.
    Disclaimer: Do not rely on our exact tracks for your route; use skill and common sense. Use the stated distances as guidance; various sources of trail distances rarely agree.

Land Management Agencies

Public Transit

These images are from all four trips.
We have more photos, including captions:

#1 San Francisco to Limantour Estero Loop

When: May 24-28, 2010 (5 days).
Distance: about 96 miles.
Logistics:

  • From SF Caltrain station walk along the waterfront to and across the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • Follow trails northwest to Limantour Estero and then southeast to Sausalito.
  • Take the Sausalito Ferry back to San Francisco.

Click map to open an interactive CalTopo map in a new browser tab. Instructions for using CalTopo.

#2 San Francisco to Pantoll Loop

When: Mar 15-16, 2013 (2 days).
Distance: about 41 miles.
Logistics:

  • From SF Caltrain Station walk to the Ferry Building.
  • Take the Sausalito Ferry to Sausalito.
  • Follow trails northwest to Pantoll and then southeast to the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • Walk across the bridge and along the waterfront to the Caltrain Station.

Click map to open an interactive CalTopo map in a new browser tab. Instructions for using CalTopo.

#3 Novato to San Francisco via Bolinas Ridge

When: Nov 29 to Dec 1, 2013 (3 days).
Distance: about 57 miles.
Logistics:

  • Take Golden Gate Transit #70 bus from San Francisco to the Alameda del Prado bus stop in Novato.
  • Follows trails south to the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • Walk across the bridge.
  • Take the Golden Gate Transit #101, #30, or #70 bus from the Bridge Toll Plaza to 4th and Mission and walk to CalTrain station.

Click map to open an interactive CalTopo map in a new browser tab. Instructions for using CalTopo.

#4 Mill Valley to San Francisco via Olema

When: Nov 24-28, 2015 (5 days).
Distance: about 69 miles.
Logistics:

  • Take the one of several Golden Gate Transit buses from San Francisco to Marin City. Transfer to Marin Transit’s bus #17 and get off at Park and Miller in Mill Valley.
  • Follow trails northwest to a hill with a view of Tomales Bay and back southeast to the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • Walk across the bridge.
  • Take the Golden Gate Transit #101, #30, or #70 bus from the Bridge Toll Plaza to 4th and Mission and walk to CalTrain station.

Click map to open an interactive CalTopo map in a new browser tab. Instructions for using CalTopo.
2017-10-30T08:23:54+00:00 Oct 29, 2017|Hike, Near SF, Public Transit|

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