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
This CalTopo map shows all of the campsites and a selection of towns and transit stops. There are numerous other bus stops that are not mapped.
Campsites accessible by car:
- 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.