Hiker’s Hiking: The Hills & Mountains of Marin

February 5, 2010

Filed under: Marin Living — Dave DuPont @ 5:45 am

According to a fairly impressive Web site, (www.marintrails.com) “Marin County has the finest urban park systems in the world with over 600 miles of wonderful trails.” While this statement might seem a bit overblown by about one hundred miles since a mere 500 miles of trails are claimed elsewhere in the site, it really doesn’t matter. Clearly, Marin County is a paradise for hikers.

Don and Kay Martin actually sat down long enough to gather specific details and routes of 141 separate hikes within Marin County for their book entitled, “Hiking Marin, 141 Great Hikes in Marin County,” which provides detailed 3D maps for each hike and directions to each trailhead.

It is doubtless true that Marin County is a “hiker’s paradise” with 3 national parks, 6 state parks, 24 county open space lands and 7 other parks and open space areas. Kidding aside, an amazing 42% of these lands are open to the public, which leaves more hiking than most of us could possibly hike in a lifetime.

What is the most important consideration before choosing a specific hiking trail? Experts say that is weather is paramount. Bad weather with fog, drizzle and only 100 feet of visibility can all conspire together to change a great hike into a dismal one. Other important considerations include the distance to be hiked, the change in elevation during the hike, the level of difficulty of the trail and whether shade is provided along the way.

The winter months of December and January aren’t the best hiking weather, but between the raindrops one can hike along the ocean and see whales and elephant seals. While it is extremely wet, the late winter months of February and March are the best time to hike. For those not bothered by allergies, this is when various spring flowers begin to bloom.

Naturally, as the weather gets better and everything is green and flowery, more great hiking may be experienced in the spring months of April and May. As the summer months of June and July bring both heat and dryness, there are still cool and foggy areas that beg to be hiked: “Muir Woods, Steep Ravine and the Marin Headlands” are a few of them.

The best places to hike during the hotter and drier months of August and September are on the coast and the beach areas, as well as north-facing trails.

The early morning is the best time to hike when the sun hasn’t started to burn through the fog. Because of fire hazards, it is best to avoid “Mt. Tamalpais and the hills and ridges of central and north Marin.”

October and November can be gusty with occasional rain, yet many sunny days that are ideal for hiking along the coast, south-facing trails and woodlands in central Marin and around the lakes.

Good hiking boots, water, or other fluids, a first aid kit, a light jacket, extra food and a poncho in winter and sunscreen in the summer are just some of the items that it is essential to take along on a hike. Others include a knife, a hat, book or map, flashlight, binoculars, a compass and a whistle, (to which the writer adds a cellphone with the caveat that it may or may not work in many areas west of San Rafael). Any or all of these things may be extremely handy in case you get lost or turn your ankle.

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