Top Hiking Paths in Marin County, California

The Tennessee Valley Trail is a relaxing hike that leads to the Pacific Ocean
The Tennessee Valley Trail is a relaxing hike that leads to the Pacific Ocean | © Michael Lingberg / Alamy Stock Photo
Natalie Vergara

Marin County, a short trip from San Francisco, is known for its beautiful views and hiking trails. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely jaunt with friends or a strenuous, exercise-centric hike, there’s something for everyone. With breathtaking views, gorgeous beaches and incredible wildlife to be seen, a trek outside the city is well worth it for both beginners and skilled hikers.

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Tennessee Valley Trail

The 1.7mi (2.7km) Tennessee Valley Trail – part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area – leads to the Pacific Ocean and is among Marin’s most beautiful hikes. The dusty yet mild walk is in Mill Valley, a quaint town in the southern part of the county, and makes for an excellent family-friendly outing. Once on the beach, you will find coves alongside the shore and areas where you can relax. For a more intense hike and better workout, the region has other trails that plunge into the valley’s steep hills, offering views of the ocean and San Francisco. Since Tennessee Valley is directly off the Marin Headlands, it’s best to visit on a sunny day.

Matt Davis Trail

The intermediate Matt Davis Trail starts in the beautiful town of Stinson Beach, winding up the bottom hills of Mount Tamalpais (Mt Tam). Along the way, you’ll see multiple views of the area, catch glimpses of the Pacific Ocean and cross several wooden bridges overlooking the creek that runs down the mountain. Some of the trail’s best features are the mini waterfalls at each bend; they allow for a refreshing water break and maybe even a little ice-cold dip. You’ll also come across Table Rock, giving you an incredible view of the town below and providing a great place to have a snack break before continuing your hike. Be sure to watch for rattlesnakes; they tend to live in the many holes in the dry ground below your feet.

Cataract Falls Trail

The Cataract Falls Trail allows you to hike beneath the trees. To get there, you’ll need to take the Panoramic Highway out to Stinson Beach, followed by a right turn up to Mt Tam. You’ll drive up a narrow, windy road, and to your left, you’ll see an incredible view of the ocean and the city popping out of a shroud of clouds. At the trail, you’ll be surrounded by trees, providing shade on a nice day, and to the left will be a creek leading to the falls. While it’s a relatively easy hike, it still provides great exercise and an excuse to explore the crevasses of the beautiful Mt Tam. After completing the trek, you should drive up Ridgecrest Boulevard to check out the view of Stinson Beach below; it’s breathtakingly beautiful.

Phoenix Lake Trail

Phoenix Lake is a reservoir hidden in the hills of Ross, California, and provides the people of Marin with fresh drinking water. The area also offers multiple trails for walkers and runners. An easy trail leads down to Phoenix Lake, eventually looping around the reservoir; it’s an ideal trek for those who want to relax and walk with their kids and dogs. Other paths include the Gertrude-Ord Trail and Bill Williams Trail, which will take you around the lake via a 2.7mi (4.3km) stroll. Aside from the great hike, Phoenix Lake also offers lovely views, plenty of trees and benches, where you can sit and rest.

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