Top Hiking Paths in Marin County, California

Top Hiking Paths in Marin County, California
A quick trip outside San Francisco, Marin County is known for its beautiful views and amazing hiking trails. Whether you’re looking for an easy jaunt with friends or a strenuous, exercise-centric hike, there’s something for everyone in Marin. With breathtaking views, gorgeous beaches and incredible wildlife to be seen, a trek outside the city is well worth the time and the trip for both beginners and skilled hikers alike.
Cataract Falls © Jeanbaptiste Chaput / flickr

1. Tennessee Valley

A beautiful trail leading to the Pacific Ocean, the hike to Tennessee Valley Beach is one of the most gorgeous in Marin. Located in Mill Valley, a quaint town in the southern part of the county, Tennessee Valley is part of the National Recreation Area of the Golden Gate. The trail is a dusty yet mild walk, with a few hills that leads 1.7 miles to the beach. It is the perfect trail for a get-together to catch up with friends without being too out of breath. Once on the beach, visitors will find coves alongside the shore that they can explore. The beach is a great place to relax and spend time enjoying company. For a more intense hike and better workout, there are multiple other trails available that plunge into the steep hills of the valley that offer views of the ocean and San Francisco. Since Tennessee Valley is directly off the coast of the Marin Headlands, make sure you head out on a sunny day.

2. Cataract Falls

This trail is perfect for a hike beneath the trees. Take the Panoramic Highway out to Stinson Beach and take a right turn up to Mount Tamalpais. You’ll drive up a narrow, windy road and to your left you will see an incredible view of the ocean and the city popping out of a shroud of clouds. At the trail, hikers will find themselves surrounded by the trees of Mount Tamalpais, providing shade on a nice day. To the left will be a creek leading to the falls. This is a fairly easy hike but still provides great exercise and a great excuse to explore the crevasses of beautiful Mt. Tam. After completing the hike, make sure to drive up Ridge Crest road and check out the view of Stinson Beach below; it will be sure to take your breath away.

Tennessee Valley © Michael Rael / flickr

3. Phoenix Lake

Phoenix Lake is a reservoir hidden in the hills of Ross, Calif. This reservoir built in 1905 provides the people of Marin with fresh drinking water. The Phoenix Lake area offers multiple trails for walkers and runners. An easy trail leads down to Phoenix Lake eventually looping around the body of water, which is most commonly done by people just wanting to relax and walk with their kids and dogs. Other walks include the Gertrude Orr Trail and Bill Williams Trail, which eventually take you around the lake as well in a 2.7-mile stroll. Aside from the great hike, Phoenix Lake also provides walkers with a wonderful view and benches inviting you to sit and forget about any kind of problems. The trees are a vibrant shade of green, making the view even more spectacular. Next time you’re in the area and itching for a nice walk, make sure to stop here.

4. Matt Davis Trail

Matt Davis © David Baselt /

This trail starts out in the beautiful beach town of Stinson Beach. A fairly intermediate hike, the Matt Davis trail winds up the bottom hills of Mt. Tam. Along the way hikers see multiple views of Stinson Beach at different angles, catching glimpses of the Pacific Ocean. As you progressively walk up, you will cross multiple wooden bridges overlooking the creek that runs down the mountain. One of the best features this trail has to offer is the numerous mini water falls at each bend of the trail, which allow for a refreshing water break and maybe even a little ice-cold dip. Eventually, if you don’t miss it, veered off to the left will be a giant flat rock, known as Table Rock. This rock gives you an incredible view of the town below and is the perfect place for a final destination, or even a snack break if you want to keep climbing the rest of the trail. Be sure to watch for rattlesnakes on this trail, as they tend to live in the many holes in the dry ground below your feet.