What’s Best: Trails that have been hiked for a century, from redwood valleys to chaparral ridges of Tamalpais and other view trails on public lands that are brand new.
Blithedale Park s the premier access for this trailhead. Parking: Take E. Blithedale into Mill Valley and veer right at the stop sign on W Blithedale. Follow to signed, creek-side parking at gate. Both hikes begin up Old Railroad Grade, the rail bed for the 1896 single-track tourist line that made a crooked course over 22 trestles to the top of Mount Tamalpais.
For the Blithedale Ridge loop, start up through the tree tunnel alongside the creek. After an initial elevation gain of 200 feet over .5-mile, take Horseshoe Fire Road off an outside turn. Horseshoe Road climbs 200 feet over just .25-mile to join Blithedale Ridge Road. After reaching the top, turn right on the road, and, after .25-mile, turn right again on the H-Line or Tank Turns Road. This road drops several hundred feet, over a little more than .5-mile, to join the Old Railroad Grade near the trailhead.
The Old Railroad Grade to Summit Avenue hike follows the lower part of the old train route. On the way, you get good panoramic views of Mill Valley and the bay. Continue around the bend from Horseshoe Fire Road. The road dips in and out of sunny, exposed contours below the East Peak of Tam before coming to Summit Avenue above Mill Valley, which is described in TH53.
BLITHEDALE SUMMIT MAP SAN FRANCISCO Photo Gallery
Warner Canyon, featuring a gushing creek, is the deep crease between Corte Madera and Blithedale ridges. Parking: For Glen Drive access, turn right on Carmelita Avenue from E. Blithedale, and right on Buena Vista. Continue to the top, keeping left Buena Vista becomes Glen Drive; look for MCOSD gate. This is the sunny route up the canyon, on a brush-cut road fringed by oaks. You’ll meet the Elinor Fire Road about halfway up the nearly 500-foot climb to a saddle in the Corte Madera Ridge.
The Elinor Drive is longer, but also shaded and prettier. Parking: Turn left on Buena Vista, after coming up Carmelita Avenue (from E. Blithdale). Then turn right on Oakdale Avenue and immediately right on Elinor Avenue. Follow winding, hairy Elinor up. Park in limited spaces near where pavement ends.
Walk down to your right and you’ll come to a gate amid redwoods. About .25-mile from the first gate, where the road begins switchbacks, you pass the connector trail toTartan Road. After that, on your right, is the signed Warner Canyon Trail, which heads about .5-mile up the canyon to end a lovely cataract a side trip for trailblazers. Continue on Elinor Fire Road, on sweeping switchbacks beneath tall laurels and redwoods, with ferns carpeting the hillsides. After a mile from the trailhead, you meet the Glen Fire Road and begin the last .5-mile to Corte Madera Ridge.
Parking: From Hwy. 101, take E. Blithedale-Tiburon Blvd. exit and go toward Mill Valley on E. Blithedale. Pass traffic light at Camino Alto; further directions in hiking descriptions below. Agency: Marin County Open Space and Marin Municipal Water Districts. W. Blithedale Park to: Blithedale Ridge loop (1.5 ml.), or Old H|ke: Railroad Grade to Summit Avenue (3.5 ml.); Warner Canyon to Corte Madera Ridge from: Glen Drive (1.75 ml.), or Elinor Avenue (3 ml.) The 561 acres of Blithedale Summit Open Space Preserve have been acquired over an 18-year span. At the trailheads, thick forests of redwood, oak, fir, and maple provide a canopy. The trails climb to the low-lying vegetation, the chaparral, on the higher points of Blithedale Ridge. The open space is next to water district lands, which have been public since the early days of Marin.
Bike: Blithedale Park is a good biking trailhead. One popular loop of Blithedale Ridge is to take the H-line or Tank Turns Road, up to the right just after setting out on Old Railroad Grade. After paying a price of about 300 feet on this .75-mile connector, you hit Blithedale Ridge Road. From there you roll right, 1.5-miles down the spine, veering right before the end to come down the Greenwood Way access. You drop down Greenwood, via Upland, Woodbine, and Eldridge, to Blithedale Avenue which you ride back to the park. This loop is about 4 miles. You can also do an Old Railroad Grade loop, the first part of which is described in the hiking section. Ride down Summit Avenue after reaching it from the Old Railroad Grade. In Mill Valley, take Throckmorton through town for a short distance, and then ride left on W. Blithedale to the trailhead parking. This 6-mile loop is on surface roads for some 4 miles.