What’s Best: This central Marin ridge ramps up from near the bay to the shoulders of Mount Tamalpais.
Parking: From Hwy. 101, take the Tamalpais Dr.-Paradise Dr. exit in Corte Madera. Take Tamalpais Dr. to Corte Madera Ave, and proceed straight across intersection to Redwood Ave. Follow narrow winding road and then turn left on Summit Dr. Follow even narrower, very steep Summit to the top. Be Aware: Few parking spaces are available at MCOSD gate. Note: Additional access point for Middaugh Trail. Agency: Marin County Open Space District
CORTE MADERA RIDGE MAP SAN FRANCISCO Photo Gallery
Northridge is a 1,200-foot-high buttress of Tamalpais, separating Mill Valley from Larkspur and Corte Madera. The ridge forks on its jagged descent, with the Corte Madera Ridge going more northerly. The Corte Madera Ridge to Blithedale Ridge hike begins at a 900-foot elevation in the Camino Alto Open Space. From the Summit Drive trailhead, you’ll have vistas of the San Francisco Bay, as well as closer looks down to the green creases of Mill Valley. But the best views may be the near-yet-far looks at Tam as you make your way westward. About .5-mile into the walk, just after a redwood grove, the road descends to a saddle. You pass Huckleberry Trail, coming up on your right from the Southern Marin Line, near Sunrise Lane in Corte Madera. Then on the left is the Glen Fire Road coming up from the Warner Creek, as described in TH52. Not long after this junction, and an uphill burst, you reach the Blithedale Ridge Fire Road. You’ll find some terrific view spots among oak trees, now at about 950 feet in elevation. Going right on the Blithedale Ridge Road takes you on a roller coaster, but always up, toward Knob Hill, described in TH48.
The Bob Middagh Trail links the upper ridge of the Camino Alto with the lower of the 87-acre Alto Bowl Preserve. Parking: Go south toward Mill Valley on Corte Madera Avenue, which becomes Camino Alto the “over the hill” route linking Corte Madera with Mill Valley. Park at the top of the hill, near Chapman Street. On your right you’ll see a MCOSD gate for the Camino Alto Fire Road, and just down to the left of that is the MCOSD sign for the Middagh Trail. Not far on the Middagh Trail you’ll pass under large oaks and be rewarded with San Francisco views similar to those once enjoyed by rock ‘n’ roll promoter Bill Graham, who owned the Masada estate just up the hill. The trail continues along the grassy ridge, crossing over the Alto Tunnel, the now-defunct railroad route built in 1884, back in the old days when Marin had mass transportation. Farther on the trail, you pass a spur trail leading up from Upperhill Road, on the Mill Valley side. Then the Middagh Trail ends at the Alto Bowl Fire Road. This short road links Sausalito Street on the Corte Madera side with Midhill Road from the Mill Valley side. You could go right on the Alto Road, and then turn left to continue walking on the Horse Hill Road.
More Stuff: The Escalon Road-Lower Ridge hike is a fairly flat and easily accessible hike in Camino Alto Preserve. Parking: Turn on Overhill Road, which is about .5-mile up from E. Blithedale Road on Camino Alto. Follow Overhill up and stay right to end of cul-de-sac, as Escalon Drive goes off to left. You start out in a nice corridor of oaks and proceed straight. After less than .25-mile Escalon Road crosses Camino Alto Road; bear left. You’ll get good looks at Mt. Tam peeking over Blithedale Ridge. About .75-mile into the hike, you’ll reach a junction of many roads. You can continue up the ridge by bearing left, but not hard left, staying on the Middle Summit.