What’s Best: Long hiking routes through forest to the coast, or treks up either of two parallel ridges close together as the hawk flies, but geologically speaking a continental plate apart.
Parking: From southern Marin: Take Hwy. 1-Stinson Beach exit from north of Sausalito and follow Hwy. 1 north of Stinson Beach about 5.5 ml. Turn left to signed parking. From central Marin: Take Sir Francis Drake Blvd.-San Anselmo exit and follow through Fairfax to Hwy. 1 at Olema. Go south on Hwy. 1 for about 3.5 ml. Note: Additional parking described in hiking section.
Agency: Point Reyes National Seashore
Highway 1 though the Olema Valley runs atop the San Andreas Fault. The Point Reyes Peninsula is part of the Pacific Plate, which is moving northward, while lands to the east of the road are on the North American Plate, which is moving south. If you hike both sides, you’ll note different geology and flora, with denser pine and fir forests on the peninsula, contrasted on the east with grassy hillsides with pockets of oaks and redwoods with plant overlap that has occurred with time.
For the Five Brooks Pond loop, walk straight through the gate on the wide Stewart Trail road, with the pond at your left. The pond is a bird watcher’s special: Look for ring-necked ducks, mergansers, grebes, and green-back heron. At the far end of the pond, which is fringed by Douglas fir, oaks and several other trees, go left on the Olema Valley Trail and then go left again on a trail that leads back along the shore, passing the stables.
The Bolema-Stewart Trail Ridge loop is a moderately strenuous jaunt through mixed forest to a 1,000-foot-high ridge with ocean views. Start on Stewart Trail, the main road from the parking area. Go left at the far end of the pond on the Olema Valley Trail, along a creek under a leafy canopy, to reach the Bolema Trail after about 1.25 miles. Go right, making a climb of about 800 feet in a little more than a mile, coming to the Ridge Trail. Two trails go south on the ridge, but you want to go north, for .75-miles fairly level with tree-filtered views to the Stewart Trail, on which you go right. You’ll pass mammoth Douglas firs on the upper part of a winding, 3-mile return to the parking area.
FIVE BROOKS MAP SAN FRANCISCO Photo Gallery
For the Greenpicker Trail to Firtop summit, which is just 83 feet shy of the highest point in the seashore, start out on the Stewart Trail. Bear right at the far shore and continue .75-mile to a trailhead on your right on an outside bend. You’ll pass a trail spur to Stewart Horse Camp along the way. The Greenpicker is a steep sucker, making a climb of nearly 1,000 feet through a tangle of forest and vines in about 2 miles, approaching Firtop from its north face. Near the top of the 1,324-foot rounded summit, you’ll see the Stewart Trail, which leads back to trailhead parking. Don’t expect sweeping views on this tree-lover’s hike. More Stuff: Trails lead east from the Firtop summit to the rocky coastline. One good path is to continue on Stewart Trail. You’ll wind and drop to the southwest to Wildcat Camp and its beach; this route is some 13 miles round-trip from Five Brooks.
The Randall and McCurdy trails climb east from the Olema Valley to the Bolinas Ridge. Parking.The Randall Trail is on your left, 2.25 miles south of Five Brooks, just north of the Pacific Coast Learning Center. It is a graded road, rising about 800 feet, through shaggy Douglas fir, laurel, and mossy oaks, to the Bolinas Ridge Trail. A spur trail near the trailhead leads to pretty Hagmaier Pond. Parking: The McCurdy Trail is on your left about 4.5 miles south of Five Brooks, just north of Dogtown. This trail also ascends about 800 feet to the ridge trail, but on more of a trail, and through a drier habitat. You’ll have Bolinas Lagoon and Stinson Beach views at your back. More Stuff: You can make a Randall-McCurdy loop, of about 8 miles, by walking up the Randall Trail and taking the Bolinas Ridge Trail south 1.25 miles to connect with the McCurdy. At the bottom, cross Highway 1 and go north on the Olema Valley Trail, which connects after 3.25 miles with the Randall Trail parking.
Bike: Fit cyclists will like the Stewart Trail to Wildcat Beach, a 13-mile ride. You climb on a sane grade up 800 feet over 3.75 miles, and then drop, very steeply at times, some 1,300 feet down to sea level. For an easier go of it, try an 11-mile round-trip ride south on the Olema Valley Trail, coming out on Highway 1 at Dogtown. You’ll encounter a dip of 250 feet not far south of Five Brooks, as the road leaves Olema Creek. You then follow Pine Gulch Creek through a bucolic valley.