What’s Best: A trail around the peak of Larkspur’s mini-Tamalpais; or a cool hike among ferns and redwoods to the east slope’s popular falls, and the sunny ridge above it.
Parking: From Hwy. 101, take the Paradise Dr.-Tamalpais Dr. exit in Corte Madera. Go 1 mile on Tamalpais Dr, turn right on Corte Madera Ave, which becomes Magnolia Ave. At stand of redwoods in Larkspur, turn left on Madrone Ave. For King Mountain: Go up Madrone, turn right on Redwood Ave. and left on Oak Rd. From Oak, turn left on Wilson Way and follow to top. Park on street at end below water tank. For Dawn Falls: Continue on Madrone to end, stay left; it becomes Water Way. Park on street near MCOSD sign. Agency: Marin County Open Space District
King Mountain loop (1.75 ml.); Baltimore Canyon Trail to: Dawn h Falls (2.25 ml.), or Baltimore Canyon loop (2.75 ml.), or Blithedale IKE: Ridge loop (3.5 ml.) Note: All Baltimore Canyon hikes include the falls.
The King Mountain loop takes you on a small-scale version of Tam’s varied ecosystems, ranging from oak forests to redwoods and ferns. The mountain is named for Patrick King, a rancher who in the late 1800s owned the land on which Larkspur stands. At MCOSD signs, start around to your right, through laurel and oaks, with views toward the bay. About halfway around, you cross the Citron Fire Road, coming up from behind the old Lark Theater in town. You then enter moister environs, cross a drainage with redwoods and ferns, and then begin switchbacking up steps. After topping out the steps, keep left, passing a fire road that comes in from Ridgecrest Road in Kentfield. When almost back to the trailhead, on your right you’ll see the Ladybug Trail, which connects with the Baltimore Canyon hikes.
Photo Gallery KING MOUNTAIN-DAWN FALLS MAP SAN FRANCISCO
KING MOUNTAIN-DAWN FALLS MAP SAN FRANCISCO Images
The Dawn Falls Trail is popular, following Larkspur Creek up Baltimore (commonly called ‘Madrone’) Canyon beneath an overstory of redwoods, madrones, laurels, and occasional maple trees. From the parking, drop down to creek level and cross the bridge. Turn right, upstream. In a clearing about .5-mile in, are remnants of a dam that was demolished in 1920. Rocks from a nearby quarry were used in some of Larkspur’s oldest buildings. You’ll climb much of the route’s 200 feet over the russet tones of fallen leaves, switchbacking the last distance before reaching Dawn Falls. Two forks of the creek meet at the falls, gathering on a basalt ledge and falling about 30 feet to a pool.
For both loop hikes, continue up the trail above the falls, coming to the Southern Marin Line Road. For the Baltimore Canyon loop, go left on the pleasant contour road, continuing on a level path beneath the dimpled slopes of the ridge. Looking out from the tree tunnel, you’ll catch glimpses toward the bay. After a mile and after passing H-Line Fire Road on your right at a small pump station look for a post marking the Barbara Spring Trail on your left. This trail, also called the Edwin O. Hagstrom Trail, makes a steep descent and joins the Dawn Falls Trail near the trailhead.
For the Blithedale Ridge loop, which breaks out to big views of Tam and the bay, continue straight across the Southern Marin Line from above Dawn Falls. The falls trail continues for a short, steep segment and joins the Hoo-Koo-E-Koo Trail. Go left, on one of Tam’s better trails, and you’ll reach Blithedale Ridge Road after about a mile. Go left for about .5-mile, to where the H-Line Road drops off to the left in a shaded saddle. Descend to the Southern Marin Line Road, take a right, and then start looking for the Barbara Springs-Hagstrom Trail on the left. It’s marked only by a post. This steep route comes out near the trailhead parking.