What’s Best: A lunchtime stroll among the high-end shops and restaurants of this former redwood logging town; or a walk in the park that reveals the town’s surprising origins as a port.
Parking: From Hwy. 101, take Paradise Dr.-Tamalpais Dr. exit in Corte Madera. Take Tamalpais Dr. to Corte Madera Ave, turn right. Corte Madera Ave. becomes Magnolia Ave. Park in public lot at Ward Street and Magnolia. For Piper Park: Continue past Ward Street and turn right on Doherty Drive. Turn left off Doherty at police station, continue to parking lot.
Agency: City of Larkspur
The Piper Park loop takes you around the tree-lined grass field that leads to a point on wide Corte Madera Creek, with navigable waters to the bay. Start on the path, with the athletic fields to your right and Larkspur Canine Commons dog park on your left. Continue out to the point, where you’ll find benches to observe shorebirds and rowers on the creek. Piper Park has a number of picnic tables, ball fields, tennis courts and volleyball pits a family picnic park.
The redwood trees along Magnolia Avenue in Larkspur and in Baltimore Canyon are the adolescents that survived the logging of old growth giants, beginning in the early 1800s. Shipments were largely to San Francisco from an official U.S. port that was designated in 1846, using Corte Madera Creek to convey the timber to the bay. The town was laid out in 1887 by C.W Wright whose wife is credited with naming the town after a lupine wildflower she misidentified.
LARKSPUR MAP SAN FRANCISCO Photo Gallery
Begin the Larkspur stroll at Ward Street. You’re across Magnolia from the former Hotel Larkspur and Blue Rock Inn, constructed in 1895 with stone from a quarry in Baltimore Canyon. At 476 Cane is where the Rosebowl Dance was held every Saturday night for 50 years, ending in 1963. Continuing up Magnolia, you’ll pass boutiques, cafes and restaurants and the venerable Silver Peso Saloon which harks back to the town’s bawdy origins. At the top of the rise on Magnolia is St. Patrick’s Church. Beyond that landmark, at Madrone Avenue, is Dolliver Park, with play sets under tall redwoods alongside the banks of Larkspur Creek. Across the street is the Lark Creek Inn restaurant, set in an old Victorian, next to a number of gift shops set in old cottages. Head back down Magnolia to the beginning or jog left on King Street and explore the old hillside residential area, with some streets connected by stairways.
Bike: Larkspur is an excellent starting for cyclists traveling central and southern Marin. To get to Phoenix Lake and San Anselmo, go down Cane Street and turn left on the bike path. At Bon Air Road, jog right, cross the road, and go over the bridge. At Corte Madera Creek, TH28, you turn left on the bike path that leads through Kentfield and on to Ross.
To get to Shorebird Marsh, TH27, where you can connect with Larkspur Landing or Tiburon, take the bike path behind the town at William Avenue, which heads east. When you reach a canal if the bridge is not up yet cut left to Lucky Drive. Follow Lucky toward the freeway. To Larkspur Landing, go left up the bike path on the Sir Francis Drake on-ramp, and turn right on the bike path on the other side of the creek. To Tiburon, via Paradise Drive, take the pedestrian overpass to the east side of Highway 101, and turn right on the frontage road. After the shopping area, you’ll hit a bike lane that goes for miles.
To Mill Valley, take a right on the bike lane behind Larkspur, heading south, which comes out to Tamalpais Drive in Corte Madera. Road cyclists go over busy Camino Alto Avenue. For a safer route, and not much out of the way, roll down Tamalpais Drive toward Highway 101. Veer right on Meadowsweet, and stay near the freeway. Buena Drive is a frontage road that takes you up to the bike lane at Horse Hill. From there it’s an easy pedal to Bayfront Park, TH27 with easy access to Mill Valley and Sausalito.