Traveling trails tucked between residential neighborhoods, this under 5
mile hike makes for good exercise if you live close by.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 4.4 mile out and back hike is easy, with about 900 feet
in elevation change. Trailhead elevation is about 180 feet. The featured
hike climbs to about 540 feet, descends to 480 feet, climbs to a high point
of 880 feet, then returns on the same route back to the trailhead.
Dirt fire roads and a paved fire road.
From US 101 in Marin County, exit #455 (Freitas Parkway). Drive west on
Freitas Parkway about 1.2 miles, to the open space gate at the end of the
Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS coordinates* for trailhead:
(* based on Google Earth
data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
Pay phone, gas, restaurants, and stores in Terra Linda. No camping.
Lots of side of street parking at the edge of a residential neighborhood.
No parking or entrance fees. No restrooms, drinking water, or maps. No designated
handicapped parking, and trails are not wheelchair suitable. There is no
direct public transportation to the preserve, but Golden Gate Transit buses
37 and 38 run along Freitas Parkway.
Most trails are multi-use. Some trails are closed to cyclists. Dogs are
permitted on leash on trails; off leash under voice command on fire roads.
Dog owners must have a leash for each dog.
The Official Story:
MCOSD field office 415-499-6405
Terra Linda/Sleepy Hollow Divide page
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Download the pdf
map from the MCOSD website.
Trails of Northeast Marin County has a detailed map of the
preserve (available from Pease
Open Spaces: Lands of the Marin County Open Space District,
by Barry Spitz (order
this book from Amazon.com) has a simple map and detailed trail descriptions.
Hiking Marin by Don and Kay Martin (order
this book from Amazon.com) has a detailed map and brief preserve descriptions.
Linda/Sleepy Hollow Divide (north) in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only
guide to the featured hike.
photos from this hike.
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
Linda/Sleepy Hollow Divide Open Space Preserve is a series of rolling hills arched around San Rafael's Terra
Linda neighborhood. A short stretch of road prevents a continuity between
the northern and southern segments, which accentuates the differences
between with sections. The southern parcel abuts Sorich
Park, and features a few trails and 3 main fire roads. Since the area
is surrounded by houses, and the trails are short, hiking options are
limited. The northern area is bigger and has an expansive feel, perhaps
because the far reaches of the preserve border large private ranches.
The preserve is a great daily destination
for locals seeking a place to run or walk their dogs. Except for a very
brief 0.7 mile mini loop there aren't any loop possibilities, but the out-and-back options are pleasing, especially in late winter and spring
when wildflowers abound.
Begin at the open space gate, on Mission
Pass Bike Path. This wide paved fire road provides an outstanding
cycling connection between Terra Linda and Sleepy Hollow. Initially flat,
the bike path winds through coast live oak, California bay, toyon, young
valley oak, coyote brush, and buckeye. Shortcuts, which are common throughout
this preserve, depart off the sides of the trail, but please stick to
the pavement. The multi-use trail takes a sharp turn left and climbs to
a crest and junction at 0.14 mile. Turn right.
Terra Linda Ridge Fire Road ascends briefly
on pavement, which tapers off at a little hilltop. Plum and other planted
trees mark an old settlement on the left. Now a broad dirt route, the
multi-use fire road follows the ridgeline through grassland dotted with fennel and
yellow star thistle. Traffic noise from US 101 and the racket of
buzzing chainsaws, leaf blowers, and lawn mowers from surrounding neighborhoods
are omnipresent. There are nice views south to Mount Tam on the left.
As the grade picks up slightly, ascending downslope from a coast live
oak-topped hillside, the trail becomes rocky. Look for an outcrop on the
right, which sheds rocks like a stone waterfall. Coyote brush, poison
oak, valley oak, California bay, and coast live oak are common along the
trail, but you might also notice a few clumps of sagebrush and monkeyflower.
Buckwheat blooms in this part of the preserve in summer. At 0.61 mile,
just past a commemorative plaque,
you'll reach an unsigned Y junction. Bear right to remain on Terra
Linda Ridge Fire Road.
The trail climbs easily, skirting a hill.
Stands of coast live oak, California bay, and valley oak huddle together
on both sides of the trail. Several native plants produce red berries
in this pocket of woods throughout the year-- you might see marble-sized
madrone berries in late winter, little jewel-like berries dangling from
honeysuckle vines in autumn, and masses of festive bright toyon berries
around Christmas.One non-native shrub, cotoneaster, puts forth red berries
as well, trying to blend in. Emerging from the tree cover, the trail levels
out on the ridge again. At 0.92 mile, unsigned Irving Fire Road veers
off to the left. Continue straight.
On a clear day,
you can enjoy views north of Big Rock Ridge, and west to Loma Alta. The
trail takes a little dip, climbs slightly, then plummets downhill at a
moderate grade.At 1.20 miles, a fire road heads out of the preserve on
the left, and a shortcut path breaks off to the right. Continue straight
The descent tapers off quickly, and the
fire road curves around a small hill and level out. At 1.33 miles you'll
reach yet another unsigned junction. From here Terra Linda Ridge Fire
Road heads downhill to its terminus at Lucas Valley Road. On a breezy
day you might understand why I think of this spot as "Windy Gap."
Luiz Ranch Fire Road begins a moderate ascent.
A fire through here in 2002 was thankfully extinguished while still fairly
small, but quite a few oaks and shrubs are charred on both sides of the
trail.The fire road, open to hikers, equestrians, and cyclists, climbs steadily
through grassland along the ridge. A few rocky outcrops just off the left
side of this dead-end, lightly used trail make nice, peaceful rest stops.
Unfortunately the surrounding low-lying hills fail to muffle noise from
adjacent neighborhoods. Look for California poppy, wild mint, and California
fuchsia blooming in summer. At 2.08 miles the trail ends at the fenced
preserve boundary. If you make it this far, this is the turnaround point.
Retrace your steps back to the junction with Irving Fire Road,
at 3.25 miles, then turn right.
Another multi-use fire road, the trail ascends
through grassland to an oak-topped hill, then bends left and descends.
Look for deer, coyote, and bobcat prints on the trail. A number of shortcuts
depart on the left, but since none of them are as wide as the fire road
it's easy to follow the correct route. After
a pass through a little section shaded by California bay and coast live
oak, the trail emerges in grassland, then reaches an unsigned junction
at 3.54 miles. Turn left.
Still descending at an easy pace, the fire
road drifts through coyote-brush dotted grassland where you might see
scrub jays. At 3.65 miles, this spur fire road ends at an unsigned junction
with a fire road and several paths. Turn left.
Since the multi-use trail traverses property
running above the Sleepy Hollow neighborhood, it's fittingly named Sleepy
Hollow Fire Road. The trail drops through grassland, looping around the
western side of a hilltop you will have bypassed earlier on Terra Linda
Ridge Fire Road. At 3.74 miles, the fire road ends at a previously encountered
junction. Turn right onto Terra Linda Ridge Fire Road and retrace your
steps back to the trailhead.
Total distance: 4.43 miles
Last hiked: Thursday, December 5, 2002