Alto Open Space Preserve,
Marin County Open Space District,
2.7 mile partial loop through open space bordering Mill Valley neighborhood, includes a short distance on steep paved streets.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 2.7 mile partial loop hike is easy. Trailhead elevation is around 360 feet. The featured hike starts out level, climbs steeply to about 730 feet, descends moderately steeply, then returns to the trailhead on a level trail: total elevation change is about 500 feet.
Dirt fire roads and one paved street.
Less than 2 hours.
Hot in summer, otherwise nice any time.
From US 101 in Marin County, exit East Blithedale/Tiburon Boulevard. Drive west on East Blithedale about 0.8 mile, then turn right onto Camino Alto. Drive north on Camino Alto about 0.5 mile, then turn left onto Overhill. Drive uphill about 0.2 mile on Overhill, then turn right onto Escalon. Park on the side of the road.
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:
Gas, pay phones, stores, and restaurants back around Camino Alto and East Blithedale in Mill Valley. No camping.
Side of street parking at the edge of a residential neighborhood. There are no parking or entrance fees. No drinking water, maps, or restrooms. No designated handicapped parking, but if trail conditions are agreeable wheelchairs users may be able to navigate some distance on Escalon Fire Road. There is no direct public transportation to this trailhead. You could pedal from the bus stop on East Blithedale in Mill Valley, but it's not a safe walk on Camino Alto to the trailhead. Note: Camino Alto's trail names vary in maps and trail books, and none of the trails are signed.
Trails are multi-use. Dogs permitted on the hike described below: they are allowed on leash on trails and fire roads, or under voice command on fire roads only.
The Official Story:
MCOSD's Camino Alto page
Map Choices/More Information:
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Download the Alto Bowl/Horse Hill pdf map from the MCOSD website.
Trails of Mt. Tamalpais and the Marin Headlands, by Gerald Olmsted (order this map from Amazon.com) is useful.
Mount Tam Trail Map, published by Tom Harrison Maps (order from Tom Harrison Maps). Comparable to the Olmsted map.
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 useful map and a suggested hike through Camino Alto.
View photos from this hike.
Alto, comprised of a few fire roads wrapped around
developed areas in the lower southeast foothills of Mount Tam, is an ideal
neighborhood preserve. At the Escalon trailhead, less than a mile from
the busy intersection of East Blithedale and Camino Alto (the road), parking
is ample, permitting easy access. Dogs are allowed on the preserve's trails,
and you'll likely see walkers greeting each other (and their canines)
by name. Although folks and their dogs who live nearby get the most use
out of the preserve, Camino Alto makes a fine staging area for long Tam
hikes, or short walks or jogs. Escalon and Upper Summit Fire Roads are
nearly flat, while Middle Summit Fire Road is moderately steep. You can
take an out-and-back hike on either, or bridge the two routes together
with a short (but steep) walk on paved
Summit Road. For a long out-and-back hike with plenty of elevation change,
start on Escalon Fire Road, then string together Middle Summit Fire Road,
Corte Madera Ridge Fire Road, and Blithedale Ridge Fire Road. Turn back
wherever you choose -- there are dynamite views of Mount Tam and the surrounding
area along most of the route.