3 mile loop through grassy woods at a historic park.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 3.1 mile loop hike is mostly easy, with one moderate
climb. Trailhead elevation is about 100 feet. The park's high point is about
1480 feet. The featured hike climbs to 1130 feet. Total elevation change
is about 1030 feet.
Almost totally shaded.
Nice all year, although hot in summer.
From northbound US 101 in Marin County, pass the park, then carefully
make a u-turn at San Antonio Road and drive south to the park entrance on
the right side of the road.
From southbound US 101 at the Marin/Sonoma County border, pass San
Antonio Road, and make the next right into the park.
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, stores, restaurants, and gas south on 101 in Novato. No camping.
Large parking lot. $8 entrance fee, paid through self-registration. Out-of-date
map under glass at information signboard, but there are none to take with
you. There's a portable toilet on the side of the lot. A few Golden Gate
bus lines run on 101, but there is no safe way to cross from the northbound
to southbound side of the highway. No designated handicapped parking, but
wheelchair users should be able to navigate (with assistance) to Miwok Village.
No bikes. Trails are open to equestrians and hikers. Dogs are not permitted.
Park is open 10 a.m. to sunset.
The Official Story:
Park office 415-892-3383
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Download the park
map pdf from CSP's website.
Download the Mount Burdell pdf
map from the MCOSD website.
Trails of Northeast Marin County is my favorite map (available
from Pease Press).
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub
this book from Amazon.com) has a great map and descriptions of an Olompali
Don and Kay Martin's Hiking Marin has a great map and trail
this book from Amazon.com).
David Weintraub's North Bay Trails features a useful map and
park descriptions (order
this book from Amazon.com).
101 Great Hikes of the San Francisco Bay Area, by
Ann Marie Brown (order
this book from Amazon.com) has a simple map and descriptions of a featured
in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.
View 46 photos from the
featured hike (Loop Trail, without the out-and-back extension to the
View photos from the featured
hike (Loop Trail and out-and-back to the stone wall)
State Historic Park is an interpretive and educational
site with great hiking. The park has recreated some Miwok structures,
and kept standing some not-so-elegant 20th century buildings accompanied
by non-native plants. Families with small kids will probably enjoy the
short flat walk to Miwok Village, and hikers who are fond of northern
Marin County's oak-sprinkled landscape should be delighted with the Loop
Trail, which winds through oak habitat, California bay, buckeye, and lots
of lovely madrones. Determined hikers can trek all the way to Mount Burdell,
a more than 8 mile round trip.
I don't think there's a bad time of year
to visit Olompali. In winter you'll find hillsides refreshed with green
grass, small seasonal waterfalls, and blooming manzanitas.
Wildflowers sprawl throughout grassland and woods in spring. Summer is
hot, but the trails are mostly shaded. In autumn, the deciduous oaks (including
black, blue, Oregon, and valley) and fruiting madrones put on quite a
For the featured hike, begin at the parking
lot. The start of the Loop Trail is visible at the end of the lot,
but take the gravel road to the right (near the portable toilet) toward
the historic area. A long somewhat scrawny hedge is comprised of pomegranate
shrubs, and in early autumn birds feast on the pretty fruit. The wide
path winds levelly past some old buildings (most of them pretty sorry
looking), a funky stone fountain, and a panoply of strange alien trees,
Chinese chestnut and Japanese cedar. You will probably hear and see small
airplanes buzzing around from the airport just across the highway, and
traffic noise is constant. Just past a restored barn, at 0.20 mile, the
gravel road sweeps to the right, while a smaller path continues straight.
Take the trail straight.
The Loop Trail breaks off to the left at
0.26 mile, but continue straight on the other end of the Loop Trail,
which is signed toward Miwok Village. Only hikers and equestrians
are permitted on this trail, which passes through eucalyptus, buckeye,
California bay, and white oaks. At a clearing on the left side of the
trail, at 0.33 mile, structures from the Miwok days have been built, including
kotchas (houses); one made from tule reeds, another from redwood bark.
If you're visiting with young kids, this may be your turn-around point
(there are picnic tables clustered around).
From here the trail continues, diving back
under tree cover and crossing Olompali Creek. Loop Trail starts a climb,
passing a small reservoir on the right. California bays dominate through
this stretch, but you might also see a few madrones and some hazelnut.
Olompali Creek, which flows year round, follows along the trail. A new
portion of trail veers right, departing from the old eroded route. Continue
along the creek, but then at an unmarked junction at 0.50 mile, veer
left and uphill, away from the creek.
Sunlight is largely blocked out by towering
California bay, madrone, coast live oak, and a few black oaks. Hazelnut,
creambush, and ferns thrive in the shade. The new path feeds into the
old trail, curves right, and takes a more direct route uphill through
the forest. There are some huge madrones mixed through the other trees,
and their bare patches of reddish wood seem to glow. Other
than one small grassy spot, there is virtually no undergrowth in these
woods, and this is one place where you can see the forest for the trees.
Loop Trail climbs easily on a narrow course. As the trail curves right,
madrones, California bay, coast and black oaks allow some grass to take
up residence, and it feels like the whole forest is about to open up to
grassland. Instead, the trees thicken and you'll reach a signed junction
under the trees at about .94 mile. The trail to the right continues an
ascent to Mount Burdell (topping out at over 1550 feet). If you want to
avoid the moderately steep climb to the stone fence, turn left, otherwise
turn right onto Mount Burdell Trail.
After just a few feet, at about .97 mile,
look to the left for a bench and narrow trail. On my last visit, the path
was conspicuous, with a small barricade blocking off an eroded section,
but even if that's gone, the path is signed "not a through trail."
Head up the unnamed path.
The landscape is gorgeous, with black oak,
manzanita, California bay and madrone lining the tiny path, but the ascent
is a steep and rocky one. This is an old-fashioned kind of trail, with
no switchbacks to ease the climb. Deer are common. A few bare spots permit
some long views east. The grade calms down as the path plateaus. There
is one last short steep bit, then you'll emerge in a beautiful grassy
meadow. Trails scatter (there are quite a few deer trails as well), but
stay to the left and aim for the stone wall. At about 1.26 miles the path
ends at the preserve boundary and the wall. In the 1880s Chinese laborers
built a series of stone walls throughout what is now Olompali, and this
segment stretches uphill toward the top of Mount Burdell, although there
is no connecting trail. Retrace
your steps back to the previous junction at about 1.55 miles, then
turn right and retrace your steps to the junction with Loop Trail
at about 1.58 miles. Continue straight on Loop Trail.
Monkeyflower remains blooming along the
trail into the summer, adding a burst of color. As you angle along the
hillside, you may catch a glimpse to the east through a break in the trees.
Loop Trail crosses a seasonal creek populated by California bays and ferns,
then reemerges into a mixture of Oregon oak, madrone, and a few huge manzanitas.
Switchbacks make the descent an easy one. You may hear hawks screeching
overhead. Gradually, the trees thin and views to the east open up. You
may want to pause to admire some of the largest manzanitas in the bay
area, mixed through an open woodland of black oak, madrone, blue oak,
Oregon oak, and valley oak. Miwok Village is visible downhill to the left.
Loop Trail makes a sharp turn to the left above the parking lot, then
drifts down to a junction at about 2.90 miles. If you go straight you'll
end up at the previously encountered junction near the old barn, so turn
right and return to the parking lot.
Total distance: about 3.07 miles
Last hiked: Friday, October
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