Roy's Redwoods Open Space Preserve,
Marin County Open Space District,

Marin County
In brief:
0.7 mile loop hike through ancient redwoods off Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, near San Geronimo.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 0.7 mile loop hike is easy. Trailhead elevation is around 400 feet. The preserve's high point is around 1400 feet. A few out-and-back trails have the biggest climbs, but you can avoid extensive elevation changes on the Loop Trail, or on a short trek into the redwood groves.

Exposure:
Mostly shaded.

Trail traffic
:
Light.

Trail surfaces
:
Dirt trails.

Hiking time
:
Less than 1 hour.

Season
:
Best in late winter and early spring.

Getting there:
From US 101 in Marin County, exit San Anselmo/Sir Francis Drake. Drive west on Sir Francis Drake about 11 miles to Nicasio Valley Road. Turn right and drive about 0.4 mile. Look for the open space gate on the right and park on the side of the road.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
http://www.transitandtrails.org/trailheads/80

GPS coordinates* for trailhead:
Latitude 38 1'14.22"N
Longitude
12239'42.52"W
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, pay phone, stores and restaurants back east in Fairfax. For breakfast before, or lunch after a hike, I recommend Two Bird Cafe on San Geronimo Valley Drive in San Geronimo (visible from Sir Francis Drake). No camping.

Trailhead details:
Substantial roadside parking. No entrance or parking fees. No maps, drinking water, or designated handicapped parking. Pit toilets inside the preserve. There is no direct public transportation to the preserve, but Golden Gate Transit bus #23 services San Geronimo Valley Drive. From there you could walk about 0.5 mile to the trailhead.

Rules:
One trail is multi-use. The other trails are open to equestrians and hikers only. 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's Roy's Redwoods page.
MCOSD field office 415-499-6405

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
• Download the preserve map pdf from MCOSD.
Redwood Hikes has a great map and descriptions of this preserve, with gorgeous photos.
• Barry Spitz's Open Spaces (order this book from Amazon.com)
• Don and Kay Martin's Hiking Marin (order this book from Amazon.com) has a good map and preserve descriptions.

View photos from this hike.




Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page




Roy's Redwoods is a perfect choice when you want an easy ramble through some old growth redwoods. TrailheadThis preserve, which was acquired by MCOSD in 1978, has an unusual (for this part of Marin) small virgin stand of redwoods, with none of the tourist atmosphere you must put up with at, say, Muir Woods. The preserve is small, there are more extensive stands of redwoods elsewhere in the bay area, and Roy's is frequently overlooked in favor of the other parks in the immediate vicinity, Samuel P. Taylor, Loma Alta, and Gary Giacomini. Although Roy's seems to be primarily used by local equestrians, joggers, and dogwalkers, hikers can find pleasant loop and out-and-back treks here. A connection to adjacent Maurice Thorner Memorial Open Space Preserve made in September 2000 allows outdoor enthusiasts to stretch hikes out of Roy's and through Thorner, which is particularly delightful in spring.At the edge of the meadow
     Winter and early spring are usually muddy seasons at Roy's Redwoods. The preserve has a surprising amount of horse traffic, ensuring that trails are pretty churned up during wet months. Summer is hot and dusty, although the woods are cool. Early spring is probably the optimal time for a visit.
     Roy's boasts a loop trail that parallels Nicasio Valley Road (and a golf course), then turns and runs along Sir Francis Drake, and finally cuts north and into mixed woodland, before returning to Nicasio Valley Road through a grove of redwoods. But the grassland portion of this hike is not particularly pleasant; it's sweltering in the summer, noisy and permeated with golfers for about a mile. Loop TrailAs Don and Kay Martin advocate in their excellent book, Hiking Marin, the better option is to hike the north and western parts of the Roy's Redwoods Loop Trail, then turn at the bottom of the hill, where the trail enters the grassland, and return the way you came.
       In the past, official trails were tough to discern from the unofficial ones, and although the preserve has better signage now, it's still tough to find your way around on your first visit. You may choose to not really hike at all, but instead wander through the redwoods. To get to the trees, enter the preserve through the open space gate on Nicasio Valley Road, then head north (to the left). Follow the trail through the meadow, which soon enters deep shade of a redwood and California bay forest. Once you're under the trees, there is virtually no undergrowth, and the trails are nearly impossible to pick out. Simply wind your way through the small grove and explore. Some of the redwoods are hollowed out from fire, and primitively decorated with beads and cloth. Loop Trail It's a pleasant place to sit down on the ground and breathe in the old trees. 
     For a short loop through a mixed forest, grassland, and redwoods, begin at the open space gate. Turn left on a trail open to hikers and equestrians only. A few large redwoods hulk at the edge of a meadow. Poison oak and blackberries tangle together in the understory.At about 250 feet, the trail splits. Stay to the left.
      The hiking and equestrian trail climbs easily through California bay. Snowberry, ferns, and poison oak create a lush understory. The trail joins a wide fire road, the only route in Roy's open to cyclists. Bear right. The two trails run together until a signed junction at 0.23 mile, where the fire road continues straight, and the trail veers right. Turn right.Redwoods at the edge of the meadow
      Winding through California bay, buckeye, and coast live oak at a gentle grade, the equestrian and hiking trail passes through grassland, heads back into the woods and emerges once more into grassland and a signed junction at 0.48 mile. You might see Ithuriel's spear, clarkia, and yellow mariposa lily in late spring. Turn right.
     After a few steps, the trail heads into a forest of California bay and redwoods. The trail seems to disappear, so follow its lead and wander through the deep shade of the woods. When you're ready to continue, aim for the grassy meadow visible through the trees (if you're disoriented, you should be able to hear traffic noise from Nicasio Valley Road; walk toward that). Pick up the obvious but unsigned hiking-only trail, which ends back to a previously encountered junction at 0.69 mile. Bear left and retrace your steps to the trailhead.

Total distance: 0.74 mile
Last hiked: Wednesday, June 6, 2001