Samuel P. Taylor State Park,
California State Parks,
Marin County
In brief:
9 mile loop to Samuel P. Taylor State Park's highest peak.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 9.3 mile loop hike is moderately tough, with about 1400 feet in elevation change.

Exposure:
Some shade at the beginning and end, but mostly exposed in the middle.

Trail traffic
:
Light-moderate.

Trail surfaces
:
Dirt trails and fire roads.

Hiking time
:
4 hours.

Season
:
Best in late winter and early spring.

Getting there:
From US 101 in Marin County, exit San Anselmo/Sir Francis Drake. Drive about 15 miles west on Sir Francis Drake to the park entrance on the left side of the road.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
http://www.transitandtrails.org/trailheads/76

GPS coordinates* for trailhead:
Latitude 38 1'10.28"N
Longitude
12243'46.32"W
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, pay phones, restaurants, and stores about 5 miles northwest, in Point Reyes Station, or about 10 miles southeast, in Fairfax. Several restaurants and stores can be reached by driving a few miles in either direction on Sir Francis Drake (Lagunitas to the southeast or Olema to the northwest). I recommend Two Bird Cafe on San Geronimo Valley Drive in San Geronimo (visible from Sir Francis Drake). The park has good individual campsites.

Trailhead details:
Lots of parking inside the park; room for about 8 vehicles just before the park entrance on the left side of Sir Francis Drake. Pay $8 entrance/parking fee at entrance kiosk (self-register if unattended). Additional fees for camping in the park. If the ranger station is open, you can pick up a map there. Restrooms and drinking water available throughout the developed area of the park. There are at least two designated handicapped parking spots in the park, and while the trails are not technically all-access paths, wheelchair users should be able to navigate more than a mile of Cross Marin Trail and Riding and Hiking Trail, the first stretch of this hike. West Marin Stagecoach offers public transportation to this trailhead.

Rules:
About half the trails are multi-use. A few are designated hiking only. Dogs are only permitted in the developed parts of the park (campground and picnic areas) as well as on paved park roads and the dirt "bike path" from the Redwood grove picnic area east to Shafter bridge, and always must be on leash. Park hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The Official Story:
CSP's Samuel P. Taylor page.
Park office 415-488-9897

Map Choices:
 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: San Francisco, by Jane Huber (yup, that's me, the creator of this website) has a simple map and a featured hike. Order this book from Amazon.com.
• Download the park map pdf from CSP's website.
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub (order this book from Amazon.com) has a great map and descriptions of a Barnabe Mountain hike.
• Point Reyes by Jessica Lage (order this book from Amazon.com) has a good map and descriptions of trails at Samuel P. Taylor.
Trail Map of Point Reyes National Seashore, by Tom Harrison (order from Amazon.com) also shows the trail network of Samuel P. Taylor.
• David Weintraub's North Bay Trails has a useful map and trail descriptions (order this book from Amazon.com).
• Don and Kay Martin's Hiking Marin has a useful map and trail descriptions (order this book from Amazon.com).


Go to Bay Area Hiker's Devil Gulch Trailhead page.

View 53 photos from the hike.




Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page


It's a surprise to find such a spectacular viewpoint in Samuel P. Taylor State Park. Park entranceWhen you drive past and through the heart of the park on Sir Francis Drake, the redwood and Douglas fir forest does not permit even a single glimpse of the surrounding countryside. But when you take a steep hike from the valley floor to Barnabe Peak's treeless summit you are rewarded with one the of the best panoramas in Marin County.
     In addition to the view from Barnabe Peak, Samuel P. Taylor offers a variety of hiking experiences. Pioneer Tree Trail is an easy 1.7 mile jaunt through the redwood forest near Papermill Creek. From the park headquarters, you can join the Bay Area Ridge Trail as it climbs to Bolinas Ridge, and then heads south toward Mount Tamalpais.
     The park is named after Taylor, who made his money in the California Gold Rush, and with those funds bought 100 acres of land around what is now called Papermill Creek. He established a paper mill there, and later built a resort hotel. Taylor's grave site is near the junction of Riding and Hiking Trail and Barnabe Trail. And by the way, the peak is named for Barnabe, his mule.Looking southeast from Barnabe Trail, Kent Lake and Mount Tamalpais are visible
     Start at one of the parking areas near the ranger station (or, if you've parked on Sir Francis Drake, walk in along the park road). Walk toward the campground, cross Papermill Creek on a bridge and bear left (signed "group picnics only.") Once past the picnic area and a gate, Cross Marin Trail (sometimes just called Bike Path) meets one end of Pioneer Tree Trail at a signed junction. Continue on Cross Marin Trail. The wide multi-access trail runs at an almost perfectly flat grade along the creek, and is lined with Douglas fir, redwood, tanoak, huckleberry, ferns, and hazelnut. At about 0.5 mile, you'll approach the bridge over Papermill Creek and Sir Francis Drake, and the signed junction with the other end of Pioneer Tree Trail. Continue straight across the bridge. On the other side, Riding and Hiking Trail departs on the left at a signed junction. Keep walking straight on Cross Marin Trail. Papermill Creek(Some maps refer to this next segment at Cross Marin, others call it Riding and Hiking Trail. In fact, the next parks sign on the trail calls it Riding and Hiking Trail.)
     The level broad fire road passes Irving Group Picnic Area, with Papermill Creek still audible, although not always visible, on the right. Cars can also be heard traveling on Sir Francis Drake. As they pass over the concrete road segments, they make a noise very similar to a fast horse trot. Redwoods are less of a presence here, but you may see Douglas fir, coast live oak, buckeye, tanoak, and California bay. Trailside shrubs include creambush, hazelnut, and ceanothus. At about 1.2 miles, Barnabe Trail departs on the left side of the trail at a signed junction. Bear left onto Barnabe, which is open to equestrians, hikers, and cyclists.
     Whatever you think about this trail at the end of the day, it does declare its intentions immediately, with an initial steep grade. In addition to Douglas fir, Barnabe Trail is lined with coast live oaks, tanoaks, and a few big-leaf maples and buckeyes. Before long you leave the forest to hike through a mixture of woods and grassland, with two varieties of broom, monkeyflower, silktassel, California coffeeberry, sagebrush, coyote brush, Douglas fir, and coast live oak on the sides of the trail. Views unfold as you climb. Look for a faint unmarked path on the left side of the trail. The last stretch of Barnabe Trail approaches the fire lookout A tiny clear spot has been transformed into the perfect rest stop/viewpoint When I hiked up Barnabe in February 2001, there was a folding chair wrapped in plastic here, ready to cradle its owner when he/she returns. Ignore a descending trail on the right at an unmarked junction about half way up, and stay straight on Barnabe. As the trail ascends, grassland begins to dominate the landscape, with occasional forays into pockets of oaks and Douglas fir. You may notice a faint path running parallel to the fire road on the left. This is Ridge Trail, unmarked as far as I could tell, but an option for the journey to the top. Finally, you reach the upper reaches of the mountain, and complete the climb through pure grassland. At about 3.2 miles, Barnabe Trail turns left and heads downhill, just before the actual summit. You can continue uphill about 50 more feet, but don't stray past the lookout, as the no trespassing signs warn. If it's not too windy, you may want to make the rocky outcrop near the base of the lookout your lunch break. At a relatively low elevation of 1466 feet, the views are just incredible. On crystal clear days you should be able to see Mount St. Helena to the north and Mount Diablo to the east. Even with moderate visibility, see how much publicly-accessible land you can identify from here. There's Point Reyes National Seashore to the west, GGNRA's Bolinas Ridge southwest, Giacomini, MMWD lands (including a glimpse of Kent Lake and its spillway), and Mount Tamalpais to the south, Loma Alta and Big Rock Ridge to the east. When you're ready to continue, descend to the undersigned junction where Barnabe Trail curves downhill, and turn right. Descending on Barnabe Trail
      Barnabe descends about as steeply as it ascended, through grassland and some trees. At a corner at about 3.5 miles, Bill's Trail begins on the right side of the fire road at a signed junction. (You can shorten your hike by continuing to descend on Barnabe Trail.) Turn right on Bill's Trail, which is open to equestrians and hikers only. (By the way, the mileage on the trail sign is wrong. Stairstep Falls is not 1.3 miles from this junction. You'll hike more than double that to get to the falls.)
     The narrow path almost immediately heads into the woods. California bays are common, along with tanoak, Douglas fir, and some coast live oak, madrone, California hazelnut, and California nutmeg. In winter, look for flowering currants and gooseberry. You also may see some early milkmaids and hound's tongue nestled among the ferns. In autumn, red rosehips cling to the branches of wood rose. Bill's Trail is a delight; switchbacks make the walking easy, and there are lots of charming little bridges across seasonal creeks and waterfalls all the way downhill. Wooden fences protect against shortcuts in some sections. At about 6.5 miles, at a signed junction, the path to Stairstep Falls departs on the right. (Option: hike out and back on this path, which will Bill's Trailadd about 0.5 mile to your day.) Continue straight on Bill's Trail.
     Through the trees you can occasionally glimpse the green, treeless rolling hills just north of Devil's Gulch. A few out-of-place eucalyptus trees keep company with native oak and Douglas fir. Bill's Trail winds downhill, ending at about 7.2 miles at a bridge and signed junction. The bridge crosses the stream and meets Devil's Gulch Trail. Continue straight on Riding and Hiking Trail.
     The wide hiking, equestrian, and cycling trail is a shock after gentle Bill's Trail. With a continual roller coaster profile, Riding and Hiking is best suited for equestrians and cyclists. Hikers (at least me) probably won't appreciate the short but steep ascents and descents this trail offers toward the end of this long hike. Still traveling through the forest, you'll be shaded by tanoaks and Douglas fir.The trail is prone to storm damage, and may be rutted and muddy in winter and spring. Riding and Hiking Trail steps out of the trees and sweeps downhill through the lowest reaches of Mount Barnabe's grassland. A look uphill to the summit reveals the fire lookout. Then it's back into the woods, past a closed section of trail on the left, and up a hill to a signed junction on the edge of the forest. The path to the right visits Taylor's grave site. Bear left and descend a sharp grade to a signed junction at about 8 miles (if you've taken the option of descending on Barnabe Trail, this is where you rejoin the hike). Bear right to stay on Riding and Hiking Trail.Riding and Hiking Trail winds through chaparral
     It's a relief to descend a bit. Coyote brush occupies the foreground, with forested hills looming west of Papermill Creek. The trail passes a fire road leading down to Madrone Group Area, and some hikers shorten their trek by turning right here, crossing Sir Francis Drake, and taking a creekside trail to the left, back to the park headquarters. Continue straight on Riding and Hiking Trail. The trail reverts to an earlier up and down course, passing through woods and back into chaparral. Just past a water tank, the trail descends steeply and then turns left a few feet from a green gate on Sir Francis Drake. (Option: if you're parked in the pullout right before the park entrance, you can shortcut the remaining hike. Walk past the gate to Sir Francis Drake, cross carefully, turn right and walk along the side of the road about 0.2 mile to the park entrance and your vehicle. Obviously, this option can be dangerous, as there is virtually no side of the road to walk on, so exercise this option with care.) Continue on Riding and Hiking Trail, to the previously encountered junction at about 8.8 miles. Turn right on Cross Marin Trail and retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Total distance: 9.3 miles
Last hiked: February 6, 2001