Sunday, May 31, 2009

Marin Headlands - Gerbode Valley Loop

Hike Route: Rodeo Valley Trail (Bunker Road Trailhead) => Bobcat Trail => Miwok Trail => Rodeo Valley Trail

The Marin Headlands offer some great hikes with nice views and plenty of Northern California plants and wildlife. This hike does a loop around the Gerbode Valley, with a climb up and then down the crest of the surrounding hills. The trail does a single long uphill and then downhill, which can be popular with Mountain Bikers.

The day I did this hike it was fairly socked in with Fog, but it was comfortable enough to hike in shorts. This is a popular area, so it can be crowded -- but the Saturday I was there I only saw a couple groups of hikers, some runners and a few mountain bikers.

This hike starts from a Bunker Road parking lot about 1.2 miles from the end of the Bunker tunnel. The road to the parking lot is horseshoe-like, so if you miss the first turn off -- dont worry, the second entrance is actually easier (but you kind of enter through the exit).

From Marin Headlands - Gerbode Valley Loop

There is a fairly large dirt parking lot available, but this might fill up on Sunny weekends, as the area attracts hikers, mountain bikers, runners and even horseback riders.

From Marin Headlands - Gerbode Valley Loop

The trailhead is well marked and crosses a small but running creek that feeds Rodeo Lagoon, which you can see from higher up on the hike.

From Marin Headlands - Gerbode Valley Loop

The initial trail is a bit narrow, but soon you will reach the T-junction with the Rodeo Valley Trail. At the junction, Turn LEFT on the well used trail.

From Marin Headlands - Gerbode Valley Loop

Very soon after the T-junction, you will reach fork in the trail. This is the beginning of the loop where you return from at the end of the hike. The route in this book, suggests going RIGHT at this junction. If you want a steeper climb uphill and a longer downhill you may want to consider turning LEFT -- as I think most mountain bikers do.

From Marin Headlands - Gerbode Valley Loop

Following the suggested route, you will climb a longer (but not as steep) uphill. From this point in the hike, the wildflowers and wildlife are more abundant. There is plenty to look at on this hike -- even on a very foggy day. One thing that doesn't change, is the trail conditions -- its a wide trail of compact hard dirt for entire route.

From Marin Headlands - Gerbode Valley Loop

There is a interesting group of eucalyptus trees as you start the climb up to the crest of the hills surrounding the valley. I spotted a coyote on the trail in this section, but he quickly went off into the nearby brush.

From Marin Headlands - Gerbode Valley Loop

As mentioned before, the route does a loop around the valley, slowly climbing up the surrounding hills for nearly 4 miles. For the remaining 2 miles of the hike you travel downhill. There are very other few ups and downs in between.

From Marin Headlands - Gerbode Valley Loop

There were bright wildflowers along the upslope walls of the hike.

From Marin Headlands - Gerbode Valley Loop


From Marin Headlands - Gerbode Valley Loop


There are a couple trail junctions along the upper parts of the hike. These are well marked, but can be a bit confusing at first on a foggy day. The Rodeo Valley cut-off trail returns back to the trailhead, but it did look a bit overgrown.

For this hike, continue on the Bobcat Trail up the hill.

From Marin Headlands - Gerbode Valley Loop

Not noted on the map in this book, was this junction with the Alta Trail. For this hike, keep LEFT and stay on the Bobcat Trail. Again - there are well done markers in the area to keep you headed in the right direction.

From Marin Headlands - Gerbode Valley Loop

On a sunny and clear day, at this point there will be great views including the North Golden Gate tower and Mt. Tam.

A little after 3 miles is another junction on the route -- The Marincello Fire Road, which continues down to Tennesse Valley. For this hike, continue to the left on the Bobcat Trail.

From Marin Headlands - Gerbode Valley Loop

Soon you will reach the near top with a three-way intersection, for this hike turn RIGHT on to the Miwok trail which will start the decent back down into the Gerbode Valley. There are great views from this section on the trail (San Francisco, the Bay, and even Montara Mountain -- just not a on a foggy day.

From Marin Headlands - Gerbode Valley Loop

The Miwok trail has a fairly steep downhill at the top, but the trail surface is good and wide.

From Marin Headlands - Gerbode Valley Loop

Along the way back down, you pass the Old Springs trail which also leads back to the Tennesse Valley trailhead. Continue on the Miwok trail.

From Marin Headlands - Gerbode Valley Loop

At about 4.5 miles, you approach the Wolf Ridge Trail junction-- which was looking a bit overgrown at the moment. Continue on the Miwok trail.

From Marin Headlands - Gerbode Valley Loop

The wildlife and wildflowers are a bit more sparse on the Miwok trail, but you do get some grand views across the valley. You can even see the Bobcat trail that you just ascended.

From Marin Headlands - Gerbode Valley Loop

On a sunny day, I am sure this is a very popular route -- so consider going early. On this foggy day I only ran into about 20 folks along the 6 mile route.

From Marin Headlands - Gerbode Valley Loop

Upon reaching the valley floor, the Miwok trail will meet up with the Bobcat trail. Turn LEFT at this point to return to the trailhead via the Rodeo Valley Trail.

From Marin Headlands - Gerbode Valley Loop

Maybe it was the fog or the single long ascent uphill, but it didnt seem like a 6 mile hike -- it seemed shorter. In any case, this is a nice hike with great views on clear days. The trail is very well maintained, but you might have lots of company along the way including mountain bikers.

There is a detailed overview of this hike on Page 34 of 60 Hikes within 60 Miles (2nd Edition).

Another similar hike to this (on the Peninsula) is the Montara Mountain hike, which has a bit more trail variety and great Ocean views.


View Gerbode Valley Loop Trailhead in a larger map

Basics:
Area - Golden Gate National Recreation Area - Marin Headlands
Trails - Rodeo Valley => Bobcat => Miwok
Map - Marin Headlands Map
Length - 6 miles Lollipop - Moderate Hike (about 900' Elevation gain)
Trail - Very wide dirt road, some junctions along the way. Very well marked and maintained.
Dogs - Yes, but not allowed in some sections (not sure why)
Bikes - Yes, but not allowed in some sections
Views - This trail is ALL Views
Getting There - From San Francisco: Take US101 across the Golden Gate, Exit Alexander toward Sausalito, LEFT on Bunker Road through a single lane tunnel. The dirt parking lot is on the right about 1.2 miles after end of tunnel. Look for horse crossing sign.
Fee- None, free parking
Weather - Ok on foggy days, but much better on a clear and sunny day
Other Trails - Plenty other trails within the headlands, and extension hikes available from this this one.
Facilities - there are no restrooms or water at the trailhead or parking lot. Facilities are available at the nearby Visitor Center further west.

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