Ride No. 17
The Bolinas Ridge Trail

Region: West Marin
Mileage: 10 miles
Type of Bike: Mountain Bike
Rating: Medium
Riding Time: 4 hours
Max. Elevation: 1,719 feet


Terrain
A wide dirt fire road with rolling pastureland at the south end, passing through shady wooded sections toward the north.
Description of Ride
One of the most scenic and popular mountain bike trails in Marin County, the Bolinas Ridge Trail winds 11 miles from Olema to Fairfax-Bolinas Road, meandering over hills and through forests and cow pastures, offering expansive views of the Bolinas Lagoon, Inverness Ridge, Tomales Bay, and Black Mountain. This ride only covers half of the actual trail.
Starting Location/Parking
Start at Samuel P. Taylor Park, past Lagunitas, on Sir Francis Drake Highway. From Hwy 101 take the Sir Francis Drake Blvd. Drive west through San Anselmo, Fairfax, and Lagunitas, and then enter Samuel P. Taylor State Park. There is a $3.00 day use fee.
Route
From Samuel P. Taylor Park follow the paved bike path about 3 miles to the entrance gate of the Bolinas Ridge Trail. Continue along the ridge for about 5 miles to the Shafter Bridge Trail turnoff. In summer you can cross Lagunitas Creek and pick up the dirt fire road on the other side of Sir Francis Drake Highway. In winter, when the creek is full, you will have to take Sir Francis Drake Highway until it brings you back to the park entrance.


The Bolinas Trail is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA). It runs parallel to Shoreline Highway, rolling through pasturelands and stands of redwood. It is an ideal area for picnics, bird watching or just sunbathing. The trail is well traveled by hikers and horses, so be alert for them.
The Bolinas Ridge Trail can be reached from several trailheads along Sir Francis Drake Highway at the north end and from the Bolinas-Fairfax Road at the south end. Start in Samuel P. Taylor Park. Ride the paved bike trail through the park until you reach two wooden posts in the middle of the road. There is a metal sign designating "Bolinas Ridge" Go through the spring gate on your left and follow the dirt road up to the top of the ridge.
You can also reach the trail in Tocoloma, 3 miles north of the park entrance. You will find parking off the side of the road, saving yourself the $3.00 day use fee. Take the paved bike path under the Sir Francis Drake bridge and follow the road to the entrance of the Bolinas Ridge Trail, as described above. The third entrance is at the top of Olema Hill, where you can avoid the initial grade up to the ridge.
Once on the top of the Ridge, you feel you are on top of the world with breathtaking views of the Olema Valley and Tomales Bay. If it is spring, the area is a rich green carpet sprinkled with wild flowers. The trail is full of rolling hills with open pastureland and grazing cattle. You will have to get off your bike to open the several cattle gates you encounter. After several miles the road takes you through a beautiful redwood grove. You will approach a junction where you can decide to leave the Ridge and return to the park or continue on another 6 miles ending on Ridgecrest Blvd. in Mt. Tamalpais State Park.
If you decide to descend at this point, take the Shafter Bridge turnoff down a steep but wide trail as it winds around the mountain with several switchbacks. You will end at Lagunitas Creek next to Sir Francis Drake Highway. If it is summer the creek will be fairly low and you can ride your bike across without getting too wet. From here, you can take the fire road across the highway. Turn left on this road, which brings you back to the park entrance and your car. If it is winter then the creek will be rather deep and it would be better to take Sir Francis Drake Highway back to the park entrance.
Alternate Ride 17a: Olema Hill to Shafter Bridge Turnoff (Medium 10 miles). An easier, more level ride begins at the top of Olema Hill, 1 mile east of Olema on Sir Francis Drake Blvd. Here you can avoid the initial grade up to the top of the Ridge. The trailhead starts at about 300 feet, heads south and follows the contour of the hill to the ridgeline. The trail gradually ascends for about 7 miles to 1,300 feet through open pastures. Be prepared to hoist your bike over gates. Take the trail to the Shafter Bridge turnoff and return by the same route. Or you can continue to the Bolinas-Fairfax Road for a spectacular ride back to Olema.
Alternate Ride 17b: Bolinas Ridge Trail to Olema (Challenging 25 miles, dirt 11 miles). This ride begins at the south end of the Bolinas Trail and heads north. Begin the ride at the top of Bolinas-Fairfax Road near the town of Bolinas which is well marked. The Bolinas-Fairfax Road is a series of switchbacks that climb to 1,400 feet in about 3½ miles from Shoreline Highway. The trail starts as a fire road on coarse gravel and clay bordered with scrub brush and pines. After the summit, there is a steep downhill ride into and through an area of redwoods. Here you are actually east of the ridge; the trail is well marked. The trail returns to the ridge and travels through cow pastures. The last 8 miles of this downhill run has 4-6 gates that separate cow pastures. All or none of them may be open. Be prepared to hoist your bike over fences. The trail ends at Olema on Sir Francis Drake Blvd. Return along Shoreline Highway to your car on the Bolinas-Fairfax Road.


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