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Another Public Transit Backpacking Trip in the San Francisco Bay Area
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Amy Lauterbach
(drongobird) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Another Public Transit Backpacking Trip in the San Francisco Bay Area on 12/04/2013 15:38:32 MST Print View

We usually get in a short backpacking trip over the Thanksgiving holidays. This year, we decided to go up to Marin County and visit some places we hadn’t walked before. We arrived at the trailhead a little before 8 AM after taking the #70 bus from San Francisco to the Alameda Del Prado bus pad in Novato. A few hundred yards from the bus stop is the entrance to the Pacheco Valle Open Space Preserve (OSP).

From there we followed public trails through a long list of open space administrative units including:
Pacheco Valle OSP
Loma Verde OSP
Ignacio Valley OSP
Lucas Valley Homeowners Association Preserve
Lucas Valley OSP
Loma Alta OSP
White Hill OSP
Cascade Canyon OSP
Marin Municipal Watershed District lands
Gary Giacomini OSP
Samuel P. Taylor State Park
Golden Gate National Recreation Area (various units)
Mt. Tamalpais State Park

Most of these units abut each other, but where they don’t there are public trail easements connecting them. We ended our trip with a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge back into San Francisco. The total length of this three-day trip was a little over 59 miles. We suffered through another weekend of absolutely stellar walking weather. Northern California is experiencing a record-breaking calendar-year-to-date drought, so the hills are still dry and brown. Normally by Thanksgiving, everything would be starting to turn green.

On this walk, for reasons described below, we walked about two miles along Highway 1. Given that this was early Sunday morning, there was almost no traffic and the walk along the cliffs overlooking the Pacific was quite stunning. Normally, this road walking can be avoided by taking the Coastal Trail from Pantoll down to either the Heather Cut-Off or the use trail that drops down to the Owl Trail.

Here's an interactive CalTopo map of our route.

2013.11 Map

One highlight for us was dropping down to Highway 1 from Pantoll to an overlook of Gull Rock (red dot on map). Here, since early October, a vagrant Blue-footed Booby has taken up residence. We had distant but decent binocular looks at the bird, who is number 608 on our North American list. Following Highway 1 south to Slide Ranch was the most practical route to take after viewing the Booby.

Living in the Bay Area offers us these wonderful opportunities for exploiting the vast amounts of public lands that are in easy range of the city. Most are accessible by public transportation so car shuttles are not necessary. We are very fortunate.

Here's a link to the gallery of all of the trip photos. And here are a few images from our trip.

2013.11 Thanksgiving 063
Mt. Tamalpais from Pacheco Valle OSP

2013.11 Thanksgiving 094
nearing the summit of White Hill as the sun was setting on Day 1.

2013.11 Thanksgiving 115
Loma Alta and Big Rock Ridge, early on Day 2

2013.11 Thanksgiving 162
Bolinas and Pt. Reyes, early on Day 3

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Coastal Trail on Bolinas Ridge

2013.11 Thanksgiving 179
Marin Coast looking north from the Owl Trail

2013.11 Thanksgiving 199
the Golden Gate Bridge and the city from the headlands

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Another Public Transit Backpacking Trip in the San Francisco Bay Area on 12/04/2013 16:33:18 MST Print View

Wonderful trip. It is amazing what can be done with a little imagination and planning -- even close to large metropolitan areas. Bravo!!

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Another Public Transit Backpacking Trip in the San Francisco Bay Area on 12/04/2013 17:01:55 MST Print View

Very nice Amy.

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: Another Public Transit Backpacking Trip in the San Francisco Bay Area on 12/05/2013 07:27:16 MST Print View

Great trip and photos. Nice to have the resources (lots of public lands) nearby public transport or trailheads. When the weather doesn't cooperate in the rest of North America, good to see some decent weather (hmmm…)

David T
(DaveT) - F
bay area. on 12/05/2013 09:58:04 MST Print View

thanks amy! your well-documented and creative hikes (and bike trips) are an inspiration. thanks for taking the time to write them up in detail.

Bradley Attaway
(AttaboyBrad) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Fantastic! May have to repeat your route myself. on 12/05/2013 12:44:06 MST Print View

Looks like a great trip.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: hybrid travel on 12/05/2013 13:08:13 MST Print View

I'm fascinated with this sort of hybrid travel, linking up commuter lines with backcountry hiking. I've been able to figure out bus routes from Seattle to the Pacific Crest trail portals and to the Olympic Peninsula.

I've read several accounts of using commuter buses with bike racks to combine bus, mountain bike and foot travel. Adding a bike really extends the range by bridging the gaps from bus stops to trailheads. In a number of places, bike allow access to areas where roads have been damaged and aren't open to cars, but are perfectly passable by bike and foot. It is possible to cover 10-12 miles quickly by bike and arrive at the original trailhead to start backpacking. UL equipment loads are a perfect marriage with bike travel.

In Washignton there are a number of good rail trails and it is possible to take bike trails from the meretpolitan areas right on up to the trailheads on I-90. I would add a stout cable lock and maybe even a little comouflage netting to hide and secure my bike near a trailhead.

I would love to see light rail and bus systems with alternate trailhead stops. Properly done, there could be fantastic opportunities for loop hikes and winter recreation as well.

Thanks for sharing your trip!

Amy Lauterbach
(drongobird) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
trails and public transit on 12/05/2013 13:13:02 MST Print View

I forgot to mention this resource for Bay Area public transit backpackers:

Marc Eldridge
(meld) - MLife

Locale: The here and now.
Re: "Another Public Transit Backpacking Trip in the San Francisco Bay Area" on 12/06/2013 09:43:37 MST Print View

Great trip Amy and Jim.

Elizabeth Tracy
(mariposa) - M

Locale: Outside
route-finding? on 12/07/2013 00:13:12 MST Print View

Wow. I'm so impressed. I'm a big public transit advocate and have wanted to do something like this.

How was the routefinding? Good maps? One thing that has kept me from planning a big outing like this is the challenge of identifying and staying on route. Here in East Bay, in places it is surprisingly difficult to follow something as simple as the danged Bay Area Ridge Trail. There is an intersection every quarter-mile, and so many are unsigned. And some of the park maps are wildly inaccurate.

- Elizabeth

Amy Lauterbach
(drongobird) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Route finding on 12/07/2013 08:33:51 MST Print View

There are some unmarked intersections on the route we took.

Jim and I are both comfortable using just USGS maps and figuring things out, so for us it was not an issue. There are great recreation maps (Harrison, etc) for the Bay Area too.

There's always the option to create your route plan using and then using a GPS device (an iPhone is plenty easy).

And you could plan a nice long route in the East Bay, that would be a fun trip!