The Ultimate Cheat Sheet On Marin County

Marin County is, no doubt, a bedroom community to San Francisco, and a very affluent one at that. But Marin has a very definite personality all its own. Its agricultural heritage dates back before the Golden Gate Bridge was built, when ferries were the only practical way of getting to Marin. Back then, Marin was very rural, dominated by dairy operations, and that farming legacy continues today with a myriad of local, artisan culinary makers of all stripes tucked away in the hills and valleys flowing off the Sleeping Lady, Mt. Tamalpais. Combine that with the magnificent Pt. Reyes Peninsula and beautiful Tomales Bay and you have a magical visitor’s playground on the doorstep of the hustle-bustle Bay Area. Here’s a checklist of some hidden gems to visit on a day trip or weekend stay. Marin Headlands Just across the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most scenic and historic areas in the United States, and most people fly by it on their way north or south on Highway 101. From stunning views of San Francisco Bay, to hidden, protected beaches, fascinating Miwok Indian remains and abandoned military installations, great hiking, camping, flora and fauna, a visitor could spend a weekend without leaving the Headlands and still have just scratched its surface. Here are just a few suggestions to enjoy this unique spot: The best views in the Headlands are along Conzelman Road, which climbs steeply just off the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge. As you climb you’ll see numerous pull off spots to check out the views; the higher you go, the better the views and the lighter the crowds. As you continue on Conzelman Road you’ll pass numerous campgrounds, beach access trails and military installations dating from the Civil to the Cold Wars. You’ll also pass parking and the access trail to Point Bonita Lighthouse, most definitely worth the hike if you have time. Further on the road, now called Field Road, there’s parking and trails to Rodeo Beach and Lagoon, a great picnic spot and surf point. Continuing on Field Road, you’ll pass the Marin Headlands Visitor Center, Center For The Arts, the Nike Missile Site and the Cold War Museum, the irony of which is hard to pass up. The road will loop around and bring you back to Conzelman Road, where you can continue on back on Highway 101. There’s much more to see and do than outlined here; check out the National Park Service guides at for more information. Muir Woods Heading north, into Mill Valley,you can hike under the canopy of the world's tallest trees in 550-acre Muir Woods. The 1-mile Main Trail Loop is an easy walk to Cathedral Grove; you’ll come back via Bohemian Grove, where the tallest trees in the park are. Weekends are crazy busy, and you’ll need to take a shuttle bus from the parking areas. Reservations are required, so plan accordingly. Mt. Tamalpais From Mill Valley you can continue into Mt. Tam State Park. There is so much to see and do here, space does not permit a full run down, but you can get all the information you need at theState Park website. Some highlights: the Matt Davis, Dipsea and Randall Trails, soaking in the hot springs at low tide at Steep Ravine, and the East Peak summit and fire lookout. That’s just a few. Springtime is the best for hiking on Tam; the weather is not too hot and the wildflowers are exploding. Stinson Beach and Points North If you follow the Panoramic Highway west, up and over Mt. Tamalpais, you’ll end up on Highway 1 and the village of Stinson Beach. This is one of the most protected beaches in the Bay Area; while much of the Bay can be shrouded in fog, Stinson can be sunny and wind-free. Certain areas of the beaches are dog-friendly also. Heading north on 1 will take you to many other beautiful spots, starting with the town of Bolinas. Notoriously reclusive, the citizenry of Bolinas would rather that you can’t find their little town, so getting there can be tricky. And if you do make it, don’t tell anyone. If you’re feeling adventurous, further north on 1 you can hike to Alamere Falls. It’s long, muddy and rocky, but flat, and the falls at the end of the trail make the hike well worth it. Keep going on 1 and you’ll pass through Olema-don’t blink or you’ll miss it-with great dining and lodging at Point Reyes Lodge, Farmhouse and Sir and Star. Eventually you’ll land in Pt. Reyes Station at the gateway to the Pt. Reyes Peninsula. A slightly larger dot on the map, Pt. Reyes Station is home to Cowgirl Creamery, one of the pioneering cheese makers in West Marin. Great shopping and dining abound at Side Street Kitchen, Station House Cafe, Osteria Stellina, Toby’s Feed Barn, and Inverness Market in neighboring Inverness Park. You’ll follow Sir Francis Drake Boulevard into Pt. Reyes National Seashore, with its great hiking, beaches, Pt. Reyes Lighthouse and the Tule Elk Preserve at Tomales Point. Check out all the information you needhere. There’s only one road in and out of the peninsula, so you’ll double back on Sir Francis Drake to connect back up with Highway 1. From here, if you head east on Pt. Reyes-Petaluma Road you’ll head towards Petaluma, in Sonoma County. You’ll pass Marin French Cheese Company, home to spectacular soft Bries and Camemberts, and, hello! McEvoy Ranch. Do stop in and say hi, but we need a quick call ahead for an appointment. Petaluma is a great town; check out ourblog post on the goings on there. From Petaluma you can connect back with Highway 101. If you go north on Hwy 1 from Pt. Reyes Station, you’ll miss coming by the Ranch, but you’ll pass by the bump in the road called Marshall and Hog Island Oyster Company and, further up, Nick’s Cove Cabins and Restaurant, both worth a stop. From there you can head up to Tomales and go east on Tomales-Petaluma Road into Petaluma and the highway. Farm To Table Experiences Marin’s farming heritage has resulted in an explosion of outstanding makers and purveyors of fine artisanal foods, including, if we do say so ourselves, McEvoy Ranch. If you’re looking for the freshest, most local ingredients for your next feast, here are a few others you should check out. Cheese: Besides the aforementioned Cowgirl Creamery and Marin French, check out Pt. Reyes Farmstead, Tomales Farmstead, Two Rock Valley, Valley Ford, and Nicasio Cheese Company. Many of these are by appointment only, so check them out before venturing out. Meats: Belcampo Meat Company in Larkspur, Thistle Meats in Petaluma, Marin Sun Farms, Devil’s Gulch Farm, Stemple Creek Ranch are just a few that offer humanely raised, grass fed and organic meats. Farm Markets and Farm Stands: The farmers markets in San Rafael, Fairfax, Novato, Larkspur, Mill Valley and Pt. Reyes Station all have amazing, local, organic produce.Marin Community Farm Stands offer produce from over 20 organic farms in the towns of Ross, San Anselmo, San Geronimo and Woodacre. Check out their websitehere. So there you go. You’re bound to find something to like out here, and sometimes the best way to explore is to simply get in the car and drive. Let us know what you discover, and we hope to see you at McEvoy Ranch on your journey!