Grand Loop through Baltimore Canyon, King Mountain & Blithedale Summit
11.9 miles     2200 ft
26 Mar 2011
Summary

A gorgeous, fully shaded, short hike going through hiking trails in three adjacent open space preserves, including a trip to Dawn Falls.

Location: Baltimore Canyon Open Space PreserveBlithedale Summit Open Space PreserveKing Mountain Open Space Preserve

Elevation Profile
Trailhead

Location: 434 Madrone Avenue, Larkspur, CA 94939 . Parking area is not visible in Google Maps.

Directions: From Hwy 101 in Corte Madera, take the Paradise Dr/Tamalpais Dr exit west on Tamalpais Dr, turn right at Corte Madera Ave (becomes Magnolia Ave), and turn left at Madrone Ave (becomes Valley Way). Trailhead is at the very end. of Madrone Ave.

On the official MCOSD trail map, the trail head is supposedly next to 'Water Way'. In March 2011, I could not find any road called 'Water Way'. I followed Madrone Avenue all the way to the trail head.

Google Maps:

Parking Fees: None (last visited: March 2011)

Capacity: Parking is in residential areas — free but tight. Several signs advise you to park only in designated areas marked by white lines on roads. If you cannot find parking close to the trail head, you may try parking in side streets — there is a mishmash of lanes and side roads close to trail heads.

Latitude: 37.931463     Longitude: -122.550524

Trip Planning

Trail Maps

» Official Trail Map by MCOSD: Great map showing various trails and mileage information.

Route

Route in brief: Piedmont Trail (2.0 miles round-trip) → Dawn Falls Trail (0.5 miles) → Ladybug Trail (0.6 miles) → King Mountain Loop (1.9 miles) → Ladybug Trail (0.6 miles) → Dawn Falls Trail (0.7 miles) → Southern Marin Line Fire Rd (1.0 miles) → H Line Fire Rd (0.3 + 0.7 miles) → Old Railroad Grade Fire Rd (0.5 miles) → Horseshoe Fire Rd (0.1 miles) → Corte Madera Creek Trail (0.3 miles) → Hoo-Koo-E-Koo Trail (0.5 + 0.4 + 0.5 miles) → Southern Marin Line Fire Rd (0.2 miles) → Dawn Falls Trail (0.7 miles).

Notes:

  1. The entire route is shaded. Dawn Falls Trail meanders next to Larkspur Creek. The trail was quite muddy but walkable. After thunderstorms, the creek flows with lots of water.
  2. Yelp reviews for Dawn Falls: Getting to the base of the falls is possible but tricky. There is no trail that leads you to the base.
  3. Piedmont Trail takes you next to a creek. On the other side of the creek are homes. From Madrone Ave trailhead, about 0.5 miles along Piedmont Trail, there are switchbacks and series of steps that gain elevation quickly.
  4. King Mountain Loop is also shaded and offers panoramic views now and then. It does not go to the summit but circumambulates it.
  5. Signs were missing at many interesctions along King Mountain Loop. At all such intersections, I could use my intuition to guess where to go. However, there was one bifurcation where it was not clear which path to take.
  6. Names of trail were missing at the intersection of Southern Marin Line Fire Road and H Line Fire Road. On the whole, trail signs were adequate for me. I never got lost. It would have been nice if trail names were marked at all junctions. Since there are so many intersections in these preserves, a good map is important for those unfamiliar with these parks.
  7. In March 2011, both end points of Barbara Springs Trail were well marked — according to online articles from a few years ago, this trail was unmarked and hard to find. Not any more.
  8. Barbara Springs Trail is a beautiful trail, next to a creek but quite steep as it climbs up from Dawn Falls Trail to Southern Marin Line Fire Road.
  9. Southern Marin Line Fire Road is a wide fire road. Experience is very different from hiking trails like Dawn Falls, Barbara Springs, Corte Madera Creek Trail and Hoo-Koo-E-Koo Trail.
  10. Best trails: Dawn Falls Trail, Corte Madera Creek Trail (steep going from Horseshoe Fire Rd to Hoo-Koo-E-Koo Road), Piedmont Trail and Hoo-Koo-E-Koo Trail, in that order. Among the fire roads, Old Railroad Grade Fire Road was awesome from the intersection with H Line Fire Road to the intersection with Corte Madera Creek Trail. This section is next to a creek.
  11. Corte Madera Creek Trail goes next to a creek all along. You would have to cross the creek a few times (two to three times). After heavy rains, some of these crossings are more than five feet wide and you might get your feet wet if you cannot take long steps to jump across.
  12. Hoo-Koo-E-Koo trails offers great valley views - it is along slopes of hills.
  13. Southern Marin Line Fire Rd was pretty flat throughout. No valley views. Wide fire road.
© Copyright 2008—2020, Gurmeet Manku.