Bay Ridge Trail: White Hill to Pantoll

I did a short backpack trip from Sir Francis Drake Blvd at White Hill, south along the Bay Area Ridge Trail to Pantoll Ranger Station, about 30 miles. This is a continuation of my trip in June (Bay Area Ridge trail sections) where I ended at Pantoll because my feet wore out before my muscles. This was a bus to bus trip, catching the Marin Stagecoach bus Route 61 from San Rafael to the White Hill trailhead, and then Route 68 from Pantoll to Marin City. I love that there are such wonderful places I can get to on transit.

Sargent cypress

From the crest of Drake Blvd between Fairfax and Woodacre, the trail climbs to the crest of White Hill ridge, first on a single track and then on old fire roads. Views open up in all directions, though cloud remaining from rain the night before were slow to clear. The trail wanders through an extensive area of serpentine soils with unique vegetation, including Sargent cypress, manzanita, chemise and Jepson ceanothus (a spiny plant a bit like white thorn ceanothus in the Sierra). If not for the cypress, it would look much like chaparral in other areas, but the species are mostly unique to serpentine soils, which have heavy metal concentrations and lack of soil moisture that create a unique ecosystem.

The trail makes a long descent from San Geronimo Ridge to Lagunitas Creek, which it then follows along an old railroad grade through Samuel P. Taylor State Park. Well signed until the the bottom, it is poorly signed through the park, and I almost missed the turn up the Jewell trail because the sign had been pulled up and tied to a tree beyond the trail junction.

Bolinas Ridge trail north

The Jewell trail climbs to Bolinas Ridge, which the trail follows all the way south to Pantoll. This is a huge loop, with the northbound trail only being five miles or less from the southbound trail, but the scenery makes every trail mile worth it. Mostly open grasslands with views north to Tomales Bay, the trail gradually moves into more forested areas, first Douglas fir and then redwoods. I camped near Randall trail, where the American Discovery Trail heads west to Point Reyes, which I’ve done two times now. A long stretch along Bolinas Ridge does not have many views, being in the forest, but a drier ridge with chaparral gives some views to the coast. Past Fairfax-Bolinas Rd, there are grassy slopes with dips in and out of forested gullies. One gully filled with California Bay Laurel is so dark it, in contrast to the sunny hillside above, that it is hard to see. Of all the lengths of the Bay Area Ridge Trail I’ve hike so far, this section of Bolinas Ridge, Coastal, and Matt Davis trails is my favorite

I had intended to arrive at Pantoll at the end of the day and camp out again before catching the bus in the morning, but I arrived early in the afternoon due to much more efficient hiking than I was expecting, so I head out on the bus to SF and home. My back was hurting from a long night of continuously deflating Thermarest pad (time for something new!) and I wanted to be back in my healing bed at home.

Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72157686460679152

About Dan Allison

Dan Allison is a Safe Routes to School Coordinator in the Sacramento area. Dan dances and backpacks, as much as possible.
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