About Marin

 Marin County, San Francisco North Bay, Ca. , California, USA About Marin County, California
Marin County, San Francisco North Bay, Ca. USA

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San Francisco North Bay - Marin County

Across the Golden Gate from San Francisco, Marin County is an unabashed introduction to Californian self-indulgence: a pleasure zone of conspicuous luxury and abundant natural beauty, with sunshine, sandy beaches, high mountains and thick redwood forests. Often ranked as the wealthiest county in the US, Marin has attracted a sizeable population of wealthy young professionals to its swanky waterside towns, though in the past the region served as logging headquarters.

The modern ferries that travel across the bay from San Francisco can make a great start to a day out. Boats to the chic bayside settlement of Sausalito leave from the Embarcadero ($5.30 each way; Golden Gate Ferry; 7.40am-8pm, half-hourly during rush hour, less often during the rest of the day, and every two or so hours on weekends; tel 415/923-2000, ) or Pier 41 at Fisherman's Wharf (Blue & Gold Fleet Ferries; $6.75 each way; 6-7 trips daily; tel 415/705-8200). Biking over here makes for a beautiful ride over the Golden Gate Bridge (pending fog) and allows you to explore the headlands freely. Bikes are allowed on the ferry back to San Francisco.
Marin Headlands

The largely undeveloped Marin Headlands , across the Golden Gate from San Francisco, afford some of the most impressive views of the bridge and the city behind. The coastline is much more rugged than it is on the San Francisco side, and it makes a great place for an isolated clifftop scramble, in among the concrete remains of old forts and gun emplacements. Heading west on Bunker Hill Road takes you up to the brink of the headlands before snaking down to Fort Barry, and wide, sandy Rodeo Beach , from which numerous hiking trails branch out. Check in at the Marin Headlands Visitor Center (daily 9.30am-4.30pm; tel 415/331-1540) above Rodeo Lagoon for free maps. The largest of the fort's old buildings has been converted into the spacious but homey HI-Marin Headlands hostel (tel 415/331-2777, ; up to $35), an excellent base for more extended explorations of the inland ridges and valleys

Mount Tamalpais and Muir Woods
Mount Tamalpais dominates the skyline of the Marin peninsula, hulking over the cool canyons of the rest of the county in a crisp yet voluptuous silhouette, and dividing the county into two distinct parts: the wild western slopes above the Pacific coast and the increasingly suburban communities along the calmer bay frontage. The Panoramic Highway branches off from Hwy-1 along the crest above Mill Valley, taking ten miles to reach the Center of Mount Tamalpais State Park , which has some thirty miles of hiking trails and many campgrounds. While most of the redwood trees that once covered its slopes have long since been chopped down to build San Francisco's Victorian houses, one towering grove remains, protected as the Muir Woods National Monument (daily 8am-sunset; $2). It's a tranquil and majestic spot, with sunlight filtering three hundred feet down from the treetops to the laurel and fern-covered canyon below. Being so close to San Francisco, Muir Woods is a popular target, and the paved trails nearest the car park are often packed with coach-tour hordes; more secluded hiking paths include the Matt Davis Trail, leading south to Stinson Beach and north to Mount Tamalpais.
Point Reyes National Seashore

The westernmost tip of Marin County comes at the end of the Point Reyes National Seashore , a near-island of wilderness bordered on three sides by over fifty miles of isolated coastline - pine forests and sunny meadows hemmed in by rocky cliffs and sandy, windswept beaches. This wing-shaped landmass is a rogue piece of the earth's crust that has been drifting steadily northwards along the San Andreas Fault, having started out some six million years ago as a suburb of Los Angeles. When the great earthquake of 1906 shattered San Francisco, the land here, at the epiCenter, shifted over sixteen feet in an instant, though damage was confined to a few skewed cattle fences.

The Bear Valley visitor Center (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat, Sun & hols 8am-5pm; tel 415/464-5100, ), two miles southwest of Point Reyes Station in Olema, has engaging displays on local geology and natural history, plus details of hiking trails. Just to the north, Limantour Road heads six miles west to the HI-Point Reyes hostel (closed 10am-4.30pm; tel 415/663-8811, ; up to $35) in an old ranch house. Nearby Limantour Beach is good (and cold) for swimming.

Eight miles west of the hamlet of Inverness, a small road leads down to Drake's Beach , the presumed landing spot of Sir Francis Drake in 1579. Appropriately, the coastline resembles the southern coast of England - cold, wet and windy, with chalk-white cliffs rising above the wide sandy beach. The road continues southwest another four miles to the very tip of Point Reyes. A precarious-looking lighthouse (Thurs-Mon 10am-4.30pm; tel 415/669-1534) stands firm against the crashing surf, and the bluffs are excellent for watching sea lions and, from mid-March to April and late December to early February, migrating gray whales.
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