Barnabe (the mule) Peak

Barnabe Peak | Smiling in Sonoma

We are always looking for a great hike with views but when we find one with a little history it’s even better! Samuel P Taylor State Park in Marin, CA does a great job of maintaining the outdoorsy feel of the trails but also incorporates just enough historical info about the area to keep you interested enough to stop and read all the signs. We had read on BA Hiker we would be hiking a 9 mile loop but Bill’s trail and the waterfall stairs trail were closed so we wandered around the paper mill area to add on some miles to the otherwise shortened hike.

The park is named after Samuel Taylor who came out for the gold rush, cashed out and ended up operating a paper mill which his wife continued with her children after his passing. The paper mill ruins can be found along the trail toward the end. Start off by parking in the gorgeous day use area of the campground (I hear the campground is always booked) and cross over a bridge with some cute “Salmon Crossing” signs. It would be very educational to take students to show where salmon spawn. It’s a great flat start to the hike to get the muscles moving and warmed up on the forest floor walking along the creek for about a mile. Once you cross over to Irving Camp go to the right (pit stop here if you need to use a real toilet) and follow the directions BA Hiker gives. It is good to go counter-clockwise on this hike since you can’t see the peak, you’ll understand when you go down on the other side why you don’t want to see how far you have to go!

We didnt’ encounter too many people and as the trail description states, this is a steep trail for almost 2 miles. Take lots of stops and enjoy the views you are quickly rewarded with! Before you know it you are above the tree line and have views to Mount Diablo and Mount Tam!! It’s gorgeous! Don’t forget to look for Kent Lake’s overflow. It’s sort of hidden.

Keep going and until you reach the fire look out. Then you know you will be at the top! There’s 360 degree views for days if you go on a clear day! Mount Diablo’s peaks to the east, Mount Tam’s silhouette to the south, Tomales Bay to the west and hills to the north. It’s amazing…stay a bit and enjoy the views at 1,400 feet!

Once you have taken in all the beauty, head on down the other side of Barnabe Peak. The lack of shade and views of the peak here is why I am glad we climbed up the other way. I like to be surprised when we get to the top instead of seeing it the entire time I am hiking! Unfortunately Bill’s trail is closed at the moment for rehabilitation but one day I would like to go back and see what we missed. Also would be great to see this trail in the spring when the grass is all green and lush.

We took the slight detour to see Samuel Taylor’s gravesite and saw a cute little blue belly lizard sitting on the fence. Careful here, the tiny lizards are ready for a fight anytime you walk by…not that they will hurt you but there’s so many of them!

Once you get past the gravesite the trail thankfully goes back to being shaded and lush. You can start to hear the creek flowing through and see more salmon crossing signs.

From here we headed back toward Sir Francis Drake, crossed and walked to the bridge just passed the old paper mill ruins. From here you can take the paved trail or the creek trail and head back along the creek to the campground. The park does a great job here posting historical signs. The railroad used to pass through here! Crazy to think of how things were back in the late 1800’s but being so close to the city it makes sense. Enjoy your walk back through the campground and to the day use area. We encountered a lot more activity when we were done with the hike than when we started. Might be a good thing to get there somewhat early to guarantee a parking spot.

The hubs and I opted to head home our favorite non-highway way and went up to Point Reyes Station. We stopped at Toby’s (I crave these Americanos!!!) to get some coffee before walking around the tiny town and enjoying the shops. There’s a couple of restaurants but we ended up in the deli with mexican food and enjoyed some delicious street tacos…back on the road up the coast and eventually home to civilization.

We look forward to our hikes every weekend to just escape reality for a little bit…it’s a good recharge for us. How do you recharge after a long workweek?

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