A Magical Hike – Indian Tree Open Space Preserve

A Magical Hike - Indian Tree Open Space Preserve | Smiling in Sonoma

The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man. Many of our old growth redwoods were cut down long ago but there are pockets of them that remain around the bay area to remind us of what nature would look like if we had left it alone.

This hidden treasure in Novato has several spots along the trail to enjoy the beauty of nature and feel thankful for those that have protected it. Indian Tree Open Space Preserve is on the outskirts of town and away from the hustle and bustle of city life. As you walk from the dirt road parking you begin to climb up slowly while enjoying shade and views of a stable below, a golf course across the way and views of Stafford Lake. There were few people on the hike when we went but it is on the edge of a neighborhood so I am guessing this is used by locals more than adventurers.

Wild turkeys were cruising along the meadow, trees towering overhead covered in moss, a soft trail of dirt and needles below, and fog drifting through the forest…this was the first half of our hike. There are times when you think you have seen the best part of the trail and then you turn onto the next part and a different beautiful spot appears. This forest is magical.

We reached the top of the trail and found the small grove of old growth redwoods the trail is named after. There’s a funky giant redwood that has many tales about it including an Indian living there. If I had my choice I would also love to live there!

After exploring this grove, head on down toward the Indian Tree Fire Road and you will be greeted with amazing views of the San Pablo Bay. Watch out for crazy red bellied newts on this part of the trail! They had little condos built up all over the road under the leaves and were hanging out on the sides of the road watching us giants try not to destroy their homes.

We turned onto Ship’s Mast Trail and were in awe of the forest we were walking through. The trees were so healthy and beautiful. It was like we were in another world. A place full of fresh air, no concrete jungles and no one else around. This was my favorite part of the trail. I cannot wait for all of these lovely trees to get old and giant and tell the story of how we can live in a world where nature survives alongside technology and city life.

The remaining part of the hike back down is shaded and much like the beginning. Peaceful and gradually descending switchbacks.


7.75 miles, 1,584 elevation gain, free dirt parking, no toilets (there is a Starbucks on the way in/out for a pit stop if needed), dogs on leash ok, beautiful anytime of year but have been told by one of the rangers to go back in spring for the wildflowers.

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