If the Sweet Lumber Company had had its way, the landscape of Inverness Ridge in West Marin would be more tree farm than forest. In the 1950s the company built a mill pond and started logging the giant Douglas fir trees. The creation of the Point Reyes National Seashore stopped the logging in its tracks. But there is still evidence of the loggers’ work, including Five Brooks pond, now surrounded by willows, a favorite place for birds and birders. Look carefully along the trail and you’ll see old stumps and some scrawny new growth (50-year-old Douglas fir). Mostly though, the old forest is still intact. Spectacular!
West Marin’s public transit, West Marin Stagecoach (the Stage), currently travels past Five Brooks trailhead on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays (www.marin-stagecoach.org). Five Brooks is not an official stop but if you ask, the driver will let you off at the entrance (just south of mile marker 23).
Hiking from Five Brooks to Bear Valley Visitor Center makes for a great day hike or overnight trip any time of year but especially in spring, when the landscape is green, the flowers are blooming, and the fog is at bay. Permits are required for camping and should be secured well in advance.
- West Marin Stagecoach passing through Samuel P. Taylor State Park. Photo by Richard Blair, pointreyesvisions.com.
From the trailhead it’s a steady uphill climb on Stewart and Green-picker trails to Firtop, elevation 1,324 feet. Watch for bikes and horses on the trails. At Firtop there are several options. Here is my suggested route: Continue on Stewart Trail to Ridge and then to Alamea. Then tighten your boots for the downhill on Old Out Road to the Coast Trail and on to Wildcat Beach. The terrain changes gradually on the western slope of the ridge from lush forest to coastal scrub. As you near the Coast Trail you’ll be rewarded with exceptional views. Those “icebergs” off in the distance are really the Farallon Islands. At Wildcat, besides the pounding surf and the phenomenal sandy beach, you might be lucky enough to see a bobcat, so bring your camera.
From Wildcat it’s back uphill toward Glen Camp via Coast to Glen Trail to Glen Loop. Alternatively, stay on the Coast Trail to Arch Rock. From Glen Camp continue to the Bear Valley Trail and the easy saunter back through the forest to the Stagecoach stop by the visitor center.
The whole hike is about 14 miles, though there are several shorter options, including an enjoyable five-mile hike staying on the east side of the ridge in the Olema Valley along the Rift Zone Trail.
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The California Coastal Trail runs west of Highway 1 along this scenic stretch of the San Mateo coast.