Crown Road in Kentfield, like Concrete Pipe Road in the Ross Valley, is a wide flat fire road that is welcome to all-comers. The trail is also called Southern Marin Line Fire Road, but Crown Road seems an apt name for its circling of the eastern peaks of Mt. Tam like a crown. The trail is part of the Baltimore Canyon Open Space Preserve and has sparkling views of the bay, King Mountain, Mt. Tam, and Baltimore Canyon.
From the Marin County Open Space gate at the southern end of Crown Road, the fire road takes off along the hillside. The steep downslope on one side creates great views of the ridges and valleys below and allows in the warm morning sunshine. We spied a large paper wasp nest hanging like a Christmas ornament on a leafless Buckeye tree just as we were entering the preserve. The trail alternates between ridges and vales along the eastern slopes of Mt. Tam. When you are by yourself there is a tendency to start counting turns, but with some good companions the trail will seem fluid and gracious.
According to the information posted by Marin County Open Space District (MCOSD), this preserve was once home to some of the largest Redwood trees in the county. They were all cut down for building lumber, but the new sprouts are nearing middle age and create valleys of dense shade along the way. Baltimore Canyon is the watershed for Larkspur Creek, and our . We didn't check on the falls this time, although its only a short hike down. We're pretty sure the falls only a trickle now, the area is very dry.
The Buckeye trees have lost their leaves and the Big Leafed Maple leaves are turning color. The Madrone trees bark curls off into copper colored shavings that line the trail. Many runners, dog walkers and bird watchers enjoy the trail, but their numbers diminish as you venture further in. The road ends at a gate at the end of Sunrise Lane in Corte Madera (no parking is allowed at this end). Here it is possible to hike up Huckleberry Trail to make a loop out of it, but we like the sedate grade and terrain of Crown Road, so head back the way you came.
Out and back, the road is about six miles. It makes a great bike ride with kids, or a good run and dog outing. This Labor Day weekend we recommend going up there to enjoy the beginnings of fall on the mountain.
To get there, take Woodland Road off College Avenue in Kentfield, at the intersection with the College of Marin's PE parking lot. Turn left at Evergreen Drive (road work this week entailed an easy well-signed detour). Go up the steep, narrow, windy road and Crown Road will be on the left just past Ridgecrest Drive. The MCOSD gate is at the end. There is limited parking along Crown Road, so be courteous in your parking choices.
See the book "Hiking Marin: 141 Great Hikes in Marin County" for more details. Click here to go the Marin Trails website, where you can find more information about the book.