We weren't about to let all the rain this week stop us; our trail choice was a hike up Eldridge Grade from Phoenix Lake, and then down Tucker Trail to form a loop. This hike explores some of the oldest trails on the northern slopes of Mt. Tamalpais that still have access close to home. And there were only a few sprinkles along the way!
We started from Phoenix Lake and went along the north side of the lake. A left turn at the end of the lake puts you onto Eldridge Grade. This old road feels more like a trail. The banks of the road are full of native greenery. The rock faces are still coated in moss, bright green from all the recent rains. There are large sword ferns, red veined Coral Bells, and clouds of yellow Mimulus (Sticky Monkey Flower) in the sunny spots.
The trail is very popular with hikers, runners, and cyclists so stay to the right side of the trail as you round the blind corners. Eldridge is not a steep trail, but it is challenging. It rises in levels that steepen as you ascend the mountain. At a large hairpin turn before Eldridge makes a junction with Lakeview Fire Road, the Tucker Trail entrance can been seen entering into the forest. Tucker Trail heads back to Phoenix Lake.
Tucker Trail is over 100 years old and tough. We recommend this hike for only surefooted hikers. The trail winds and falls into the canyons above Phoenix Lake with a narrow and sometimes rocky and rooty tread. Tucker, a logger who lived on the mountain in the 1800s, had a cabin just a few hundred yards in from Eldridge Grade, next to a creek. We've never spotted any remnants, but you may. The trail has some steep switchbacks, but they have a soft footbed from layers of leaf litter, so your knees don't feel too much impact. As the trail winds in and out of young redwood trees you can see a few old stumps where the logging took out the big ones. There are three wonderful cascades where creeks cross the trail. Ford these with care.
Tucker descends quickly into Bill William's Gulch. The trail crosses Bill William's Creek and junctions with Bill William's Trail. Bill William was another old timer who lived on the mountain in a cabin on one of the side canyons off the main creek. Legend has it that he stashed gold near his cabin, and it has never been found. Keep a look out. We went left down Bill William's Trail to recross the creek and follow it out to Phoenix Lake. The gulch looks like a temperate rain forest with the frequent showers we've been having. We couldn't shake the feeling of being in coastal Oregon. Only the solid presence of Mt. Tam and her sweet old trails belied the feeling.
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.