Its been another stormy week to peer out the window and hope for a break in the rain. We were longing to go check out some more of the famous Marin waterfalls, but because of dangerous road conditions and downed trees and mud, we had been sticking to safe alternatives.
Lake Lagunitas is a charming place for a hike in good weather or bad. It is a short mile and a half around, and you could wear your rubber boots to navigate the puddles. The lake is a part of the Marin Municipal Water District reservoirs, accessed from Sky Oaks Road in Fairfax.
There is a well-paved parking area, and picnic grounds at the base of the dam. The hike starts by heading up to the dam access road, or by trail next to the spillway. We like walking along the spillway outflow. The water thunders down the spillway and out into a river that leads to Bon Tempe Lake. With all the rain, it is an impressive sight and sound. Stay well back from the edge.
At the deck over the spillway, the lake and its little inlets and log float form a serene vista. Check the log float for water birds, including cormorants and ducks. In the summer, turtles bask in the sun on the float. We suggest a counterclockwise loop around the lake. A sign asking you to watch for newts and salamanders greets you as you head off the deck and onto the trail around the lake. The trail is mostly fire road and has lots of puddles. Ocasionally, crayfish will wander out of the lake and hang out in the puddles.
There are three main inlets into the lake coming off Mount Tamalpais. These streams are a good place to linger and explore. The first two have small trails along-side them that run up the canyons. A side trip up one of these trails will reveal small falls up in the canyons.These streams also harbor yellow-legged frogs and small fish.
The route finishes along the flatter north side of the lake. Several small grassy peninsulas away from the road are also places for exploration. From there a small trail bypasses the ranger house above the lake and comes out back at the dam.
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.