Loma Alta is a small preserve on the side of one of the area's higher peaks. It's especially well-connected to nearby preserves, making some rewarding longer hikes possible.
The 680 Trail is one of the few wooded singletrack trails in the Marin County Open Space system and one of the best hikes in suburban Marin County. The trail ascends to a grassy peak high above Fairfax with some outstanding views. Rather than returning the same way, it's possible to make a big loop by cutting through some suburban neighborhoods; although it doesn't have the wide-open scenery of the 680 Trail, this return route does add a lot of variety to the hike.
The hike starts at the trailhead at the end of Del Ganado Road in Terra Linda. This trailhead is easy to get to from Highway 101 and I like the extra bit of trail that it adds. Another good starting point is the end of Glen Drive in Fairfax.
The dirt road quickly climbs to scenic views of Lucas Valley to the north and suburban Terra Linda to the south. Turn right onto the Luiz Ranch Fire Road, which climbs steeply.
The singletrack 680 Trail branches off to the left. The trail descends, then climbs gently through oak and bay laurel woods. In the spring the woods look lush and attractive and really help to make this a great hike, but by fall they dry out and look rather mundane.
The singletrack ends at a dirt road which is much steeper and less enjoyable to walk than the trail, but offers some nice views of the Lucas Valley and Big Rock Ridge. Soon, though, the singletrack resumes, switchbacking though woods before emerging onto the high meadows on top of Loma Alta.
The trail levels out and curves around the hill, offering superb views of the Fairfax area and the San Geronimo Valley. From this vantage point, the conifer-clad San Geronimo Ridge stands in dramatic contrast to the oak-covered hills to the east.
From the end of the singletrack trail, it's a one-mile out-and-back trip on a dirt road to the summit of Loma Alta. However, the summit is so broad that the views aren't really that great, so I suggest skipping this side trip.
Descend on the wide, dusty Smith Ridge Fire Road and Sunrise Fire Road. Sunrise Fire Road descends very steeply and is the least enjoyable part of the hike.
The route levels out at Old Railroad Grade. If it's rained within the past few days, look for a thin two-tiered waterfall (known as either Fairfax Falls or Loma Alta Falls) in the rocky canyon near the beginning of the trail.
Old Railroad Grade then winds through grasslands and oak woods on the outskirts of Fairfax. There can be quite a bit of traffic noise from Sir Francis Drake Blvd until the trail eventually pulls away from the road.
After passing through a deeply shaded bay laurel-covered canyon, turn left onto Glendrive Fire Road, which climbs to two huge water tanks. Turn right onto the unmarked Oak Manor Fire Road, which continues to climb. The road ends at a gate. Immediately after passing through the gate, turn left onto another dirt road.
This road is the first of two stretches of private property. It runs through the Triple C Ranch and has signs that seem to indicate that it's only open to Sleepy Hollow residents and guests. As I understand it, though, residents of Sleepy Hollow have historically been allowed to hike on all roads within Triple C Ranch, but more recently, this one road was made a "public trail", which suggests that it's open to everyone.
Continue through the streets of the Sleepy Hollow neighborhood, turning left on Butterfield Road to enter the grounds of San Domenico School. This is also private property, but a lot of locals take walks on the school's grounds.
Turn onto the second (unmarked) dirt road to your right. This road climbs, ending at the unmarked Terra Linda Ridge Fire Road. Turn left to return to the trailhead.
© 2016 David Baselt