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 more enjoyable hikes in suburban Marin County. The trail runs between Loma Alta, a grassy peak high above Fairfax with some outstanding views, and Terra Linda Ridge, an attractive open space area between two suburban neighborhoods. It’s possible to make a very enjoyable loop hike by walking on suburban streets for about 2 miles, making a very nice all-day hike with gradually improving scenery.
Here’s the starting point in Google Maps.
Start near the intersection of Butterfield Road and Sleepy Hollow Drive in Fairfax. The hike starts with 1.8 miles of walking on suburban streets. Climb Legend Road, Raven Road, and Stuyvesant Drive to the ridgetop. Take the Stuyvesant Trail and Manor View to the Oak Manor Fire Road, which is where the real hiking begins.
The real hiking begins on Oak Manor Fire Road, which climbs to a low ridge with some nice views before descending to two huge water tanks. Turn left onto Glen Fire Road, which continues to descend, then turn onto the Fox Hollow Trail, which briefly runs through a deeply shaded laurel-filled ravine.
The trail turns into Old White Hill Grade (formerly Old Railroad Grade), which climbs gently through grasslands and oak woods. This is the most popular trail on the hike, with a group of mountain bikers or hikers every 2–3 minutes on nice summer weekends. If it’s rained in the past few days, look for a thin two-tiered waterfall (known as either Fairfax Falls or Loma Alta Falls) in a rocky grotto near the end of the trail.
Turn right onto Sunrise Fire Road, a gravelly road that climbs very steeply up Loma Alta with increasingly scenic views of Fairfax. The grade eases considerably when you turn onto Smith Ridge Fire Road.
This hike doesn’t quite reach the summit of Loma Alta, which would be a one-mile out-and-back side trip on Smith Ridge Fire Road. However, the summit is so broad that the views aren’t really that great, so the extra hiking isn’t really worthwhile.
The scenery improves again as you turn onto the singletrack 680 Trail, which contours around Loma Alta, offering superb views of the Fairfax area and the San Geronimo Valley. From this vantage point, the green, conifer-clad San Geronimo Ridge stands in dramatic contrast to the oak-covered hills to the east.
The trail climbs to a ridge before switchbacking down through scenic oak-dotted meadows. It’s noticably quieter and less-used than the previous miles of fire roads.
The trail briefly turns into a dirt road that’s much steeper and less enjoyable to walk than the trail, but offers some nice views of Lucas Valley and Big Rock Ridge./p>
Soon the trail enters a long wooded stretch. In the spring the woods look lush and attractive and really help to make this a great hike, but by summer they dry out and look more mundane.
The Luiz Ranch Fire Road descends, with scenic views of suburban Lucas Valley to the left and Sleepy Hollow to the right. After reaching a saddle, climb on the Terra Linda Ridge Fire Road. Follow Sleepy Hollow Fire Road and turn onto Irving Fire Road, which descends to Sleepy Hollow Drive. Follow the road back to your parking spot.
© 2016, 2020 David Baselt