Roy’s Redwoods Open Space Preserve

and the San Geronimo Valley

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Roy’s Redwoods (wooded hill at left), Thorner Ridge (small wooded hill at right), and the former San Geronimo Valley Golf Course seen from French Ranch Fire Road. Click to see a similar view after the golf course closed.

Marin’s San Geronimo Valley is an attractive region of redwoods, grassy hills, and small towns. To offset the increased development of this area, the county set aside three small parks among the newly-developed golf course, mansions, and schools. One of these parks is Roy’s Redwoods, which features a small, isolated redwood grove growing around a creek at the base of a small hill.

Part of the grove has been logged, with several large stumps visible. However, the presence of some pretty good-sized trees and the lack of stumps in most areas suggest that most of the grove has not been logged. Given that the grove was part of a ranch, then a hippie commune in the 1960s, it’s certainly not in pristine condition; it has a rather dark, disheveled appearance with lots of small trees, features normally found in second-growth groves. However, it’s still an interesting and enjoyable place to visit.

The redwood grove from an unofficial trail

The three-mile Roy’s Redwoods Loop Trail circles around the preserve and is fairly popular. A lot of families come here on weekends to walk their dogs around the loop. Despite its name, the trail doesn't actually go through the redwood grove; in fact, none of the official trails do. If you just want to see the redwoods, the best option is to park on Nicasio Valley Road and wander around on the faint unofficial trails.

Just east of Roy’s Redwoods, and connected to the preserve by a trail, is a horse stable. The trails in the preserve are heavily used by horses except in the winter, when they’re only open to hikers.

The trails have a lot of poison oak for the area.

The Roy’s Redwoods Loop Trail circles the small hill in the center of the reserve. The first half of the loop runs alongside Nicasio Vallley Road, the former golf course, and busy Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. This part of the hike isn’t especially enjoyable, mainly because of the traffic noise. However, the route becomes surprisingly peaceful and the scenery improves a lot once the trail turns left and starts climbing through a shallow canyon.

The trail enters a pleasantly wooded area and winds its way uphill. At the top of the hill, the woods give way to sunny grasslands. Two unofficial spur trails to the right lead to scenic viewpoints. To the left is the David Hansen Trail (previously the Roy’s Redwoods Nature Trail), a spur trail that climbs to the top of the hill; although there aren’t any views, the trail briefly passes through a grove of small redwoods growing on the cool east side of the hill.

The Roy’s Redwoods Loop Trail descends through open grasslands. Ironically, though, it avoids the actual redwoods. To see the redwoods, turn left at the Meadow Trail, which descends to a redwood-covered flat, the highlight of the walk. The trail passes by two huge gnarled redwoods before entering a redwood-bordered meadow. To really see the grove, leave the Meadow Trail at the two big redwoods and explore the unofficial trails that run along the base of the hill. All the trails have become blocked by fallen trees over the years, but climb over the trees and you’ll be rewarded with a surprisingly scenic redwood grove. The hillside that rises above the flat is, somewhat unusually for the Bay Area, covered with ferns.

It’s hard to get lost because the grove is small and you can always head for the near-constant traffic noise to get back to your car.

An unofficial trail just outside the redwood grove

Other hikes

Also in the preserve is Dickson Ridge Fire Road, which from the meadow climbs at a steep and unrelenting 17% grade for 780 vertical feet, eventually offering superb views over the rolling hills and the valley below. The trail dead-ends at private property. The Barnabe Peak hike in nearby Samuel P. Taylor State Park is similar but more rewarding.

Another hiking option is an enjoyable 3.5-mile loop hike through Roy’s Redwoods and the two neighboring parks, using the Barnabe Mountain Fire Road (which passes through private land, but despite some imposing gates is open to hikers), French Ranch Fire Road, and Thorner Ridge Trail. This scenic walk has 770 feet of climbing.

The neighboring San Geronimo Valley Golf Course closed in 2019 and is now a park called San Geronimo Commons. The paved golf cart paths have been turned into public walking paths that provide easy and scenic walks around the valley. The best trails are the ones across Nicasio Valley Road, just west of Roy’s Redwoods.

Sir Francis Drake Blvd from Dickson Ridge Fire Road

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© 2006, 2012, 2016, 2021 David Baselt