Models of teepees on display on the grounds at Olompali State Park.

I’m not a big fan of honorifics, but I’d have to say that the location of my most recent hike has to be the most-overlooked hiking spot in the North Bay, at least overlooked by me.

I’ve driven through Marin County on 101 countless times and never once considered stopping at Olompali State Park, tucked away on the western side of the highway between Novato and Petaluma. I’m glad I took the time to hike there last weekend, for several reasons.

First, it’s a good, uphill hike that’s not overly technical or difficult, but requires at least some basic fitness. It’s almost five miles to the peak, making it a 10-mile trek, which is a good amount for a day hike around here. At the top is a view from the east-facing side of Mount Burdell, looking out at the Petaluma River and San Pablo Bay. It’s nearly 1,600 feet up, so seeing other Bay Area peaks is not a problem.

Second, the park is a cultural discovery treat. Olompali means “southern village”, or “southern people”, from the Miwok tribe, which were very prevalent in this area awhile ago. The park includes re-created teepees, rock walls and plenty of historical information. Also, there are some structures built by early California settlers, farm equipment and other relics of yesteryear. Everything is well-marked with signs and trails, so I imagine this is a popular spot for field

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trips. All of that historical information is at the bottom of the park so if you’re not into hiking, it’s still worth exploring without having to climb a mountain.

Our group was hiking in an on-again, off-again drizzle meaning the paths can be a bit muddy, but the trails here are well-used enough that there’s no tricky areas.

It’s a state park, so that means the DIY philosophy applies – self-paying fee station, restrooms, etc. – and it’s hard to get to if you’re coming from Novato or points south – you need to drive on 101 past the park and then do a U-turn. But if you’re looking for a new hiking spot in the area and thought there wasn’t much to climb or see at that place with the interesting name, think again.

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