There are actually several big trees, redwoods in fact, along the Big Trees trail. It’s part of the impressive, and incredibly underrated, ridge lines that go behind and through Novato’s western neighborhoods. But there is a big tree too, right at the top as you head up into Indian Tree Preserve.
Our hike covered yet another day-hike segment of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, my personal Holy Grail of area hiking, I suppose. This was to be an 11-mile loop into Verissimo Hills and Indian Tree Preserve.
Our group started at Dogbone Meadow, a dog park and parking lot, just next to the O’Hair Park equestrian center off Novato Boulevard. In addition to the parking lot, there’s plenty of street parking. There are no facilities and only a few kiosks that give little evidence of the nearby trails. In short, figure out where you’re going before you get there.
We headed through the adjacent neighborhood for a mile or so and then up into the trees, climbing on a few steep segments (about 2,000 feet in total elevation changes over the course of the hike), to the 1,300-feet-high summit. We did a patchwork of about four different trails to make the loop complete, but the Big Trees is a best. It’s a shady retreat through a lush redwood grove, and the trees balance, almost precariously so, on the mountainside. They were among the younger redwoods I’ve seen. I have no idea how old they are, but one fellow hiker estimated that they had emerged within the last century. From the top, there’s a hollowed-out tree that makes a great lunch or snack spot.
(A note on neighborhood hiking – some trails include parts of residential areas. The Ridge Trail is not unique in that regard. Sure, an
entirely linked trail network that goes from green space to green space and never touches pavement sounds idyllic but it is unrealistic. I’ve heard some hikers complain that a trail hike that includes street stretches is not worth doing, but I think they often miss the forest for the trees, so to speak. To reach the unparalleled views from the Indian Tree summit, it was necessary to wander by some homes and be an urban wanderer. So be it.)
Throughout the hike, there are stellar views of Marin County and San Pablo Bay. Mount Burdell is in the foreground but far-off peaks such as Mount Diablo are easily visible too. The recent rains made for a few muddy patches but generally, it brightened the terrain, and the spring-like weather this past weekend was nothing so much as a vivid reminder of why it’s so great to hike around here.