The 1.5-mile hiking trail around Lake Lagunitas in Marin might just be the most perfect one-hour hike in the Bay Area. It’s mostly flat, so nearly everyone can do it. It’s beautiful, so nearly everyone will appreciate it. And it’s the smallest lake in a series of five found on the north side of Mount Tam, so it’s got that tiny but mighty charm factor. This pristine oasis could easily be a stand-in for a lake in the Sierra: there are no manmade structures in sight, just the summit of Mount Tam lording above. The silence is only occasionally interrupted by a quacking duck or a few passing hikers.
There’s just one steep part, the first few hundred feet up to the water from the parking area, and it’s not actually that difficult. The upside is that you’ve just climbed to an alpine-style lake. The rest of the way is along the edge of the lake with a few benches en route if you want to sit and stay awhile … and you just might. Lake Lagunitas is a place where you’ll forget you’re among 7 million others in the Bay Area. Beats the water cooler for chilling out.
Lake Lagunitas is on Mount Tamalpais Watershed land (find directions to the lake on their website). There is an $8 day-use fee. Once you’ve passed the entrance gate, follow the signs to the lake. From the parking area hike up to the dam and make a clockwise loop around the lake. Dog-friendly!