Ready to bring your relationship to a new level? Samuel P. Taylor State Park has a peak hike for that—including a side-trip to a waterfall, a chance to spy spawning salmon, and very few people! The moderate 4-mile ascent to Barnabe Peak begins alongside Devil’s Gulch Creek, a popular place to see salmon, especially a day or two after rain. The climb first winds right along a deep canyon and through a forest of oaks, bays, and Douglas firs. On the way up, look for a marked side trail to Stairstep Falls (pictured). It takes about 10 minutes to reach this 40-foot waterfall. Surrounded by bright green ferns, this demur oasis tumbles over three tiers set deep in the canyon. Grab a seat on the bench and stay awhile or press on to the summit! A quarter of a mile from the top the trees give way to your first expansive views. Keep going up a wide fire road that tops out at 1,466 feet—Barnabe Peak. The vistas sprawl from Tomales Bay to Point Reyes to Mount Tam and the tumbling green hills of Marin County. Scramble up one of the big boulders for a camera-phone moment…or perhaps to pop the big question…after reaching this new height…together. No pressure.
NOTE: The Stairsteps Falls and Bill’s Trail are currently closed as of August 2014 for repair. Check the website for updates on when the trails will re-open. There are other trails to Barnabe Peak, find a map of routes on the Samuel P. Taylor State Park. Samuel P. Taylor State Park is 15 miles west of San Rafael, on Sir Francis Drake Blvd. Don’t park at the main lot. Rather, continue 1 mile further west on Sir Francis Drake to the Devil’s Gulch horse camp (there’s a dirt pullout across from the entrance). Walk up the paved camp road for a few hundred feet until a trail veers right paralleling Devil’s Gulch Creek. Within a few minutes you’ll reach a wooden bridge over the creek. Cross it and turn left; this is Bill’s Trail and you’ll stay on it for 3.7 miles. It ends at Barnabe fire road, a quarter-mile from the top. Turn left and climb the last bit to the top. Then descend Barnabe fire road all the way to the trailhead (6 miles round-trip). No dogs.