Love your dog? Love waterfalls? Get the best of both on this easygoing hike hidden in Novato. Indian Valley Open Space Preserve is tucked behind the College of Marin campus, and those who discover it are in for a treat. Indian Valley Fire Road is a wide dirt path that cuts through the center of this tranquil park. The trail parallels a creek, currently flowing at full strength. The quiet beauty of this park and its surrounding open space attracts hikers and four-legged fur-friends alike.
Even if you don’t have a dog, this is a great place to visit. Side trails veer off to the west, with Waterfall Trail being the most popular. Easily reach the park’s seasonal 20-foot waterfall within a 1.25-mile one-way walk. Or explore the further reaches of this beautiful wooded open space by connecting a few of the other side trails, including a few that rise to gorgeous views of the Marin foothills (see Tip below).
To make it happen, park at College of Marin’s furthest lot, which doesn’t require a permit. For the short hike, stay to the right of the ball fields and continue on the Indian Valley Fire Road. Look for the Waterfall Trail on the left within about half a mile. Take this up to the waterfall and return the way you came. The waterfall after rains is an absolute gusher, rushing down the canyon wall, wide and wondrous and making a splash.
TIP: For a longer 2.8-mile hike up to peak-a-boo views, through the woods and over seasonal streams, stay on the fire road all the way to Buzzard Burn Trail; turn left here. The trail climbs, rather steeply for a short bit, and then becomes Witzel Trail. When you see the signed Witzel Trail leading down and left, take it. At the next junction, with Susan Alexander Trail, turn right and head uphill; this is a very brief steep section that can be slick after rains, so tread carefully. At the next unsigned junction go left and reach the waterfall (this is Waterfall Trail). Note that after recent heavy rains natural cascades form and some of the creeks can be quite swollen, some of which are guaranteed to get your boots wet unless you hold a special talent for long jumping.
Park at the furthest parking lot at the College of Marin, which does not require a permit (map). Dog-friendly!