Some hikes have it all: a quiet lake, far-reaching views, redwood forests, and the real bonus—almost no people. On Mount Tam’s quiet northern side, you’ll find one of these hikes. Start at Bon Tempe Lake and combine the Kent, Stocking, and Rocky Ridge trails to make a 5-mile loop that will please everyone—including the dog. The loping path moves in and out of trees near the shore of Alpine Lake where the only sounds you’ll hear are ducks and the occasional cast of a fishing line. Up above, red-tailed hawks and turkey vultures circle in the sky. About 2.5 miles in a solid climb ascends through a redwood forest, passing the pea-soup colored “hidden lake” and winding through moss-and-lichen-covered trees. The final 1.5 miles of the hike are along the exposed Rocky Ridge fire road which descends to the starting point; along the way keep your eyes open to views as far as Mount Diablo.
To reach the trailhead: From Sir Francis Drake Blvd. in Fairfax, turn left onto Pastori, make an immediate right onto Broadway, and another quick left on Bolinas. Go 1.5 miles on this road (aka Fairfax-Bolinas Rd.). Turn left onto Sky Oaks Rd., pass the kiosk ($8 entrance fee) and follow the signs to Bon Tempe Lake. (Here’s a map of the area.) Park, walk uphill and bear right over the spillway and across the dam. At the end of the dam, bear right and continue along the fire road. At about .8 mile in, the fire road becomes Kent Trail. Follow this around the lake. Follow the signs to continue on the Kent Trail as it leaves the lake after 2.3 miles. After 3 miles, turn left on Stocking Trail. After 3.7 miles, turn left on Rocky Ridge fire road. This takes you back down to the dam. Dog-friendly!