Just a 20-minute scoot from the Golden Gate Bridge, Ring Mountain offers ordinary hikers extraordinary views. Part of the place’s appeal is its backstory: the expansive grassland park near Corte Madera was saved from McMansion subdivision in 1984 by fast-thinking local Phyllis Ellman and the Nature Conservancy. The preserve is distinguished by its abundance of boulders—small, medium, and large, with the extra-large distinction going to Turtle Rock. Clamber to the top of this behemoth and you’ll be treated to a 360-degree view that includes Mount Tam, Richardson Bay, and downtown San Francisco. You might also find yourself in the company of a few good boulderers (rock climbers who scale boulders without ropes). Combine the Loop Trail (see below) with the Phyllis Ellman Trail for an easy three-mile meander through California poppies, sky lupine, and the nowhere-else-on-earth Tiburon Mariposa lily. Thank you, Phyllis!
Directions: From Hwy. 101 in Corte Madera, take the Paradise Dr. exit. Make a hard right and go east for 1.5 miles. The entrance to the park is on the right side of the road. Park on a dirt pullout along the road. At the first fork in the trail, go left onto the Loop Trail. At the second fork, go right onto the fainter (and unmarked) trail. This takes you up to Turtle Rock. From there, head west on the fire road for a short distance, then turn right onto the Phyllis Ellman Trail. This takes you back to the trailhead. *Ring Mountain is dog-friendly. For a map, click here.