The spectacular Sir Francis Drake Bikeway (also known as the Cross Marin Trail) sits on the recycled roadbed of the former North Pacific Coast Railroad, which used to run from Larkspur to Cazadero. This family-friendly rail-trail provides a safe and enjoyable way for visitors to access the swimming holes in Lagunitas Creek and the redwood groves that have made the park so popular.
At the southern trailhead, the path begins in dense woods. On your left are thick redwood stands cushioned by undergrowth of sorrel and an abundance of ferns. On your right is the lovely Lagunitas Creek. At mile 1.5, you arrive at a wooden bridge with a red SALMON CROSSING sign. Silver salmon and steelhead trout migrate up Lagunitas Creek to spawn during the winter, and this is the first of several spots along the trail where you can view them. If you are lucky, you may also catch a glimpse of the beavers that sometimes work in the area.
At about mile 2 the road becomes paved and you reach Samuel P. Taylor State Park. Samuel Taylor, an entrepreneur from Boston, struck it rich during the California gold rush. He used a portion of his wealth to create a resort and recreational campground called Camp Taylor, which was one of the first sites in the country to offer camping as a recreational activity. In the 1870s and 1880s, it was quite popular for families to take the railroad out to Camp Taylor for the weekend.
Continuing on, you pass the Redwood Grove Group Picnic area on the right and another campsite 0.25 mile farther. When the weather is nice, the campgrounds are usually full, though the campers and facilities do not detract from the natural beauty of this wooded area. Oak, tanoak, madrone, live oak, laurel and Douglas-fir are all visible along the path. The path is also lined with California native buttercups, Indian paintbrush and milkmaids. Black-tailed deer is the most common animal in the park and often can be spotted from the trail.
You pass another restroom at mile 3. The last 2.3 miles of the trail are paved and shaded by the cool redwood groves it parallels. If you aren't ready to turn around at the endpoint, you can extend your trail day exploring the numerous trail networks in the vicinity.
Parking and Trail Access
To reach the southern trailhead from US 101, exit on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. Head west on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard toward San Anselmo for about 18 miles. At the intersection of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and Platform Bridge Road turn left. The trailhead is at the end of the short metal bridge on your right. On the left is a small parking lot with a one-hour limit. There are various places to pull off and park along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard without time limits.
To reach the northern trailhead from US 101, exit on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. Drive past the intersection of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and Platform Bridge Road, crossing over a concrete bridge. Shortly after crossing the bridge you see an unmarked road on your right. Turn right on this road then turn left and park on an abandoned concrete street. Walk toward an old bridge. The trail entrance is marked with a large sign that says CROSS MARIN TRAIL.