NWP Railroad Trail

California

NWP Railroad Trail Facts

States: California
Counties: Marin
Length: 1.31 miles
Trail end points: Doherty Dr. and Magnolia Ave. (Larkspur) and Alto Tunnel between Montecito Dr. and Tunnel Ln. (Corte Madera)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt, Crushed Stone
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6015159
Trail activites: Bike, Inline Skating, Wheelchair Accessible, Walking

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NWP Railroad Trail Description

The NWP Railroad Trail runs on an arrow-straight course through Larkspur and Corte Madera in ritzy Marin County. Its name is derived from the railroad that once made use of the corridor: the Northwestern Pacific Railroad whisked passengers on its electric interurban line between Sausalito and San Anselmo until the early 1940's.

A portion of the same corridor farther south has been converted into the Mill Valley/Sausalito Multiuse Pathway. Between the two trails, the historic Alto Tunnel, long unused, blocks a continuous journey. The reopening of the tunnel, which cuts through challengingly hilly terrain, has long been a priority of Marin County trail advocates.

For now, head north from the tunnel, where the NWP Railroad Trail begins with a crushed stone surface in a residential neighborhood. As it bisects downtown Corte Madera, the trail transitions to a paved surface. Restaurants and shops can easily be reached from the trail. Near Elm Avenue, the Sandra Marker Trail splits off from the main trail on another former Northwestern Pacific Railroad corridor. Take that path eastward to access additional trails and the San Francisco Bay.

Continuing north on the main trail, you'll soon reach downtown Larkspur. As in Corte Madera, food and shopping destinations are within easy reach of the trail. The path ends at Doherty Drive, although the scenic Creekside Loop is just a short hop across the road from the endpoint.

Parking and Trail Access

Parking for the NWP Railroad Trail is plentiful in downtown Larkspur and Corte Madera. Be sure to obey any posted parking restrictions.

To reach the southern trailhead from US 101 in Corte Madera, take the Tamalpais Drive exit, and head west on Tamalpais Drive, which becomes Redwood Avenue, to Montecito Drive. Turn left on Montecito Drive and continue south, following it for about 0.3 mile to a dirt parking area that is wedged between the roadway and the trail.

NWP Railroad Trail Reviews

This trail is only 1 mile long, but it can be combined with other bike routes in Marin County to give a full day of riding. See the Tiburon trail, and the Mill Valley-Sausalito trail both on this website.
The best parts of this trail are the views of Mt Tamalpias, the canopy of large trees, and the wetlands.
When going north be sure to turn to the right at Baltimore Ave, there is another bike trail that continues North, towards San Anselmo.
Shortly after this turn look for an historic orange building marked "Northwestern Pacific Railroad Company, Baltimore Park Substation". Before WW2, Marin County had a network of electric railroads, and this was part of the electrical system. The tracks in this section actually had four rails. Two for the wide guage, a third rail to accomodate the narrow gauge trains, and a fourth rail to suppy power.
If you want to connect to Mill Valley or Tiburon, be sure to carry a detailed mike map for Marin County, because the connections can be tricky. Read my review for the Mill Valley-Sausalito Trail for comments about the two routes between Corte Madera and Mill Valley.
According to marinbike.org, work is almost completed to reopen the Cal Hill Tunnel between Larkspur and San Rafael. This will make an excellent connection to this trail. As of March 2010, the tunnel upgrades are almost complete; by the time you read this the tunnel will hopefully be open. The Marin Bicycle Coalition is also advocting reopening the rail tunnel between Corte Madera and Mill Valley, which would connect this trail directly to the Mill Valley trail. If someday this tunnel is reopened, it would create a level, off-street bike path all the way from Sausalito to San Rafael.

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