The Marin Headlands, 12 miles from Mill Valley, have hiking trails crisscrossing them from seashore to historical remains to forests to mountain tops, with great views, bird-watching, flowers and photographing opportunities. Check out the weather forecast before leaving, and exercise great caution around cliffs and shoreline, and walk, ride and drive defensively, as roads can be crowded.
The Cataract Trail Loop, starting at Bolinas is a moderate, 7.7 mile hike of a half-day in scenic country with Cataract Creek’s waterfalls as the focus of this hike. Parts of the trail go over some tricky terrain requiring caution, especially near waterfalls; beginners may tire out. Parking is difficult, and you may have to walk to the starting point.
The Miwok Trail to Bonita Point starts at Sausalito, 5.3 miles from Mill Valley, and gives you spectacular views and lovely scenery on an exhilarating 7.8 mile hike. The tunnel to the lighthouse is open 12:30-15:30, Saturday-Monday.
The Rodeo Lagoon to Pt. Bonita Lighthouse trail starting at Marin City, 4.2 miles from Mill Valley, is a moderate family and dog friendly hike, 4.1 miles long, taking 1-3 hours.
The Lucas Valley Loop, at Lucas Valley is a nice little 3.2 mile hike of moderate difficulty; the first mile is on a steep gradient in this moderately difficult, 1-3 hours’ hike.
The Bon Tempe Lake trail in Fairfax, 10.2 miles away from Mill Valley, is an easy, 4.5 mile hike taking 1-3 hours.
The Pipe Trail, starting in Fairfax is a dirt track great for hiking, biking and trail running and makes for an easy 3.2 mile hike taking 1-3 hours.
The Azalea Hill trail, starting at Fairfax is a short, easy, 0.6 mile hike lasting under an hour, with lovely views of Marin County. Catching the sunrise here is well worth early rise.
Terra Linda and Sleepy Hollow Ridge trail, starting from Sleepy Hollow, 11 miles away from Mill Valley, is an easy, 3.8 mile hike, lasting less than an hour.
Angel Island State Park
Reached by ferry from Tiburon, 6.6 miles away, and San Francisco, 6.5 miles away, Angel Island, in the middle of the Bay, is an important site in California history. A hunting and fishing site for Miwok Indians for 3000 years, haven of Spanish explorer Juan Pablo de Alaya, Civil War outpost (Camp Reynolds still stands here), its most significant and thought-provoking aspect is as the site of the Immigration Station that processed Asian migrants, and imprisoned thousands of them, mostly Chinese, for months. However today it is an attractive destination with great hiking and camping opportunities and unique sea-level views of the Bay Area, and grand panoramic views from atop Mt. Livermore. An easy, 5.5 mile hike will take you over most sights of the Island, in 1-3 hours The last ferry leaves at sunset, so make sure your hike ends in time to catch it.
Angel Island’s Perimeter Road, reached by ferry from Tiburon, 6.5 miles from Mill Valley, is an easy, 5.5 mile circuit taking 1-3 hours, and brings you within reach of most sights and activities of the island. Look out for bikes, Segways and trams coming up behind you!
Crissy Field Exploration, in San Francisco, 9.5 miles away, is a short, easy 3.4 mile ramble, taking 1-3 hours, within the beautifully restored coastal environment on 100 acres of seashore.
Land’s End is an untamed rocky tip of San Francisco. The short, easy, 3.4 mile hike lasting 1-3 hours takes you over trails along cliff-tops that offer breathtaking views of the Pacific, bird-watching, and possible sightings of dolphins, seals and whales.
Point Reyes National Seashore
The Palomarin to Alamere Falls trail, in Point Reyes National Seashore area, which is a bit of a drive, 30 miles from Mill Valley, is an easy hike over cliff tops, turning inland to go past two lakes (in one of which, Lake Bass, you can swim), then on to the incredibly lovely Falls at the cliffs. The easy, 8.4 mile hike takes a half-day.
In springtime, from February to June, the hills in the Bay Area turn green after the rains. Wildflowers bloom in a profusion of color. Take hikes at this time to enjoy the California poppies and other flowers. The peak season for wildflowers is mid-April.