Hiking with Kids: Roy's Redwoods Open Space Preserve

December 29, 2010

Roy's Redwoods treesNow that most of the holiday madness is over with, take a break and go visit some really big trees at Marin's Roy's Redwoods Open Space Preserve. At approximately 300 acres, Roy's Redwoods is a small preserve run by the Marin County Parks and Open Space District featuring numerous hiking trails that's perfect for an outdoor adventure with children. Formerly part of the Roy brothers' ranch and a '60s hippie commune (where squatters lived inside some of the larger hollowed-out trees), Roy's Redwoods features some of Marin's tallest coast redwood (Sequioa sempervirens) trees. With scenery that can rival the more touristy Muir Woods, the preserve can be a little hard to find but well worth seeking out.

Roy's Redwoods trailWhile several of the trails can be combined into hikes of varying lengths, a possibly more attractive option for families with younger kids is to go play in the redwood forest. At the trailhead, go straight and follow the Meadow Trail as it traverses the preserve's Great Meadow. The meadow is ringed by stands of redwood, bay laurel, Douglas fir, and manzanita, and you'll see some of the larger trees at the far end. The trails leads into the the cool and shady redwood grove, where towering old-growth redwoods share space with ferns and bay laurels.

Roy's Redwoods stream and forest floorOur children were entranced with this spot, likening it to a backdrop to Harry Potter or another fantasy story. In fact, Lucasfilm used Roy's redwoods as a filming location for its 1980s TV movie The Ewok Adventure, where it stood in for the forest moon of Endor. (Contrary to some sources, the Return of the Jedi forest scenes were not shot here, but in an old-growth redwood stand up near Crescent City). Everyone had a great time exploring the forest, jumping over the stream that bisected the grove, and marveling at the size of some of the trees, many of which are just 200-foot offshoots of much larger redwoods that were used to be there.

Hollow tree at Roy's RedwoodsThose who are so inclined can continue pick up the trail again at the far end of the grove (you'll see a post marking where the trail resumes) and follow back out into the sunlight. For a short loop hike, continue climbing up the road until the Meadow Trail meets the Roy's Redwoods Loop Trail. Go left onto the loop trail and follow it back down the hill to the trailhead.

Getting There

Although Roy's Redwoods is right off Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and Nicasio Valley Road, it can be a bit of a challenge to find if you're not familiar with its location, and there are no signs to either show you the way or let you know you're there. You'll find it off Nicaso Valley Road, about a half-mile north of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. Keep your eyes open and look for the service road that slopes downhill to the trailhead, where there's a kiosk with a map and other information. If you're lucky, you'll see a number of cars  parked along the road—find a place to park here, too, as there's no parking area.

The Great Meadow at Roy's RedwoodsFrom central and southern Marin, take Sir Francis Drake Boulevard west through San Anselmo and Fairfax over the hill to the San Geronimo Valley. Turn right on Nicasio Valley Road, at the San Geronimo Golf Course and follow it about a half mile to Roy's Redwoods. Start looking for a place to park just as you pass the West Nicasio Road.

From northern Marin, take Lucas Valley Road west to Nicasio Valley Road, then turn left. Follow Nicasio Valley Road south approximately 3-1/4 miles, then start looking for a place to park. Alternately, you can take Novato Boulevard west to Point Reyes–Petaluma Road. Turn left on Point Reyes–Petaluma Road, then left on Nicasio Valley Road.

What to Bring

Roy's Redwoods trail headNo drinking water is available on site, so make sure you bring your own. Although there aren't any picnic tables, the Great Meadow can be a fine spot to spread a picnic blanket for lunch. Alternately, you could find a spot in the redwood grove to take a break—plenty of fallen logs make for great impromptu seating. At the time of writing (winter) it's relatively muddy, so bring appropriate footwear if that's a concern. There's a port-a-potty near the trailhead in case you feel the call of nature while you're there.

For more information, visit the Marin County Parks and Open Space District's website, where you can download a great printable topographical trail map as well as learn more about the flora and fauna that inhabit the preserve via their online open space field guides. You can also call them at (415) 507-2816.

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