Hiking with Kids in Marin: Explore Old St. Hilary's Open Space Preserve in Tiburon
For a short, family friendly hike in southern Marin with amazing views, head to Tiburon and the Old St. Hilary's Open Space Preserve. It's a great outdoor outing for all ages, and there's plenty to see along the way, including wildflowers, wildlife, and breathtaking views, making it another of Marin County's outdoor gems.
Old St. Hilary's Open Space Preserve surrounds the namesake church, which is now administered by the Belvedere-Tiburon Landmarks Society as a historical landmark. This rare Carpenter Gothic church was built in 1888 to serve Tiburon's Catholic railroad workers, and now serves as a venue for concerts, weddings, and special events. (Tiburon, despite its genteel image today, was at one time Marin's roughest, toughest industrial town, home to railyards, codfish canneries, and a US Navy coaling station.)
Head out onto the Vistazo Fire Road, which winds through the hills on its way to the church. You'll pass burbling streams, lichen-covered rocks, and plenty of wildflowers in the winter, spring, and early summer, including the extremely rare Tiburon jewelflower (Streptanthus niger), which appears along the trails in mid-May. Right now, the green grass is sprouting up all over, and you'll see plenty of California poppies and buttercups.
When you reach Old St. Hilary's itself, head downhill and explore the trails that wind around the church. This area is the John Thomas Howell Wildlfower Preserve, which is one of Marin's most spectacular places to view wildflowers during the spring. The narrow trails here are lined with stone walls (original to the church), with built-in benches on which to relax and take in the scenery. We'll definitely be back later on to check out the wildflower display.
Along the way, you'll be treated to spectacular views of Tiburon, Sausalito, and San Francisco. You can even see the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge. It's truly breathtaking and makes you remember why we're so lucky to live here in Marin.
The Vistazo Fire Road is approximately one mile out and back; if you walk the trail around Old St. Hilary's it will add another half mile or so to your hike. The fire road is flat and suitable for bikes and off-road jogging strollers, but the trails through the wildflower preserve are narrow in places and not stroller-friendly. If you do have a stroller or bikes, you can still get to the church by going through the open space gate at the end of the Vistazo Fire Road and following the road a short distance.
If You Go
To get to preserve, take Highway 101 to the Tiburon Boulevard/East Blithedale exit and head east on Tiburon Boulevard. Follow Tiburon Boulevard toward downtown Tiburon and turn left on Lyford Drive. Follow Lyford Drive uphill and turn right on Vistazo Street West. Follow Vistazo West until you get to the Marin County Open Space District gate at the end of the road. Parking is along the street.
There isn't any shade to speak of along the trail here, so hats and sunscreen are a must. Dogs are allowed on the fire road. As with most of the Open Space District trails, there are no restrooms or drinking water available.
Since the area is a wildflower preserve, make sure you look and don't pick! (You'll see signs along the way reminding you of this rule.)
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