Up Up and Away: Big Rock Ridge

If you asked me a week ago what the second highest point in Marin County was, I would have wrinkled my nose, raised an eyebrow and looked perplexed. Ask me today and I’ll inform you that at 1,895 feet, the summit of Big Rock Ridge sits lower only than Mt. Tamalpais (2,572 feet).


Hiking Big Rock Ridge is not a stroll in the park. This trail is all about going up. You’ll gain more than 2,500 feet in elevation over the course of 9 out and back miles. Yet, if you seek big views and a cardio and gluteus maximus workout, it’s one of best day hikes in the Bay Area. (It’s also great if you don’t mind fire roads and sharing the trail with mountain bikers.)


The hike covers area in and out of the Lucas Valley Open Space Preserve. There are a few different trail heads to choose from including one off Lucas Valley Road just outside of San Rafael, and another past the “big rock” that the ridge is named after. We started at a trail head at Queenstone Dr. off Miller Creek Rd. in San Rafael (and it is one of the most convenient trail heads in all of Marin.)

Follow the fire road for 4.5 miles and soak up the crazy beautiful views of Lucas Valley and Marin County. When you get close to the top of Big Rock Ridge you’ll see Petaluma to the north and the San Francisco skyline in the distance to the south. You’ll be standing high above Skywalker Ranch which you can spy on with binoculars.


I can’t believe it took me eight years to discover Big Rock Ridge. I will definitely revisit this trail with friends or visitors from out of town who seek panoramic vistas, maybe with a dog or maybe even on a mountain bike. This is a tough and inspiring hike that will leave you feeling accomplished.

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