5 Hikes for Hot Weather in Marin County
By Matt Dolkas,
Senior Manager, Marketing
August 23, 2023
Hot weather has arrived in the Bay Area. If you’re new here, then you might not know that our warmest temperatures tend to be in September and October. This is the season that our beloved marine layer, the region’s natural air conditioning, begins to weaken and the temperatures climb. ‘Tis the season, folks.
To be honest, the hot weather isn’t my favorite. But one of my favorite things about living in the Bay Area, and especially Marin County, is the abundance of microclimates and places for us to escape the heat. The complexity of our landscape, the rugged coastal mountains, fog-drenched beaches and shaded creeks, create a wide variety of climates and temperature variations across the region. So, despite days over 100 degrees at home in Novato, there’s always a great hiking trail to explore with cooler temperatures — you just need to know where to go.
Below are a few of my family’s go-to spots when the mercury starts to rise. We’ve included a little something for everyone, including one wheelchair accessible trail as well as one dog-friendly destination. Before you go, be sure to read up on what you’ll need to stay cool.
Heading west towards the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean is always a good way to escape the season’s heat. And a hike along Abbotts Lagoon is one of our family’s favorite trails to cool off and enjoy the beach.
The drive to this trailhead is one of the best parts about this experience, winding your way across West Marin and Point Reyes National Seashore. No matter which direction you come from, you’ll pass miles of scenic farmland, redwood forests, and clear-watered creeks — much of which has been protected by MALT.
*The first quarter mile of this trail is comprised of a well-graded, cemented-soil trail to an overlook of the lagoon. It is wheelchair accessible and good for our large stroller too. After the foot bridge, the trail turns to sand and it’s best to go on foot from there if you’re able.
Nestled along the shores of the San Pablo Bay, China Camp State Park offers refuge from the heat along its Shoreline Trail. Meander through shady, oak-studded hills for spectacular views of the Bay, including views of Rat Rock Island (shown above).
Starting from the Back Ranch Meadows Campground, you can link up with other trails to make this a loop hike. But we like to follow the Shoreline Trail clockwise along the water’s edge. With our kids in tow, we often turn around before too long and follow our steps back to the trailhead instead of making an entire loop.
There is a rich history at this state park, including a 19th century Chinese fishing village, the park’s namesake, established in 1868. It’s a must see. Be sure to leave time for a tour of the visitors’ center and a chance to learn more of this local history.
Tucked into this sheltered, coastal valley — where the fog rolls in thick and lingers into the morning — the Olema Valley showcases the wetter, more forested habitat of our local landscapes. It’s an ideal place to escape the hot weather and get refreshed amid a forest of Douglas fir, California bay laurel, and coast redwood trees.
The Olema Valley Trail stretches between two trailheads, Five Brooks Trailhead in the north, and Olema Valley Trailhead in the south. Parking is available at either trailhead (Five Brooks Trailhead has both a restroom, and a much larger parking area) and it’s a fantastic hike from either direction.
There is a rich agricultural history within this valley. Enjoy views of the former dairy ranches, many of which continue to thrive under the stewardship of families who have been here for generations.
As the the windiest place on the Pacific Coast and the second foggiest place in North America (Newfoundland being the first), the Point Reyes National Seashore’s Tomales Point Trail (also known as Pierce Point) is the ideal place to beat the heat.
With the tule elk rut underway, August through October is an exciting time of year to visit Tomales Point. Listen carefully for bull elk bugling as they attempt to court harems of wary cow elk.
The historic Pierce Point Ranch offers a glimpse into the early days of ranching in the area, part of this land’s complex history of land stewardship beginning with the Coast Miwok people.
Just a few miles north of the quaint town of Point Reyes Station, this trailhead is a lesser-known gem within West Marin’s recreational playground. Follow the single track path through active pastures (be sure to close the gates behind you!), along the coastal bluffs and the edge of the restored Giacomini Wetlands.
With frequent northwest winds, temperatures here remain relatively cool throughout the year making it an ideal trail to find respite amid seasonal heat. And if you can get here earlier, mornings offer a better chance of fog and cooler temperatures.
Birders will delight in the abundance of feathered friends and rich avian habitat, including a vibrant stock pond. Be sure to pack a pair of binoculars.
Tips for Staying Cool
There’s no celebration for dehydration: Don’t forget to drink water regularly before, during, and after your hike. Additional electrolytes are needed, especially when your body is sweating.
The early bird gets the… first parking spot: If you can, begin your hike early in the morning when temperatures are cooler. This is also a great way to avoid crowds at more popular trailheads.
Keep it light: Wear lightweight, breathable, and moisture-wicking clothing to stay cool. Opt for light-colored attire to reflect sunlight. And don’t forget sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses.
Rest and shade: Take frequent breaks in shaded areas to rest and cool down. And be sure to slow your walking pace if needed.
Know your limits: Be mindful of your fitness level and the intensity of the hike. Heat can increase fatigue, so opt for shorter or less strenuous trails if needed.