Marin County is known for being a bicycle-friendly place. That is, it’s bicycle friendly if you aspire to be Lance Armstrong, and like getting dressed up in your favorite team’s jersey and tight shorts and then riding your carbon fiber road bike over twisty mountain passes.
But for an average person, or even an average cyclist, Marin is not terribly inviting. That’s because most of Marin’s towns are laid out it a North-South line along the 101 freeway. It’s great for drivers–I can get from Sausalito to Novato in 20 minutes–but having a freeway as the county’s main artery is difficult for those who’d rather walk or bike.
But Sausalito and Mill Valley have managed to find a way around the problem, thanks to the aptly named Mill Valley-SausaltSausalito Path.
The paved, 3.5 mile path stretches from Gate 5 Road in Sausalito all the way to Vasco Court in Mill Valley. The path is literally the only way for pedestrians walking from Sausalito to get anywhere north of Gate 6 Road, as the only road is the 101 freeway.
Luckily, then, the path is extremely pleasant to walk or ride on. The path is paved all the way, and for much of the way, there are dirt or gravel paths on the side was well, ideal for those who don’t like jogging on hard pavement.
Heading North, after passing the Bait Shop Market and Mike’s Bikes–both ideal places if you or your machine needs some refreshment–the path parallels the shore of the Pickleweed Inlet. Just before crossing under the 101, there’s a small seaplane and helicopter airport that offers aerial tours of San Francisco should you be so inclined.
After passing under the freeway–don’t worry, it’s not too creepy in the underpass–the path makes its way across the wetlands in the Bothin Marsh Preserve. This is the most beautiful part of the path. There are wooden bridges over small inlets and canals and an abundance of bird and marine life. Tidal wetlands are, after all, the most productive ecosystems in the world. Dogs are allowed on the main trail if kept on a leash, but are prohibited on the smaller side trails to prevent damage to the wetlands.
One word of warning, though: Because it’s built on a levi across the tidal wetlands, the path is occasionally underwater during the highest tides. Forget to check before you go, and you might be coming home with wet shoes–that or waiting for the tide to recede.
After crossing the wetlands, the path passes Tamalpais High School before continuing through several of Mill Valley’s parks. If you’re trying to get to downtown Mill Valley, take a left on the sidewalk at East Blithedale Avenue.
The traffic on the path is usually quite heavy, and ranges from kids walking to and from school to the ever-present hardcore cyclists. It helps to get out of their way, because even though the path speed limit is 15 miles per hour, there’s little enforcement.
It’s an easy and flat walk, but 3.5 miles is farther than most Americans walk in a week, so make sure to wear decent walking shoes if it’s your first time.