In this edition of Sunday Rides we will explore an easy ride that is easily overlooked. The Southern Marin Line Fire Road snakes above Corte Madera and Larkspur in the Blithedale Summit Open Space Preserve. The fire-road is not paved but it is both wide and flat making it suitable for any rider or bike.
Although Southern Marin Line varies little in elevation, the trail begins 500 steep feet above Corte Madera or Kent Woodlands. If you are driving, there is roadside parking on Crown Road off Woodlands Road, but I will describe the ascent from Corte Madera.
At the intersection of Tamalpais Drive and Corte Madera Avenue head uphill on Redwood Avenue. The twisty roads can be confusing. Take rights (Edison, Marina Vista) unless they are dead-ends until you get to a steep left. The sharp left up Sunrise Lane quickly demoralizes you with an even steeper — but mercifully short — switchback to the unmarked trail head of Southern Marin Line (pictured).
You have made it! As soon as you cross the gate the pavement disappears and the rewards of your work become evident. Only the sounds of the nearby waterfalls break the silence of the woods. Views of the Twin Cities, the bay and beyond sneak between the trees. At times you will want to keep your eyes on the path since there are short sections of rocks and mud, but both can be minimized or avoided by carefully picking your line.
Since the path is flat and wide, it allows you to unwind and relax. Rocky cliffs and waterfalls on your left convince you that the hustle and bustle of civilization has been left behind. Keep spinning as you pass the only turn available to bikes up the hill towards the summit of Blithedale Ridge. Following this dirt road up and to the right will take you to Hoo Koo E Koo or down to the start of Old Railroad Grade in Mill Valley.
After this singular diversion you will soon be passing over the top of Dawn Falls. A hiking trail drops down to the actual falls. With all this recent rain the numerous falls should be looking good. Thankfully this fire road has a sandy and rocky composition that does not result in mucky mud that will plaster your bike.
All too soon you find yourself at the northern terminus of Southern Marin Line. The Crown Road trailhead offers roadside parking and a map. Crown Road leads down to Woodland Road and to the intersection at the Kentwoodlands Shopping Center. Better yet, just turn around and extend your lovely flat ride by spinning back to get a different view of the trail.
Southern Marin Line is a great spot for a short after work spin or to take kids or novice riders to get them accustomed to riding in the dirt. Yes this path is located up a steep hill but it is extremely close to the Twin Cities. If you can make the push up, it will reward you with a relaxing ride.