This page contains links to some PDFs.
* Adobe Reader is required for you to read a PDF.
Click here to download Adobe Reader if it's not installed on your computer.
Basic Rules for Hiking:
- Tell someone where you're going and when you'll return.
- Keep together.
- Hike only in daylight.
- Know your route - carry a trail map.
- Choose a trail that is in keeping with your physical condition.
- Do not hike alone.
- Carry emergency survival gear.
- The Marin Headlands has Steep Crumbly Cliffs - stay away from the edges, as they constantly erode into the ocean and the slightest pressure can lead to a long fall to the rocky shore below.
It is surprisingly easy to get lost, especially when hiking. There are four major reasons for this: there are lots of deer trails, a few trails are overgrown, some junctions lack signs, and people take short-cuts. The easiest places to get lost are around Mt. Tam, especially the north side. If you are in a new area, our advice is to follow the hike carefully and note each junction on the map. You might even want to use a stopwatch and reset it at each junction. That way, you can tell roughly how far you've come since the last junction. Above all, stay on trails and don't take shortcuts.
Recommended Hiking Equipment:
- Sturdy boots with ankle protection and lug soles
- Loose fitting, non-cotton, synthetic or wool clothing suitable for wind, rain, or cold – using the layering system for easy-on, easy off to regulate body temperature
- A map and compass
- Small flashlight or headlamp
- At least 2 liters of water
- A knapsack or pack to carry your lifesaving equipment
A common incident in Marin is an Unexpected Night Out where the individual or group does not anticipate night fall or rapid change in weather and temperature such as late afternoon fog. Properly used, the following items will give you warmth, shelter, and energy for an Unexpected Night Out:
- Trail map *
- Extra clothes
- First aid kit
- Small flashlight or head lamp
- Light plastic tarp
- Water proof jacket or poncho
- Emergency blanket.
The California Department of Parks & Recreation has more advice for hiking safety:
- Hike with a friend or family member. The companionship in the great outdoors is fun and you can encourage one another to meet your fitness goals.
- Take plenty of drinking water. Leave stream, river and lake water for the park wildlife. Although it looks clean and refreshing, mountain stream water can make you ill.
- Let someone back at home know where you are going and when you plan on returning. Take a mobile phone for emergencies only or to let them know you have returned safely.
- Don’t walk off-trail. Cutting across switchbacks erodes the hillside and eventually destroys the trail. Plus, walking off-trail increases your chance of suffering an injury or getting lost.
- Wildlife lives in all of our state parks, even near urban areas. Although rare, mountain lions, and rattlesnakes may be seen. Whenever you encounter wildlife on the trail, keep your distance back away slowly, and do not run. Report your sightings to a State Park Ranger.
The California Department of Parks & Recreation
Fun, family-friendly hikes to take
- Be sure to educate about trail hazards (hydration, poison oak, rattlesnakes) before hitting the trails.
- A trip to the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creekor the Coyote Point Museum on the San Mateo County coast may be good introductions to bay area wildlife.
- Apply sunscreen, and supply a hat.
- Be sure to pack snacks and plenty of liquids. Avoid caffinated beverages. Salty treats will replenish liquids lost to sweat better than sweet things.
- Honor their limits. Rest when they need to. Turn back before you planned if necessary. Pushing a child beyond his/her physical limit will not be fun for anyone.
- Before you go, show them photos of plants and animals they might see along the way. Help them "see" acorns, leaves, flowers, and animal prints. Some kids might enjoy bringing a small pad of paper and pencils so they can draw what they see.
- Many children will be motivated by a special something at the end of the hike; a waterfall, unusual rock formation, or pretty picnic spot.
- Be alert to trail traffic. If possible, choose hiking-only trails to avoid conflicts with cyclists and equestrians. If you hike a multi-access trail, be sure your children are aquainted with trail etiquette.
- Before your trip, choose a strategy for bathroom needs. Bring soap and a towel to clean up.
- Check out tips for hiking around San Francisco at Bay Area Moms
Dogs need exercise, just like people do. Here are some tips on exercising with your pet.
- Take your dog to your vet for a complete checkup before starting him on any new exercise program.
- Start slowly with exercises suited to beginners, such as walking. Begin with a workout of 10 to 15 minutes once or twice a day, increasing to one hour per day as time allows.
- When walking with your dog, use a short leash for maximum control.
- Avoid walking in the dark if possible, but if you must, wear light-colored clothing and get a reflective collar for your dog.
- Keep your pet's diet and weight in check to avoid the likelihood of torn joints and worn ligaments, and don't push your dog to make up for the inactive week by doing double duty on the weekend. Just like humans, canine weekend warriors can suffer leg injuries too.
Adapted from: Animal Rescue
Here is some general information about where to hike with dogs in Marin
County. Note: Be sure to bring water for your dog, especially in summer and
Oakwood Valley / Alta Trail Map (PDF)
What you should know about mountain
lions, coyotes, bobcats & snakes when hiking on Mt. Tam
Bay Area Hiker
Mountain lions are an important part of park ecosystem, helping to keep deer and other prey populations in check. Although lion attacks are rare, they are possible, as is injury from any wild animal. We offer the following recommendations to increase your safety: Do not leave pets or pet food outside and unattended, especially at dawn and dusk. Pets can attract mountain lions into developed areas. Avoid walking alone. Watch children closely and never let them run ahead or lag behind on the trail. Talk to children about lions and teach them what to do if they meet one.
What should you do if you meet a mountain lion?
- Never approach a mountain lion especially one that is feeding or with kittens. Most mountain lions will try to avoid confrontation. Always give them a way to escape.
- Don't run. Stay calm. Hold your ground or back away slowly.
- Face the lion and stand upright. Do all you can to appear larger. Grab a stick. Raise your arms.
- If you have small children with you, pick them up without bending over.
- If the lion behaves aggressively, wave your arms, shout and throw objects at it. The goal is to convince it that you are not prey and may be dangerous yourself.
- If attacked, fight back!
Generally, mountain lions are calm, quiet, and elusive.
The chance of being attacked by a mountain lion is quite low compared to
many other natural hazards. There is, for example, a far greater risk of
being struck by lightning than being attacked by a mountain lion.
Adapted from: National Park Service website
More about mountain lions
People often mistake a bobcat for a mountain lion. See what they look like, learn about how they hunt, and what about baby bobcats?
Coyotes are a native species and a critical component of the ecosystem. While far from domesticated, coyotes show little fear of humans and have become comfortable living in close proximity to our communities. Although they tend to do most of their hunting after dusk, the so-called "prairie wolf" can be active at any time. Under normal circumstance, coyotes are not dangerous to humans. They are, however, territorial and will respond aggressively if they or their family are threatened. It's also worth noting that it's hard for a coyote to pass up a free meal or, as the case may be, a defenseless pet. This applies even if it requires leaping fences (as high as 6 feet) or overcoming other obstacles for the opportunity.
To date, there have been very few attacks on pets or humans. Nevertheless, caution is always warranted, and with that in mind, experts recommend the following steps:
- Fence pet and animal enclosures completely, if possible include a top.
- Keep cats and small dogs indoors. When walking small dogs, always keep them on a leash.
- Coyotes are most active dusk to dawn. Avoid walking pets after dark.
- Bring along pepper spray or a stick in case a coyote gets aggressive. Screaming or yelling and waving arms sometimes won't work on coyotes that have lost their fear of humans.
- Any pet smaller than 45 pounds should never be left outside past 4 p.m.
- Feed pets indoors. Eliminate potential food and water sources such as fallen fruit or vegetables and standing water.
- Store trash in covered, heavy-duty containers.
- Keep yards free of potential hiding places. Remove thick brush and weeds. Enclose the bottoms of porches and decks.
- If you encounter a coyote that behaves aggressively, you have probably gotten too close to its prey or its family. Try to scare the coyote by yelling and waving your arms. Throw rocks, sticks or other objects. Do not turn away and run.
- Do not feed coyotes. Doing so can make them less afraid of humans and potentially more dangerous.
Adapted from: Newport Bay Naturalists & Friends
More about lliving with coyotes
Poison oak is a common plant throughout much of California. Learn to identify its shiny, three-leaf pattern and avoid touching it. If you touch poison oak, wash immediately with water and mild soap. Pat dry with a clean towel.
More about poison oak & star thistle
Bay Area Hiker
Poison oak symptoms, how contagious it is, treatment & prevention
Poison Oak & Its Cousins
U.S. Food & Drug Administration
Learn about Lyme disease: Centers for Disease Control (CDC): Lyme Disease
Family Doctor.org: Lyme Disease
Mayo Clinic: Lyme Disease